Jump Up Superstar!
Mario has done a lot over the years from being a plumber in his 80’s roots to a time traveller, partier, professional golfer, kart racer and a doctor. The series has already found unique and successful ways to reinvent itself and Odyssey is the next progression in that tradition. Odyssey teams Mario with a ghost aptly named Cappy who must team up to stop Bowser who has stolen Princess Peach and Tiara the princess version of Cappy. It makes sense for the two to team up to travel throughout different kingdoms battling Bowser’s minions along the way and discovering moons that power the ship used for travel, also aptly named The Odyssey.
The game uses the intuitive Switch motion controls (as an option) that are particularly useful when playing with two players, you can also use the pro controller and handheld mode. While I only explored two player mode once as I selfishly wanted to devour this game as a single player experience, the second player is limited to cappy control with collecting coins and flicking the hat around the screen (exceptionally irritating when you play with your partner!)+
Speaking of control, using the power of Cappy you can possess almost any creature or character throughout the game and it is most times necessary to progress in the level and collect those all important moons. I enjoyed the variety and depth of characters you can possess, from previous villains like the goombas and bullet bill. What I did note as interesting is you cannot possess any of the local friendlies in the kingdoms. As much as I would have liked to, it seemed like out of respect for them you were not able to. This also speaks into the environments themselves, each kingdom is a mirror to our world with New Donk City replicating an american city (NYC!) the Sand Kingdom resembling Mexico, the Snow Kingdom looking very Iceland/Swedish, it is a very beautifully detailed depiction of these locations.
To be honest, I don’t have a huge history with Mario, I have dabbled in previous Mario games but this is the first one I have played to full completion (of the story mode anyway!) I was a Sega gamer in my childhood with Sonic being my mascot of choice, and while the next door neighbours did have Nintendo consoles it was only ever a very casual encounter with Mario. I love the 2D games in all their glory and I played a little of Super Mario Galaxy and Mario Galaxy 2. My affection with this franchise comes from its roots and its 2D past iterations.
Playing as 3D Mario not only looked spectacular, it felt like a natural thing to explore these worlds and the controls are fluent. I also noticed no visible lag or latency when using both the pro controller and the joycons attached to the gamepad. Each world has many moons and I’m not talking 10 or 20 there are rumoured to be over 800 moons across the entire game. This is no small mission. When I reached the halfway point I ventured back to some previous worlds to explore around and found that things had changed and there were moons to discover that weren’t there before. The game effectively communicates that while yes we are trying to save the Princesses from Bowser, Mario is also exploring the world and the game rewards your bravery. Many times I thought I was going to fall off a cliff only to find a ledge with special coins or a moon hanging there that I never would have known about had I not knocked the joycon or ran up to it too quickly.
The life system is also radically different in this game, in that there is no “game over” as such, anytime you die you get a few coins deducted from your collection and there are a plethora of coins spread throughout each kingdom, it is virtually impossible to reach the game over stage. While this does seem like it could make the game easy, it does allow for free exploration as you are not concerned with how many times you die as you can always collect more coins and keep exploring. There are 11 kingdoms to explore and so many collectibles and hidden treasures to find and unlock, and if you have the Odyssey amiibo there are even more out there.
Graphically the game is incredibly beautiful, the detail in each world is astounding, from huge prehistoric creatures to the hum drum life of New Donk City and our first human characters in a Mario game. Some of my favourite places were Fossil Falls with some great waterfalls and rainbows, this is also echoed in the fizzy water area of the Seaside Kingdom. New Donky City was interesting as humans and a large city provide a new look and the not so subtle mexican influences in the Sandside Kingdom (those colourful poncho wearing skeletons are my spirit animals!) The cut scenes with the Odyssey flying off to a new location always excite me and the coordination with the HD rumble syncs in perfectly.
Many reviewers are comparing this game to Zelda BOTW and I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. Mario is a lot of fun, it has quirky characters with heart and a knack for exploration that is encouraged. The game’s main story mode is nowhere near as long as Zelda, and encourages players to rediscover the game to keep playing and collect some quirky costumes that unlock further areas throughout the kingdoms. The story is the same, Princess Peach has been stolen and you need to rescue here, it’s nothing new story wise but delivered in such a way that makes Mario feel fresh and new again. Hopefully this is just the start of Mario’s adventures with Cappy and it would be great to see this continue as its own separate franchise from the other Mario titles. Super Mario Odyssey is hands down the best Mario game I have ever played, its constant love and throwbacks to the 2D games are plentiful and with some new tricks up their sleeve, Nintendo have once again proven why they are the best in the industry delivering hit after hit.
Super Mario Odyssey is available exclusively on the Nintendo Swtich.
You can catch my video review live in a couple of days.
Review by Alaisdair Leith