Reading this review, you are probably only looking for confirmation of what you already suspect will be the case with Super Mario Odyssey. Being one of the oldest exclusive franchises in existence and coming out on a new console, Nintendo needs to go all out to make an impact. Well, I can say it right off the bat, that Mario still remains in the company of Zelda as a definite system seller. It evokes the feeling of childhood nostalgia in a way that only a game you grew up with can, and delivers a game that's all about having pure fun.
The story of Mario Odyssey is essentially what the story of Mario has been for the past 30 years. Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach to force marry her, and Mario must save her. There a couple of minor tweaks and additions to the usual story like Mario losing his hat when fighting Bowser at the beginning of the game and teaming up with a ghost called Cappy to rescue both Peach and Cappy's sister Tiara. Sure the kingdoms are also in danger but what's more important is that they chase after Broodals, who are essentially wedding planners and put a stop to the whole charade. Joking aside, they find the titular Odyssey airship and off they go through the 14 playable kingdoms.
Don't expect much in the way of continuity because literally, no one plays Mario for the engaging story. Instead, what is here, serves it's the purpose of sending you on an unforgettable adventure of childish awe and just crazy collecthaton and puzzle solving fun. Kingdoms are well designed and highly thematic, and I was excited when going to a new one as much as I was afraid that I wouldn't breeze through the whole experience too fast, hoping that my fun times in the kingdoms would never end. Luckily, the story part of the adventure will last you a solid 15-20 hours and after that, you can unlock an additional kingdom and go back to all the previous ones to collect the stuff that you missed or just mess around and experiment. And believe me, you'll definitely want to do that.
Two small gripes I had with the story and the game, in general, is the lack of other Mario characters like Luigi and Yoshi. I thought this was a missed opportunity that pushes these characters further down the sidelines than they ever were before. Also, the kingdoms, although they exude personality and are thematic in their design, lack any kind of deeper backstory for you to explore which could have added to the interest factor and possibly spice up the story just a bit.
On the gameplay side of things, new Mario is executed flawlessly. Besides being able to do all the stuff you usually do in a Mario game – run, jump, flip, head and ground pound – the biggest innovation here is your already mentioned companion – Cappy. Cappy is a ghost that turns into Mario's hat and he has two purposes. He serves as a throwable weapon against weaker enemies and a jumping point, but he also serves as a means of taking control of and interacting with both animate and inanimate objects in the game. The second part was heavily advertised and is one of the main strengths of Mario Odyssey as well as the freshest and most innovative aspect of it.
Cappy is by no means optional as using him is an essential part of the gameplay and he makes almost every character in the game (and some objects) playable. Besides using the mechanic for just plain goofing around the levels, you will use appropriate characters with their special abilities to solve puzzles and finish various mini-games scattered around the kingdoms. For example, taking control of flag poles can make you launch yourself farther across gaps, lizards and bullets make you glide or fly so you can reach certain platforms, cannonballs tear down walls and obstacles, hammerheads throw hammers and a T-Rex is just plain badass. Each kingdom is different, featuring their own set of characters to take control of resulting in the gameplay remaining fresh and fun throughout, and will always have you wondering what comes next.
Kingdoms are reasonably large and range from bright tropical to snowy and all the way to lava and urban ones. Each kingdom gives a certain main goal to strive toward which mostly consists out of reaching a far away or high up place and then fighting a boss before you can go onto the next one. These goals will usually take you for a good ride around the kingdom and along the way present plenty of side puzzles, challenges, and collectibles.
The main collectible is the one that powers your airship – the Power Moons. They replace Stars from Mario Galaxy games and once you collect a certain amount, the ship can jump to the next kingdom. You should generally have no problems collecting enough of them to progress, both when sticking on the path toward the main goal or going off the beaten path as they are the reward for just about all the side activities. Bunch of them are easy to find, hidden in plain sight, but others can be hidden behind more difficult challenges. Difficult, but never frustratingly so as most them are well thought out mini-games that I could easily see being expanded into full games. Most are fun and give a great sense of accomplishment.
An important thing to mention is that with the inclusion of Cappy, which I consider a mainstay for the future of the franchise – much like the open world of Zelda, means that Mario no longer collects certain transformative pickups like mushrooms or leafs. He also doesn't collect lives and has a health bar with three health points which are expandable with certain items. Coins are used as a form of currency with which you can buy said items or cosmetics for customizing Mario to your liking which is a nice touch. Losing coins is the only penalty for losing health or "dying" and while the game is easy for the most part, it even features an option for "assisted" mode for the youngest of gamers and your mom so they don't go back to the checkpoint but instead continue immediately on the spot.
The game even features a simple one-screen co-op multiplayer where one player controls Mario and the other one controls Cappy. It's a welcome inclusion but I found it a bit disappointing. Sure it makes sense story and gameplay-wise but it circles back to the obvious absence of other well known Mario characters that could have been used here in a much better way.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Visually, the game is extremely pleasant to look at and the best looking Mario game as is expected. It will definitely speak to your inner child with vibrant colors and an unmatched cartoony style which is basically like a Nintendo stamp of game making. The game even features a dedicated in-game photo mode and it can be a ton of fun using it in the quirky kingdoms of Odyssey. There are even a couple of surprises for going even further down the nostalgia hole like levels inspired by the original NES Mario done in charming 2D-ish perspective and more. All of it runs in stable 60 FPS with little to none technical problems and taking this one on the go in handheld mode is a treat in itself.
Music is like what you would expect and the soundtrack features completely new tunes as well as classic Mario ones with a shiny new spin. As always, they complement the light-hearted tone of the game perfectly and will definitely make you smile while playing. Same goes for Mario spouting his catchphrases and generally all the cartoony sound effects of his movement as well as those coming from enemies and other characters.
Do you ever get that feeling like you are just breezing through games without actually having fun? I sometimes do but Nintendo, with their flagship franchises, has always managed to bring out the kid in me and take me back to a more innocent and fun time of my early gaming days. They continue what they did with Breath Of The Wild and deliver a fresh new spin on their franchise that's a bit less open but dense and impressive nonetheless.
All of this makes Super Mario Odyssey an almost perfect game, and not just on the Nintendo Switch. It's a huge blast to play from start to finish. With the sheer number of diverse activities and mechanics put into the confines of flawlessly designed levels, it's going to have you exploring them for hours on end and leave you wishing for more.
|+ Crazy fun from start to finish||– Underutilised franchise characters|
|+ Number of levels and their design||– Lackluster multiplayer|
|+ Cappy capture mechanic|
|+ Visuals and music|