Aside from the fantastic Sonic Mania and Sonic Generations, Sega’s blue hedgehog hasn’t had a great run of video games. Nintendo’s famous plumber, though, can’t do wrong as his outings just get better and better. With Super Mario Galaxy (bring it to the Switch Nintendo) and the fantastic Super Mario 3D World, it’s clear that Mario’s adventures are growing, not only in actual game size but in graphical quality too. Mario’s first game for Nintendo’s powerful new console, the Switch, has arrived, and boy does it push the boundary. Super Mario Odyssey may well have a quirky yet unusual name, but this is up there with the best of his adventures.
Bit of a weird story in Odyssey, a white top hat and tails-clad Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach in order to forcefully marry her (quite sinister, I know). Before he can though, he needs items from numerous worlds to make it a wedding to remember. After a brief encounter with Bowser on his floating Galleon, Mario is knocked overboard and lands in Bonneton situated in the Cap Kingdom where he meets his newest companion, Cappy. Cappy helps Mario to get back his sister Tiara, who is on Peach’s head, and so their journey begins. Whilst not exactly a deep plot, the pursuit of Bowser and Tiara is enough to carry the game forward. Occasional fights with Bowser and the inclusion of the new evil rabbit Bowser minions, The Broodals, do well with breaking up the pacing and remind you of the task at hand. This is Mario’s first globe-trotting adventure, and it’s his grandest yet.
If you’ve ever played a 3D Mario game, you’ll be instantly familiar with the way Mario controls, but he now has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Each location is set on a floating platform that is fully open to explore, be it the desert-like Sand Kingdom, water-filled Lake Kingdom, dense forested Wooded Kingdom or the highly advertised Metro Kingdom. Mario can go anywhere in the hopes of finding a number of Power Moons that are required to power the Odyssey, Cappy’s ship. The level structure is very rinse and repeat; however, the variation comes from the countless amounts of puzzles to solve to earn and find the Power Moons. Mario’s new tricks come from his new pal as he can toss Cappy like a boomerang to dispatch enemies, hop onto them to gain new heights or reach further ahead, and also capture certain enemies.
Cappy’s capture ability is required for a lot of the puzzles in Super Mario Odyssey. By simply tossing Cappy towards a particular enemy (50 in total), Mario can take over control of that enemy and use its abilities, such as a Goomba which can be stacked up with other Goombas to gain height, a tank enemy can be taken over to blast enemies, caterpillar enemies can stretch across gaps and, of course, you can take over a mighty T-Rex, as well as many others. The ability to do this deepens the gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey, and it’s seriously fun to experiment. Finding Power Moons is extremely satisfying, sometimes even requiring Mario to enter an iconic green pipe to become an 8-bit version of himself, bringing with it a nice, healthy dose of nostalgia. Although I do miss the course structure of earlier Mario games, Super Mario Odyssey is fantastic to play. Whether on a large screen TV or in handheld mode, Odyssey plays like a dream at a silky smooth 60 frames per second with no stutter.
Each world provides a fresh new set of challenges and comes with their own inhabitants to talk to, some of whom can provide clues to finding Power Moons. First though, each world has a bigger dilemma; a frozen desert requires Mario’s help to get its warmth back, a bustling city needs its power back and the robotic inhabitants of the Wooded Kingdom need to regain control, and only you as Mario can help. It gives off a bigger sense of urgency than Mario’s immediate quest of continually powering up his ship. Mario is a good guy, after all.
Super Mario Odyssey is Mario’s most beautiful game yet. It’s best to play on the TV in order to fully appreciate the magnificent visuals on offer here, but even in handheld mode, it looks amazing. Starting off with the shining silver on Bowser’s tuxedo, the breath-taking backdrop of the Cascade Kingdom, becoming the massive T-Rex, the heavy rain in the dark, dank New Donk City, Mario games have always been crisp and expertly polished, and Super Mario Odyssey is certainly no exception. There’s also the attention to detail too as Mario pulls appropriate facial expressions that correspond to his actions; standing next to a musician in the restored New Donk City will have Mario clicking his fingers along to the music. Nintendo certainly have mastered how to make a phenomenal Mario game that is extremely pleasing to the eye.
My only complaint comes from the difficulty; Super Mario Odyssey is a cakewalk in comparison to past Mario titles. Bosses can be defeated in seconds, and some Power Moons are blatantly just there for the taking, requiring next to no effort to find. Boss fights take place in arenas and mainly use their hats to attack. They are easy to dodge and mostly require you to toss Cappy at them and jump on their heads three times, apart from a fight with a robotic centipede that requires the use of a tank. I feel these are missed opportunities. Their imaginative ways to attack Mario is dampened by their simplicity in beating them.
That is my one and only issue with Super Mario Odyssey; otherwise, we have here one of Mario’s finest adventures ever. Fully open worlds, brilliant capture mechanics, breath-taking graphics and the dynamics of Mario’s new buddy, Cappy, are well worth every second of your free time. You can also purchase costumes for Mario, and although they are mainly for cosmetic purposes, some do actually unlock access to new areas.
Release Date: 27th October 2017