NS Review – Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

The Nintendo Switch launched in March this year, and it has had an incredible year so far, but it’s hard to deny that it did feel like something was missing. Obviously, when Nintendo has a new console, it isn’t long until a new Mario title comes to it, and the Switch was missing it’s outing with Nintendo’s premier ex-plumber. It’s pretty much undeniable that Super Mario Odyssey impressed from it’s first showing, but then again Mario has a formula that is very hard to get wrong, no matter the format or setting but hadn’t set the world alight in a few instalments. What is needed was a new set of features that truly excited the player base again, and it looked like the latest attempt was going to be a sentient hat. This all said, how is Super Mario Odyssey?

The story, as with most Mario titles, is quite simple and follows the normal “Bowser has done a thing” formula. On this occasion, he has abducted Peach one more, but on this occasion it is to marry her for which he has also kidnapped a sentient tiara called, well, Tiara. After a meeting with King Koopa (dressed in an incredibly dapper suit), Mario loses the battle and Bowser escapes, prompting Mario to chase him down with the help of Cappy, another sentient piece of headwear. It should be obvious that Odyssey isn’t doing anything incredibly revolutionary with it’s story overall, but one thing it has is that each world you visit has it’s own self-contained (and sometimes quite humorous or heartwarming) story to explore and be part of in a way we haven’t really seen in a Mario since Sunshine back on the Gamecube.

2017102308285500-8AEDFF741E2D23FBED39474178692DAFThe gameplay in Odyssey is a testament to Nintendo’s seemingly never-draining pool of creativity. All of the normal running, jumping and stomping is present and accounted for, but the game feels so fluid, responsive and (most importantly) not slippery to play. The main advance in terms of the basic gameplay is the introduction of Cappy, that can primarily be thrown to “cap-ture” enemies and objects in the levels. Almost every enemy and anything in the levels with a ball-like growth on it can be captured and the effect is temporarily becoming that object or creature. So, the player can fly around as a Bullet Bill, jump high as a frog, or even transport themselves along power lines as electricity (complete with a moustache in every case). The sheer amount of creativity that this allows Nintendo in terms of level design is staggering, with every level having something new to see and do and a variety of different ways to get around it.

This leads neatly onto the other use for Cappy, and that is in supplementing Mario’s already extensive athletic repertoire. The player can throw out Cappy and hold him there, giving Mario an additional, temporary platform to use and allowing far greater distances to be jumped over. When this is added to other returning manoeuvres such as the triple jump, wall jump, dive or crouch jump, Mario’s flexibility in traversing the various levels grows massively. Want to triple jump, then throw Cappy and bounce off him? Try it, and everything else you can think of within the constrains of these mechanics and the chances are, you can do it. Also, as one last in-game mechanic, Odyssey has a screenshot mode that can be entered at any point during gameplay and has a large amount of filters and effects that can be applied to create some truly incredible pictures that are wonderfully unique to the player, a feature I could imagine children getting a lot out of.

2017102308295700-8AEDFF741E2D23FBED39474178692DAFThe main collectible in Super Mario Odyssey is the Power Moon, used to power the Odyssey so it can reach new worlds, and my word there are a lot of these. Some are in plain sight and some require defeating a boss, much like the previous games versions of Moons. But, there are also a tremendous amount that a hidden in the levels in other ways, requiring a certain activity, action or other such things to find. Some of these Moons are absolutely ingeniously hidden and require a lot of thought or exploration from the player and, as such, these are incredibly gratifying to find when you do find them. There’s very little in gaming like finding something that rewards your curiosity or your finesse and Odyssey has this in metaphorical spades. The thing with this that makes the Power Moons so clever from a design standpoint is that you don’t have to find them all to progress, creating a game that almost anyone could quite easily reach the end of. If you want to just get the bare minimum Moons, that is completely fine, and your experience won’t suffer for it.

The other key collectibles in the game are the two different types of coins that are found in each level. The regular gold coins can be used in the Crazy Cap store to purchase certain things, or function as Mario’s lives in the game, with the player losing 10 coins for every death incurred. The purple coins are unique to each level that they are found in, and are often as well hidden as some of the Moons. These are used in the Crazy Cap store for purchase items for the Odyssey and new outfits for Mario to wear, of which are usually themed on the level they are found in and are often absolutely hilarious to see Mario dressed in. Couple all of this with the various hidden areas to find as well, every level is practically bursting with content to explore and find.

