Super Mario Odyssey Review
The Nintendo Switch arrived back in March and at first we didn’t totally buy into the console and weren’t sure what Nintendo were going for. However, after spending time with the console during our review period and playing many hours of Zelda: Breath of the Wild we were hugely sold on its potential. The one trap that the Switch could have fallen foul of was being able to back up that initial glorious Zelda release with a steady flow of really good games as without this Nintendo’s newest hardware would have been stuck in a strange place (especially as Zelda and Mario Kart were also on the Wii U). Luckily for early adopters and now Nintendo Switch owners in general, Nintendo took up the challenge and have been slowly taking names throughout 2017 with the release of upgraded Mario Kart 8, Splatoon 2, Mario vs Rabbids and now the release of the first big dedicated Mario game on the console. Does it continue this return to form and keep pushing the Switch as a must buy this Christmas? It absolutely does and then some!
As we begin our adventure it’s classic Mario - Bowser has kicked Mario’s little butt, stolen Princess Peach along with a new character Tiara, and is heading off on his flying galleon sweeping across multiple worlds gathering supplies for a wedding to end all weddings. Princess Peach doesn’t get a lot of say in the matter but Mario does. Teaming up with Tiara’s older brother, Cappy, the two set off on a world-hopping adventure to rescue both damsels, taking down the big bully Bowser along the way. Cappy is unsurprisingly a cap which can help Mario in a whole host of ways - the little fella can take control of other characters across the many worlds opening up a whole host of gameplay mechanics to play with, he can assist with enemy crowd control and general offensive moves and he’s also on hand to educate Mario throughout the adventure on his mission and how to achieve it.
The template is straightforward and the setup is much the same; Bowser is causing havoc and it’s Mario’s job, along with the trusty Cappy to give chase. Mario is a known quantity and he comes into this one with a wealth of moves which are seamlessly executed using either the Pro pad or the Joy-Cons, but it’s Cappy that really lights up Super Mario Odyssey. By utilising Cappy, Mario can throw him at enemies, break blocks, create new paths and generally cause issues for the numerous bad guys around each world. However Cappy can be used for far more interesting tasks by using him to control one of the aforementioned foes. By throwing Cappy directly at an enemy you’d like to control, he instantly possesses the victim and they become yours to do with as you wish, opening up a plethora of gameplay mechanics which work tirelessly to keep the gameplay fresh and exciting.
The core gameplay loop is effectively collecting moons on each respective world as these moons power the Odyssey and it’s only with them that Mario and Cappy can continue the pursuit of Bowser and Princess Peach as they bounce from world to world. Mario lands on each world with a core target number of moons required to progress to the next world, and each world presents a number of puzzles of varying difficulty to achieve this. Super Mario Odyssey does a number of things fantastically well here; Each world has a great variation from the one before it, preventing the feeling of rinse and repeat with colourful varied foes in each. Some of the puzzles, whilst not particularly difficult, will make you stop and think on occasion - some more so than others - but there is enough variation to keep you engaged. Above all, however, and easily one of its best features is the game’s ability to allow you to wander off the beaten path and find any number of obscure, not necessarily hidden, but out of the way treats to find and open. It is easy to stick to the script, find your moons and be on your way but you’d be missing out on a ton of fun. Exploring in Super Mario Odyssey is a delight and the variety of each location and the enemies within, both standard and mini boss / boss are as colourful and creative as anything in the genre.
Throughout the adventure there are some wonderful gameplay changes which act as both minute to minute variety and not so subtle nods to previous Nintendo outings. Throughout each world there will be a number of instances where you have to dive into a pipe turning the gameplay into an old-school 2D side-scrolling Mario, reminding us in no subtle way of the fantastic Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds at the same time. As you navigate through these along with a wealth of mini games, boss encounters and more, that classic Nintendo sense of humour pours through almost every interaction creating an experience that can only be described as joyous from minute to minute. On that note, if you pick up Super Mario Odyssey be sure to spend some time with the photo mode - whilst on paper this doesn’t sound that thrilling it can actually be a lot of fun given how expressive and often amusing both Mario and Cappy are throughout the whole adventure.
For all couch co-op players out there, parent and child or parent and parent, Super Mario Odyssey allows you to share in this wonderful experience with the introduction of a cooperative two-player mode. The implementation is simply enough with one player controlling Mario and another controlling Cappy but it’s really well done. You’d think that whoever was controlling Cappy had the lesser experience but that’s not the case at all and when playing in co-op quite a few game elements become much easier to manage as you are allowed to focus more, especially during tricky battles or platforming elements. Being able to play such a title using one of the tiny Joy-Cons on the go or in the comfort of your home on a big TV with a Pro pad is a delight.
The one thing that Super Mario Odyssey does so well, potentially above and beyond any other title released this year, is bring together flawless controls, mechanics and just simple fun into a gorgeous colourful concoction of joy. Super Mario Odyssey reminds jaded older gamers what fun games used to be and invites new players to experience Mario at his best for the first time. Adding in fantastic visuals and the ability to play the game on the go via the delightful and ever-improving Nintendo Switch, it’s quite simply one of, if not the must have titles of 2017.