Hands on with Super Mario Odyssey: A weird and familiar game

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It’s been a while since the last Mario adventure, which means we’re all the more excited for Super Mario Odyssey. This will be the first big Super Mario title launching on the Switch, making its success all the more important. Well, fortunately we can say that the game doesn’t disappoint. Earlier in the week we were invited to Nintendo’s office to check out the game for ourselves, and here’s what we thought.

Fans of previous 3D Mario adventures will be pleased to know that Mario’s abilities feel instantly familiar as they did in Super Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy.

After playing Mario Galaxy so much it was a bit disorienting at first because the game’s camera is much lower to the ground and behind Mario this time, which took a bit of getting used to. The game features optional motion controls, with throwing Mario’s hat to attack and capture enemies at the flick of the Joy-Con being the main one. I found this mechanic fairly straightforward and the cap seemed to move where I wanted it go, which I hope will be consistent throughout the game.

 

I spent my time in Mount Volbono in the Luncheon Kingdom, a delicious looking place made of food that also felt inspired by depictions of prehistoric times. On the way to the boss, I got to use Mario’s new friend Cappy to “capture” his enemies and control them. Capturing Goombas didn’t amount to much, but playing as a frying pan tossing Hammer Bro (“Fryer Bro?”) allowed me to clear through cheese to carry on.

“It’s-a-me, that thing you said!”

Most important for this stage was capturing a fireball that was flowing through a river of… maybe hot sauce? This allowed Mario to leap through the sauce to access high areas. Any time I was unsure of how to proceed further, the best way was to simply use the capture ability on context sensitive surroundings (“when in doubt, spin the cap out”).

The big boss was a giant bird that was trying to turn Mario into soup…literally. You fight this beast in a volcano with the lava being soup. Like most Mario games, this was a fairly straightforward fight, but it was a fun to use Mario’s new transformations to tackle a boss.

 

As you may know by now, the game’s collectables are Power Moons instead of Stars and Shine Sprites, and several can be collected in one playthrough of a kingdom. It’s not like the above mentioned prizes in past 3D Marios, where collecting a star sends you back to the hub world, and then you can jump back into the level to collect another star. It’s more like the Banjo-Kazooie games, in which after receiving one of the game’s main prizes (Jiggys), the player can simply keep exploring the world to find more.

I like this change as it encourages the player to keep exploring the game world, and to not have immersion interrupted by having to go back to the beginning every time. Game footage from the recent Nintendo Direct seems to suggest that will there will be hundreds of Power Moons, rather 120 as it were in the other free roaming 3D Marios.

The bosses we faced in our gameplay rewarded us with a “Multi-Moons”, which consist of three Moons instead of the one. As much of the playtime of the worlds we played are building up to the bosses, I did like that the rewards for beating them reflected the extra effort, compared to just finding a Moon say by accident.

Overall I was impressed by how different each kingdom was, with all the NPCs and enemies helping the environments feel like a new world. From the introductory Cap world with its Gothic aesthetic, to the sunny Nipple Seaside Kingdom, everything felt distinct. Oh, and retro style Super Mario makes a return in the form of puzzles on each world, which is a fantastic addition!

 

Super Mario Odyssey comes out on the Nintendo Switch on October 27.

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