In a return to the sandbox-style action and his first solo adventure on the Switch, Mario is ready to capture and morph with the help of his new found friend Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey. With pure platform genius on offer and a smorgasbord of things to do, Odyssey exquisitely blends reality and fantasy together, making for a rich gameplay experience with no end to surprises.
It’s hard to imagine gaming culture without Mario. The wheel has been reinvented so many times, and to great success, that it’s a truly remarkable feat by Nintendo. When Super Mario 64 was released in 1996 for the N64, fans were treated to a beautifully blocky sandbox style adventure and when the critically acclaimed Super Mario Sunshine made its splash on the GameCube in 2002, we just wanted more. With Super Mario Odyssey, the sandbox-style makes a stunning return and offers up so many surprises, collectables and picture perfect kingdoms, it’s hard to put down.
Produced by Yoshiaki Koizumi, the brilliance behind Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Galaxy, and directed by Kenta Motokura, Super Mario Odyssey presents the uniting of an unlikely duo; the wedding ceremony between Princess Peach and the infamous Bowser. In a bid to save Peach from the devious groom, Mario unsuccessfully engages Bowser in the game’s opening scene and lands rather fortuitously in the Cap Kingdom. There he meets Cappy, a ghost-like Hat creature who has been searching for his partner Tiara after Bowser cruelly kidnapped her, and together they travel to the various kingdoms following Bowser’s trail.
Featuring 14 kingdoms in the game’s main storyline, Odyssey takes around 10-15 hours to complete. But between the collection of Power Moons to unlock additional kingdoms and power up your ship, the focus on achievements, and the amount of other collectibles on offer, Odyssey can easily extend to a 40+ hour gaming experience. With more than 700 Power Moons littered across the kingdoms, there’s a variety of puzzles on show. From the traditional jump-in-time challenges and the chasing of rabbits, to picture match recognition and general exploration through ground-pounding or secret alcoves, it’s easy to lose track of time as you discover them. The seamless transition between Power Moon discovery means you’ll hardly ever reach a loading screen either.
But there’s two game mechanics that make Odyssey special. Players will first encounter classic 2D Mario in Cascade Kingdom, the starter world in Odyssey. Enter a green pipe in the 3D world and effortlessly transition into Mario’s 2D sprite from the original games, caveman outfit and all. Players will appear on a flat 2D side-scrolling surface as Mario, while still within the 3D world. Appear on a cube, underwater, or on a pyramid structure and switch between 2D and 3D worlds fluidly to find the next Power Star. It’s the extra attention to detail that makes these moments so extraordinary.
The main star of the show, however, is the capture and morph mechanic as Cappy. With a touch of a button, Mario can throw Cappy towards an enemy and transform into them, providing they aren’t wearing a fetching hat that needs to be knocked off prior. Easily take control of enemies such as Goombas, Lakitu, Fire Bros, Bullet Bills and Cheep Cheeps with Cappy and use their special actions to solve puzzles or reach places you never could before. Even popping into a Moe-Eye, a new enemy in Odyssey, will allow Mario to uncover secret pathways to hidden coins and Power Moons. Surprisingly, up to 52 enemies or things can be captured in the game. And while we won’t spoil them for you, one of them has a particularly explosive soundtrack that needs to be heard first-hand.
However, we can’t forget to mention the T-Rex takeover in Cascade Kingdom within the first major area of the game. Forget running away from this guy, quickly throw Cappy while the creature snoozes and you’ll be able to smash through rocks and channel your inner Ian Malcolm. Perhaps Jeff Goldblum should star in his own Let’s Play here, it certainly beats sitting in the back of a jeep calmly saying ‘must go faster’.
Super Mario Sunshine and Galaxy had tremendous soundtracks, and Odyssey is no different with 82 tracks in total. Each kingdom’s musical number has been perfectly crafted to suit the inhabitants and its visual features. The upbeat melodies of the Seaside and Snow Kingdoms, the Mexican vibes of the Sand Kingdom’s Tostarena Town, and the serene music of Bubblaine in the Lake Kingdom all perfectly synchronise to create an eclectic mood. Even Odyssey’s main theme tune, sung in-game by New Donk City’s Mayor Pauline, is a cheerful treat to the ears and times itself wonderfully with the game’s platform action. Of course, all of the game’s music can be found in the library, accessed through the map screen button.
But while Odyssey is picture perfect down to the very last pixel, it’s not entirely faultless. Minor blips at best, they aren’t detrimental to the gameplay, but may be to the individual player depending on experience. For Mario veterans, Odyssey lacks serious challenge and features no gruelling gameover screen. But for inexperienced players, the comfort of an Assist Mode and a surplus of coins is a real winner. Perhaps the biggest annoyance though, comes in Odyssey’s boss fights with Bowser’s fluffy-eared rabbit minions, the Broodals. They appear not just once or twice as mid-boss fights but three times as part of the main storyline and more so if you unlock additional kingdoms afterwards. And the fights between them are unchanging too. There are plenty of great boss fights in Odyssey and it’s great to see those make a return post-game in more challenging fights, but the Broodals certainly aren’t on that list.
For the co-operative adventurer, Odyssey can be played as a duo. While the first player takes control of Mario, the second controls Cappy. There’s certainly a big element of fun and entertainment here, which often needs a lot of co-operation and planning. But it doesn’t quite feel like a fully-fleshed two-player mode, since the second is more or less demoted to a one-button pusher. Playing out in a similar format to Super Mario Galaxy with Luma, Odyssey still dominates as a single player action title.
While the main focus of Odyssey is to collect Power Moons to fuel your ship, there’s plenty of other collectibles scattered throughout the kingdoms. Some of these collectibles such as outfits or in-game souvenirs can be purchased with Kingdom-specific coins in the Crazy Cap shop. So if you fancy plundering some booty as Pirate Captain Mario, piloting a Glyden as Aviator Mario, or taking a plunge in the sea with a rubber ring and goggles to match, you can by swapping your old plumber suit for the next available item in the wardrobe. And with so many different outfits, you can also get Mario to pose for some great pictures too. A great accent to the game, photo captures can be framed easily with the Pro Controller or Joy-Cons and then polished up with a filter. Instagram, eat your heart out.
The myriad of secrets, mini-games and references to previous series’ titles, coupled with some of the most fluid and ingenious action seen to date makes Super Mario Odyssey one of the best platform games in years. Those little Nintendo nuances and humorous quirks can be found almost everywhere; that’s what makes it so special.