Super Mario Odyssey
Mario’s 3D entries have been some of his greatest, and Mario Odyssey puts the beloved Italian plumber on his grandest adventure yet. Not to alarm anyone, but Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach again – and curb stomps Mario in the game’s opening salvo. His evil plan is to marry her and gives her a tiara with its own personality. Mario’s cap gets mangled, so he meets a ghostly cap form named Cappy and we find out that the tiara’s personality is that of his own sister. Together, the two do battle with Bowser’s evil wedding planners and eventually aim to trounce the monstrous villain himself.
Cappy allows you to take on the behavior and skillset of most enemies and even some creatures throughout the game. While Mario can still stomp, jump, and butt stomp away, he has a slew of new attacks thanks to Cappy – who changes up Mario’s core mechanics more than any other sidekick since Yoshi. Being able to become a goomba not only allows you to form a giant stack of them into a column and grab items and hit coin boxes you couldn’t before, but also prevents you from slipping on ice. Becoming a bullet bill allows you to cross a large area quickly while feeling a sense of power that you don’t normally get outside of using a star power-up in the older Mario games.
Cappy gives Mario a decently-ranged projectile to use at all times as well and he can be set to spin in place if needed – which comes in handy for those who may not have great timing, as it still allows you to inhabit whatever missile may be coming right for you. Cappy is Mario’s greatest ally here and can turn parts of enemies against him – which is especially handy during boss battles, which have more depth to them than they have in quite some time thanks to all the ways you can use Cappy. Mario’s core hop and bop skillset finishes the job, but you literally couldn’t get where you need to within a boss battle without having Cappy by your side.
The game has been completely designed with him as the focus, and it leads to some of the franchise’s best puzzles. The Mario series hasn’t really been high on puzzles before, but here, all of the puzzles are a blast to solve and some do require a bit of creative thinking to solve. An early one sees a slew of goombas pop up and here is where you can learn about creating stacks. You don’t get much out of it super-early on, but do gain the ability to hit a small box of coins and then you could just stop after that. However, going a bit further uncovers a female goomba and showing up as a goomba with the hat on impresses her and nets you a power moon.
Power moons allow you to move from world to world on Mario’s giant hat-shaped ship called the Odyssey, and can be obtained in many ways. Quite a few can be found just in the game world itself – albeit with a bit of searching. The game makes it fairly easy to obtain some power moons via shops, and you can also use your in-game coins to buy power-ups or even clothing items. Each land you enter has its own exclusive form of currency that can be used as well to get rarer items like full outfits to mix up Mario’s style a bit. There’s no in-game advantage to doing so, but Mario does look pretty cool in an explorer getup or dressing up like he’s ready to make some Mario levels in his construction gear.
Being able to swap out certain costume parts or even give him a whole new outfit is a neat small detail – but it shows just how much care went into the final product. Mario’s past is celebrated with the outfits and that is taken to a whole different level with side-scrolling portions that give you an 8-bit style for Mario thanks to warp pipes – where entire outfits get shown off in that style as well. It may not mean much to see that detail, but it does provide a “wow” moment when you see it in the game for the first time.
Mario’s agile moveset is back, but with a few changes to it. Motion controls are used for many commands and while some can be mapped to buttons, others are locked into using waggle – including some larger jumps that can make playing the game a bit more awkward. It would be nice to have a controller available and not be forced into using waggle when there are so many unused buttons to work with. This is definitely annoying and an outright genuine flaw with the title as a whole. Thankfully, using the grip and Joycon combo makes things work well enough so that even if you don’t like waggle, you can at least get the game completed and do the majority of the game’s attacks without it.
Odyssey’s level design is absolutely delightful, with a wide selection of kingdoms to explore – including some of that are fairly dark and foreboding for a Mario game. Of course, New Donk City is the most jaw-dropping, with its realistic setting, actual human-shaped people and even a loving homage to the original Donkey Kong thrown in too. The water kingdom gives you things like lakitu fishing and the ability to capture fish and explore the watery world in a whole new way. The pacing of stages is pretty quick, outside of a few areas that have a bit too much empty space – where all of your exploration is rewarding with maybe a good scenic shot for the photo mode.
Visually, Super Mario Odyssey is a joy to behold. Mario’s character model is filled with detail – whether it due to his expressive face or even the well-crafted denim on his default outfit. The worlds are lush and full of bright colors, and some of the color effects – like rainbows visible while swimming in the water kingdom – are remarkable. This is a stunning game first and foremost, and the fact that it’s all running on what is essentially mobile hardware is impressive. Nintendo is known for getting the most out of their consoles, but this takes things to a whole new level and delivers the best-looking game on the Switch.
Musically, Odyssey features some of the most whimsical music in franchise history. The regular songs are catchy and upbeat, and many of them have 8-bit variations that show just how diverse chiptune music can be. The sound effect work is solid too, with jumps and bops sounding great, and each character type you capture has its own set of noises that feel accurate for it – like the plunger-esque footsteps for the goombas. The best sound effect by far is the little ding that plays when you get a moon – it provides the perfect amount of joy to encourage you to keep trying to get another moon or two in a single play session.
Super Mario Odyssey has a few flaws, but the end result is Mario’s grandest and best 3D adventure to date. There is so much to do and enjoy that this game should give players years of fun, even if they aren’t out to complete every single quest and grab every moon. There is so much care and love in every part of the game, and the “Jump Up, Superstar” may be one of the catchiest songs in the history of gaming – let alone the 30-plus year history of the Super Mario series. This is a must-play game for anyone who enjoys the medium, and an immediate purchase for Mario fans.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a retail copy of Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch purchased by the reviewer.