Review – Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey feels like Nintendo deciding to have some fun. The entire concept is absolute madness but in a good way. I can just imagine the brainstorming sessions…
“What about if his hat was alive?”
“What about if we made New York City, but we called it New DONK City!”
“AND we fill it with realistic looking people that make Mario look super creepy!”
I’ll bet nothing was off-limits when trying to figure out how to create Super Mario Odyssey. It’s a gambit that’s paid off handsomely.
Not only is Super Mario Odyssey one of the best Mario games of all time. It’s easily one of the best games this year and this generation.
I’m not sure what’s been put in the water over at Nintendo, but whatever it is it’s working. 2017 has seen it release hit after hit after hit. It’s hard to believe that Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild both came out this year.
We’ve certainly been spoiled. That’s unquestionable. While there are still a handful of big-name games to be released this year, Super Mario Odyssey is the perfect cherry on top of an amazing year of gaming.
It’s hard to even describe how exciting it is to finally be able to play a brand-new Mario game again. The first video game I ever played was Super Mario Bros. on NES when I was 4-years old. That’s nearly 29 years ago and nearly 29 years later Mario and Nintendo have still got it.
Super Mario Odyssey is uncharacteristically sleek and streamlined for Nintendo. On booting it up, there’s a minimalist quality to the menus and options. Everything about Super Mario Odyssey seems designed to get you into the game and playing it as quickly as possible. Other developers should take note.
Once you’ve started, you’re treated to an absolutely striking cutscene introducing the story. The visual fidelity, brightness and colours leap from the screen and the movement is silky smooth, fluid and spot-on. If Nintendo ever decided to get into the animated motion picture game, they’d do just fine.
In the cutscene, we find out that Bowser has once again kidnapped Peach. But this time, he’s gone extra creepo-stalker. He’s decided that he’s going to force Peach to marry him.
Ok Bowser, solid plan.
Mario steps up to put a stop to Bowser’s insanity but is swiftly dealt with by the Koopa King’s brand new headgear. A top hat with vicious boxing gloves. In the kerfuffle; Mario’s cap is ruined and Bowser escapes on his airship. Marooned in a strange ghostly kingdom, Mario meets Cappy and the pair decide to work together to rescue Peach and Cappy’s sister Tiara.
Super Mario Odyssey is all about capturing. Not possessing mind you. Cappy’s clearly a ghost and him and Mario are clearly possessing beings to take advantage of their abilities. But, it’s capturing, not possessing. Get the lingo right.
Capturing is such a wonderful mechanic you get the feeling Nintendo was kicking themselves for not thinking of it sooner. Almost any enemy you see and plenty of NPCs and inanimate objects can be capped by throwing Cappy at them. To throw him you simply press Y or flick the right Joy-Con. It’s incredibly intuitive and very easy to master. More importantly, it’s a ridiculous amount of fun to experiment with who and what can be captured.
Some of the highlights I found were the Gusher, Sherm, Bullet Bill and Chargin’ Chuck. All up there are 52 captures for you to find and experiment with. Gusher is a squid inside a ball of water. Pressing B shoots water downwards so you can go higher and Y shoots water backwards so you can go forwards. Getting around as Gusher is both fast and fun.
Sherm is a tank that lets you shoot at everything. Bullet Bill is self-explanatory and Chargin‘ Chuck comes out of retirement to run everything and everybody down. Stacking 10 Goombas on top of one another is also stupidly good.
Not every capture is all that useful though. Some only serve one very specific purpose. Like Meat.
Meat’s only job is to get picked up and cooked. Manhole is only there to be moved out of the way. These are things that could have been done differently, but not letting Mario capture a huge chunk of meat, well that’s just not in the spirit of Super Mario Odyssey.
The absolute best part about capturing though isn’t the abilities you get or the exploration options you open up. Nope. It’s the little moustache and blue eyes that are given to each and everything you capture. I’ve not laughed out loud so hard at a video game in a long time. You’ve probably already seen Goomba Mario online, but captured Yoshi and captured Hammer Bros are just as special.
Fly Me to the Moon
Capturing forms the basis for solving many of Super Mario Odyssey’s puzzles and collecting its many Power Moons. Though there are plenty of Moons you’ll be able to collect as good old vanilla Mario too. Nintendo has struck a wonderful balance between the time spent capturing and as Mario. It would be a shame if we were deprived of seeing our favourite plumber waddling round in such glorious detail.
