After launching in March of 2017, the Nintendo Switch already boasts a strong library of games. Super Mario Odyssey is the latest game to add to what has already been a great first year for the newest console from Nintendo. Perhaps the world’s most iconic and recognisable video game character is back, but is he better than ever?
When it comes to story, the Mario games have typically regurgitated the same format, Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser and so once again our favourite plumber must save the day. It’s a formula that has worked throughout the years because with each instalment there is a new twist, be it story or feature wise that keeps it feeling fresh.
This time around, Bowser has gone full-on crazy, trying to organise a wedding for Peach and himself. You’ve heard of the ultimate bridezilla well here is the groomzilla, the villain travels far and wide to bring together all the essentials for the big day. The goal is stop him, because the items he’s obtaining are by nefarious means, basically Bowser is stealing them.
Typically, the 3D Mario titles have had a hub world in which the protagonist can then transport to each world. Those aren’t present, instead, each kingdom acts as both hub and an open level filled with platforming activities, foes to beat and collectibles. There is so much to get on with in each world that first time around you won’t get to everything, either by just missing things or because some areas are only accessible later on in the game. At no point did I feel boredom kicking in because I was constantly kept entertained either by new mechanics, enemies or places to explore.
As always, the gameplay experience is solid, not only bringing back what we already know but delivering new mechanics which breathe new life into the series. One such new addition is being able to throw your new hat companion, or as you will come to know him as, Cappy. Yes, Mario becomes Oddjob from James Bond fame. This new ability is so versatile in that it not only acts as a form of attack, the cap can be used as a platforming instrument and a means in which to control objects and enemies alike. There wasn’t a point in which I felt there was no need for this feature, it isn’t cumbersome and doesn’t get tiring.
Taking over enemies is so damn fun and leads to some of the best moments in the game and is part of one of my favourite moments in gaming, ever. To see what I mean, you will need to get to the final story mission. Controlling all these enemies that you encounter countless times through the franchise is almost like a dream ability. Being able to use their skills to further your adventure is not just a gimmick, and I had my apprehensions before-hand to be honest.
Each different type of enemy you control brings even more gameplay mechanics with them. Becoming a Bullet Bill allows you to shoot around in whichever direction you see fit, turning at will before inevitably exploding. Stack Goomba’s on top of each other in order to reach those high places. Cheep Cheep’s allow you to breath underwater. That’s just to name a few of 20+ enemy types, it’s an impressive feat, just how many more ideas are still being produced on how to keep the Mario experience fresh.
The various boss battles are where the game shines, albeit these fights are easier than expected. From the first boss to the last, they dish out different techniques that force you to think on your feet. Some will even return throughout, but with slightly altered strategies which caused me quite the surprise numerous times. But with one death or two later, you can recover and overcome. Watch what they do, then think of a way to beat it, sounds simple and yet with every big battle there is a sense of depth with how an encounter evolves.
2D platforming makes a return in a small way and is a welcome addition to the more recent 3D affair. Enter a pipe on one side and exit out of the other as a 2D version of Mario which has visuals closely resembling the old school Super Mario games. A perfect blend of the old and modern titles.
Moons are the new universal collectible needed to progress with the story and they are everywhere. There is no shortage of these items and you shouldn’t find yourself looking around too long without finding one. This allows the more casual player to progress through the story at a faster pace. Kleptomaniacs have no fear as there are a ton to obtain, the cap is low for progression purposes with approximately 140 needed to complete the story, but there are hundreds of moons to find overall.
Once the campaign is finished, the game is far from over, with end-game content that is such a delight. New areas to explore, a ton of moons left to grab and difficult challenges lay ahead.
On both the big screen and in handheld, this is such a beautiful game. Mario has never looked so defined, you can see the strands of hair on top his head and in his moustache. Articles of clothing have fine detail that let you tell what they’re made of, you can identify between wool, leather, silk etc which is almost crazy to think that these things are now possible in a Mario game.
Kingdoms are incredibly diverse, each with a different aesthetic. New Donk City puts you into a New York City environment that looks the part and is fleshed out with detail, NPC’s and even moving vehicles that recreate the hustle and bustle of the real thing. The cabs are yellow, street signs and traffic lights are plentiful, it just comes together for a joyous experience.
The Luncheon Kingdom is the opposite in the sense it’s far from realism, intentionally, with its bright and sometimes luminous colour palette. That doesn’t matter however because Nintendo have still managed to cement a look that fits the name and shows exactly what it’s meant to be.
Hearkening back to its previous titles whilst delivering new and exciting things is the sound design. If you were to play this title blindfolded, and not know what game you were playing, the sound would absolutely give it away, because it’s so recognizable. The gasps, shrieks and yipee’s are enough to make anyone smile. The peak moment with the soundtrack occurs at the end of the New Donk City section. Mixing a new theme with retro style gameplay that is surely a love-letter to the long-time gamers.
Those looking for nostalgia will get their fill whilst players wanting new won’t be left disappointed. A gameplay masterpiece, complete with a ton of variety in worlds and enemies, a hefty amount of content and many memorable moments. Mario is back, it may not be in his best venture, but it has to rank among the highest.
OVERALL: 9.8/10 – EXCELLENCE
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.