Odyssey. A long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships etc. To say that the Super Mario franchise is an odyssey in itself is an understatement. First appearing in his very own game in 1983, a full 34 years since then Mario now returns with an absolute modern classic. To say that I have enjoyed this game would also be an understatement. If you filled out a word document of every utterance of, “Wow, that’s great” or, “They did that? That’s so cool!” or even, “This is just so fun” it would span out longer than this review. I love this game. I’ve laughed, I’ve even shed a tear from how much I’ve enjoyed this game. The sheer joy I’ve felt is almost unparalleled. Now, to begin with the actual review.
Super Mario Odyssey is a game for the Nintendo Switch. It’s the latest entry in the Super Mario franchise. After the sheer greatness that was Breath of the Wild, Nintendo had their work cut out for them in order to make an act that could follow, and when it comes to their most beloved mascot, they sure know how to give the guy an entrance. From the get go I had a feeling it was going to be special, as the game opens with our good chum Mario attempting to stop the shotgun wedding of Bowser and Peach, the match made in Hell. After a good thrashing from Bowser, Mario is knocked off the airship and sent hurtling down to Bonneton, Cap Kingdom, where the game truly begins.
The game takes this opportunity to introduce us to Cappy, the latest companion to Mario, and a very welcome one at that. While in Super Mario Sunshine it may have felt a bit odd to some to originally get a hang of just how F.L.U.D.D. worked, with Cappy there is almost no issue. He fits into the game perfectly, being a hat-shaped companion for a (currently) hatless man. The controls right from the get go are very crisp and smooth. Truly if there’s one thing Nintendo can do well, it’s 3D platformers. Moving Mario is also just right, as he does not start running at full speed, allowing for a second to reach max speed. The addition of rolling, allowing you to gain momentum down hills quickly is also a fantastic add on to the already numerous ways in which you can move our favourite mustachioed man. Jumping and using Cappy work seamlessly with each other, allowing for very fluid combos and presents the player with new options as to how they can complete puzzles. Very quickly we are shown that Cappy has a possession ability, allowing Mario to jump inside other living and non-living things as he leaps into a frog with the help of his cap companion. Already this presents the player with a new style of playing, with the frog being able to leap from place to place with a much larger peak height than Mario.
When I first saw the possession aspect introduced in a trailer, I honestly wasn’t sure what to think, I didn’t think it was bad at all, but I struggled to think of how the game would play as a whole. I can safely say that the sheer amount of possibilities this opens up for 3D platforming in Odyssey is unreal. Quickly jumping from body to body quicker than a professional wrestler is almost enlightening. Again, it is very seamless. That’s another keyword to use when describing this game. Seamless. From the original Mario controls to switching to another creature or object, it almost feels natural for a Mario game to play this way, as odd as it sounds. It almost makes me question whether or not Nintendo had always wanted to make a Mario game like this, as it just makes so much sense and allows the game to truly shine in a very unique fashion. The sheer maneuverability of some creatures left me absolutely gobsmacked, with some having me question just what will they think of next. I think part of the sheer charm of this game is wondering, “What will I be able to jump into next?!” from a frog, to goomba, to tank to T-Rex, the list goes on and on. Each new capture is honestly something special, and the fun I have with each is just remarkable, simply remarkable.
As for my next point, which would be how the game looks. I’m not one for graphics personally, they are not what sells me on a game. How it is presented and how it plays are what draws me to a game. The level design, as expected, is top notch, nothing less is expected from Mario. The ability to jump and use Cappy, along with switching between bodies allows you to mix it up and try something new with the formula. Many times I found myself confronted with a puzzle, and instead of taking the obvious way out, I would find ways to get around them by using my knowledge of how the game works, and that, my friends, is the sign of good level design. Simply giving the player the level and allowing them to complete it as they see fit. This is not always the case, however, as there are some parts of the game where it is clearly more beneficial to use a certain form over another, and some forms will be prohibited at certain points as they can not go in water, lava etc. This does not limit the game, it simply draws boundaries at certain points, allowing the player to prove their skill with what they have.
The look of the game is also stunning. The use of design and how each kingdom varies in not only layout, but the colour palettes used and the colourful cast of characters that Mario meets on his odyssey, from anxiety-ridden robots and talking forks to men in suits unironically saying “fuggedaboutit”. Truly Nintendo haven’t lost their charm of adorable and funny NPCs to interact with. The look of each world is just so rich and filled to the brim with secrets and collectibles, with it never feeling too big or feeling crammed in, it’s just right. The point of the game where I had to stop and stare was the image below. Honestly a breathtaking shot, to me at least. Truly a piece of evidence for games being works of art. It stood out to me in this already beautiful game, which says something. The switcharoo between the 2D and 3D plane also add a very nice feel and look to the game, with Nintendo even purposefully making separate sprites for each costume in the game, which I didn’t expect at first, but put a great big smile on my face. Another small piece of detail that astounded me, the Samurai helmet for Mario makes an audible “clang” when hitting objects, despite the other caps not doing so, being made from a different material. It’s the little things in life.
The game also has its fair share of boss fights, all unique in some way and fun. With the addition of the Broodals, a mercenary company of rabbits hired out by Bowser to do his bidding in stealing items for his “perfect” wedding. The fights also get switched up, with different physics being added to them, or new patterns as you fight them throughout the game, which makes for a lovely challenge. The other bosses are also memorable, with each one being fun and not overly difficult, but the way Nintendo have laid them out in particular goes to show how they made it to where they are today. One fight in particular gave hints to the solution of the fight in the run up to it at the very start of the world, if that’s not good design in letting the player figure out how to do something on their own, I don’t know what is.
Now last, but not least. The music. Everyone knew it would be good. From the title theme “1-Up Girl” everyone knew right away, as it always is, that the Mario soundtrack would be very good to say the least. With each world having a beautiful score, fading in and out with suitable strings for each underscore, the game feels very much alive and pulls you into the world that you’re apart of while playing. The ability to also play music from the list that you have over your game is also nice, if you happen to have a favourite track that you just can’t get enough of. Many of the world and level themes also come coupled with an 8-Bit version, to accompany their 2D level counterparts, also adding another seamless (you just knew I wasn’t finished with that word, didn’t you?) transition between levels and segments.
In closing, this was a great experience. I really needed something like this right now. It’s something bright, vibrant and stands proud among a lot of other big releases. It stands very, very strong, as it does what it does and does it well, god damn it. At my current time of writing I have completed the main game and still have a lot of content left for me, some of which only opened up after I completed the main quest. That’s the reward a player should get for playing. More content. And Super Mario Odyssey, my friends, is what we are rewarded with for playing for so long.