Moons are in and Stars are out. And boy are they ever in. I said before that you’ll be collecting many Power Moons. I meant it. They are everywhere. The first world contains 17 of them. And that’s before you unlock the extra ones. At this point, I’m not sure how many there are in total, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they topped 600.
Having so many Moons available to collect gives Nintendo the freedom to create a broad spectrum of difficulties. Some of the Moons are laughably easy to collect. But for me, a 32-year old man, they should be. For the 4-year old who’s just getting to play his first game ever, Super Mario Odyssey will provide a surmountable challenge. Then there are the Moons that want you to really work for them.
I always forget just how difficult Mario games can be, until I play one again. I spent much of my time in Super Mario Odyssey lamenting the lack of difficulty until I went looking for it and found it. Yes, the insanely hard, controller destroying Moons are included. You’ll just have to go find them. Which, when you think about it, is such a better way of doing things. It lets the players who want the challenge go and get it, without punishing everybody else.
Woohoo! Just what I needed
Super Mario Odyssey plays exactly as you’d expect if you’ve played Mario before. It’s just a further refinement of the mechanics established in Super Mario 64, improved in Super Mario Sunshine and expanded in Galaxy and Galaxy 2. Mario has weight and heft. He moves gradually at first and then speeds up as he goes. He’s affected by inertia and is surprisingly spry and athletic.
All of your favourite 3D Mario moves are present and accounted for. Long jump, triple jump, backflip, they’re all present and accounted for. Thanks to his ability to capture and use brand new abilities on the fly, Mario himself doesn’t really have anything new up his sleeve. Throwing Cappy is new, as is his ability to roll on the ground. Aside from that, it’s the same old Mario. Which is exactly as it should be.
Mario’s arsenal of moves doesn’t need to be tinkered with or fixed. It’s been perfectly suited to the gameplay since Super Mario 64 and it shows how confident Nintendo is with Super Mario Odyssey that it didn’t change Mario himself. All of the captured abilities greatly expand the gameplay enough that it’s nice to be able to play as Mario and know what you’re getting into. It’s like putting on your favourite pair of old slippers. Comfortable and just as you remember them.
Let’s see the sights
Nintendo is known for being able to get the most from its own hardware. Which makes sense and Super Mario Odyssey is no exception. Frankly, I’m of the opinion that Nintendo has signed a deal with the devil. How Super Mario Odyssey manages to look as good as it does and only take up 5GB blows my mind. Not once did I experience dropped frames, screen tears or any dodgy performance whatsoever. it not only looks like a dream, Super Mario Odyssey plays like one.
Each and every world has a wholly different visual theme, each as different from each other as they are gorgeous. I was initially concerned that having each world look different would mean that the overall game lacked cohesion, but my fear was unfounded. Despite looking nothing alike, each of the worlds feels connected and feels a part of the same universe. Small touches like the design of buildings or subtle repeated patterns keep everything connected, despite being completely different.
While Super Mario Odyssey features some very standard platforming themes — snow, lava, desert, water — they’ve each been tweaked. Expectations have been flipped and thanks to clever design, both visual and mechanical, even 21-years later variations on a theme can still be surprising. Nintendo is obviously conscious of the cliches and has worked hard to ensure players are enjoying themselves from beginning to end.
Writing this review is an almost pointless exercise. By now you’ve already decided whether or not you’re going to buy Super Mario Odyssey. The chances that my words will sway you are slim. On the off-chance that you’re having second thoughts though, I hope I can allay them. Super Mario Odyssey is a masterpiece. It never once stops doing everything it sets out to do flawlessly. I honestly believe there’s not a better game you’ll play this year or even this generation.
Super Mario Odyssey is a once-in-a-generation game and every self-respecting gamer should sit back and enjoy it. Nintendo has outdone itself yet again and we’re the lucky ones who get to reap the benefits.
Super Mario Odyssey was provided to PowerUp! by Nintendo.
Game title: Super Mario Odyssey
Game description: Join Mario on a massive, globe-trotting 3D adventure and use his incredible new abilities to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser's wedding plans!
Cappy the Cap Kingdom Cap - 9.5/10
It's-a me, Mario - 9/10
Peach is a strong independent woman who don't need no man - 10/10