Very few events in gaming are as big as the release of a new Mario platformer. Super Mario Odyssey certainly lives up to expectations as it features tight gameplay and a massive fantastical world so grab your favourite hat and get ready to jump, man!
Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and plans on marrying her so it's up to Mario and his newfound friend named Cappy (who's also a hat) to venture forth and stop his dastardly plans. Playing Super Mario Odyssey is very reminiscent of other 3D Mario platformers as you run around and jump through environments while facing a variety of enemies and tricky situations. The controls are handled intuitively so anyone who has played a 3D platformer can easily learn the ins and outs without issue. Watching Mario's stubby little arms and legs frantically flail as he runs then seeing him soar through the air with a quick hop, skip, and jump is as immediately gratifying as ever. It's fantastic to dive back in to the world of 3D Mario and Super Mario Odyssey captures the magic wonderfully.
Of course, Super Mario Odyssey wouldn't be much of a new Mario game if it didn't feature a new gimmick. Thankfully, Mario's flashy new hat allows him to act a lot like his distant cousin Kirby as once he throws Cappy at an enemy, he can control it. This adds an impressive amount of variety to the gameplay as there are dozens upon dozens of various characters and creatures that you can control. Whether you're a Goomba with sticky feet that prevent you from slipping on ice or a Bullet Bill carefully weaving through barriers to reach a faraway platform; you're in for a treat as you discover all sorts of fresh ways to solve puzzles and traverse the massive environments.
Speaking of environments, there are quite a lot of them and each one presents a unique atmosphere. There are the stereotypical desert, lake, and snow areas but you'll also find yourself traversing busy city streets, a food-filled paradise, and a fresh take on Bowser's Kingdom. Super Mario Odyssey's campaign is a lot less linear than other Mario adventures as it primarily relies on your ability to fully explore these substantially large and often intricate stages. As you do, you'll uncover a wealth of generic coins and stage-specific coins as well as plenty of Power Moons. These moons are the main collectible and they power your hat-shaped ship known as the Odyssey. Doing so allows you to travel to additional lands and once you complete the campaign, collecting 250 of them will unlock a bonus area known as the Dark Side of the Moon (I wonder if the devs are big Pink Floyd fans) and there may be even more goodies waiting to be discovered...
The amount of variety featured in Super Mario Odyssey is jaw-dropping. Obviously, the fact that you can control enemies is the most significant mechanic that contributes to gameplay variety but you'll also find yourself taking part in goofy mini-games complete with leaderboards, wreaking havoc via large monstrosities, and being teleported to walls where you work through brief 2D segments that feature retro visuals. It's simply stunning to think back on all of the things you did after each gaming session.
Super Mario Odyssey boasts the same albeit improved visuals that Mario fans are used to. The fluid and cartoony animations are simply superb and make the entire world come to life in a fresh and exciting way. The array of new characters and species adds to this liveliness, too. Anyway, each environment is impressively captivating with their detailed intricacies and cohesive themes. It all adds up to a delightful feast for the eyes and your ears will be pleased, too. Although there are moments when you'll mostly hear environmental soundscapes, the music (whenever it plays) is a brilliant mix of new tunes and novel takes on classic Mario melodies. However, one thing that took me off guard is the strange voices. Hearing Bowser speak in a garbled mess is definitely weird but after getting used to these weird voices, I found them to be rather charming, especially the high-pitched little critters who sound like they're speaking Italian.
All of that being said, I found a couple design decisions to be inconsistent with the rest of the game world and they took me out of the experience. Whether you like it or not, you can't deny that humans who appear as if they belong in The Sims are very out of place in a Mario game. Many fans have embraced this aspect but I don't understand why. It reminds me of the 3D Sonic games although it's weirder here because Sonic is a hedgehog and Mario is a human... or so I thought. If he is human then he must have some appearance-altering disease because he's clearly nothing like the residents of New Donk City. Also, their mayor is Pauline who looks halfway between whatever species Mario is and the residents of her city. In the end, I found it jarring and wish that stage wasn't in the final product. Also, why is there a realistic dinosaur? Isn't Yoshi supposed to be a dinosaur? It's the Super Mario Bros. movie all over again!
Back to the gameplay, Super Mario Odyssey has tons of content to uncover such as hundreds upon hundreds of unlockable Power Moons; most of which are fairly easy to collect as they simply involve finding them scattered around but some are definitely trickier. You'll also gather a whole wardrobe of interchangeable hats and outfits, purchase a variety of collectible souvenirs, and unlock music that you can listen to whenever you wish. In essence, you can play for hours upon hours and still discover new goodies.
Although the amount of content is awesome, one area that could have been handled better is providing a sense of accomplishment. There are two contributors that take away from this. The first is the difficulty. I breezed through the main story without dying much (for the record, I only died due to the odd pit and perished twice during the final boss). After I explored the post-game content, I was disappointed to see that even the Dark Side wasn't as challenging as I hoped. Sure, there is the odd tough segment within the optional post-game world but it's simply too little too late. The second contributor is the fact that you're constantly unlocking Power Moons. It made me feel like I was being awarded participation trophies that I didn't actually earn. To remedy this, I wish that there were more tiers of unlockables. For example, the inclusion of Super Power Moons that you can earn through more challenging means.
Finally, there are some brilliant boss fights in Super Mario Odyssey (although they're generally very easy) but I found the fights with the rabbit wedding planners (known as the Broodals) to be rather uninspired. Each of them is fought in a circular arena and they don't differ all that much from each other. All they basically involve is dodging predictable attacks then jumping on their heads. Not only that, you have to fight them a couple times each with slightly increased difficulty. Thankfully, when you eventually face them all together in a final fight, it offers a memorable and enjoyable dynamic but that still doesn't quite make up for the tedium of previous encounters.
Super Mario Odyssey is an incredible adventure that every Mario fan and Switch owner needs to experience. Although it's not quite perfect, what's here is undeniably the next must-have Nintendo masterpiece.
- + Super-tight gameplay featuring loads of variety and enjoyable exploration
- + Top-notch animation and sound
- + Tons of content to discover
- - Constant rewards and lack of challenge take away from the sense of accomplishment
- - A couple inconsistent design choices
- - Uninspired Broodals boss fights