2017102308321100-8AEDFF741E2D23FBED39474178692DAFAesthetically, Super Mario Odyssey could be one of the best looking games on the Switch. Every level is not only fantastically designed from a gameplay perspective, but looks visually fantastic. Every different location bursts with colour and character, and every character you meet in the game is charming and quintessentially Nintendo in the best way. From the squeaky little cap people, to the “Day of the Dead” sombrero-wearing skeletons, every NPC adds to the atmosphere and feel of the levels. The music in the game also heaps on top of this, further building each level as it’s own cohesive, memorable set-piece. Once again, Nintendo have created a soundtrack that is instantly recognisable as Mario, whilst feeling both fresh and thematically cohesive. For instance, the Cap Kingdom, a ghost-ridden, mostly monochrome, softly horror level contains an upbeat but sombre tune which is still so catchy I found myself humming it.

So, should you buy Super Mario Odyssey? On this occasion, it is a resounding yes. There is something in this game for absolutely everyone, and each of it’s new features are well-explained and delightfully intuitive. It is very rare that I can say this, but I simply cannot think of a single negative opinion to level at Odyssey, and that is truly a testament to how well-designed this game is. A new Mario game is always an event, and this is no exception. If you have a Switch, this is absolutely essential.

2017102308330500-8AEDFF741E2D23FBED39474178692DAFThat’s not all, Wes played Odyssey a little too, and here are his thoughts:

Minor spoilers follow. Not much though…
I’m sad to say that there’s no overworld in Super Mario Odyssey. No isle Delfino to run around in, no Peach’s Castle to explore, not even the inside of Marios titular ship is really much of a location. Just a chill out area with shelves for the stuff you collect and a wardrobe in which you change your outfit. And because of this, each of the Kingdoms you visit in this brand new open world ’sandbox’ Mario adventure feel disconnected; like a selection randomly themed locations, each of varying size and construction that could be in any game. Well, any good game.

Yet the connections are there. And not just in the way you travel from location to location simply by choosing on a map. A ‘realistic’ looking chap who’s crashed his car in the desert – how on earth did he get there? (You know, the ‘humans’ from New Donk City we’ve seen in the trailers). The dog that looks like he ran over from Nintendogs, just sat there barking in the cap shop in the desert. He must have come from said city too. And, most significantly, the painting I happened across in the middle of the desert. What’s this? You jump in, in the most obvious call back to Mario 64 I ever did see, and Mario floats on through a spectacular looking void and turns up on the top of a loan skyscraper in New Donk City. My first visit to the much publicised Kingdom I might add. Alas, all I can do here is grab a moon and leave again; the bright lights of the big city are too far away to get to from here…

But look at me trying to find something I don’t like about this game. I can’t think of anything. It’s wonderful. It looks and sounds beautiful – super sharp on the Switch screen, but glorious on my TV. To play a game like this on a handheld is a joyous experience, but for maximum control you can’t beat wrapping your hands around a pro controller – to make sure you nail that long jump, those back flips and wall jumps with accuracy and the precision timing that’s required. It’s serious fun to play, to pull of these moves again; with new ideas, characters to meet, creatures, machines or plants to ‘capture’ around every corner. It’s got that level of challenge you’d expect. And the time I’m writing this, I’m not playing it, which, currently, is all I want to do.

Just four kingdoms into the game so far, and already there’s been so much to see and do and experience. So many caps and outfits to collect. And yes, if I DID have an over world to run around in, to show of this gear, with secrets to find, new gateways to unlock, MORE gear to find then that would be excellent. But, with these Kingdoms we do have, being as open as they are, you DO get experience these sensations. Over and over again. Yes, some areas are bigger than others, and some Moons are certainly more challenging to find than others. But that’s the beauty of it. A masterpiece to behold, Super Mario Odyssey promises to live up to the hype and the promise of being another Nintendo classic.

Thank you to Nintendo UK for kindly supplying this game for us to review.
Super Mario Odyssey releases tomorrow, 27th October 2017.

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