- Released: 2017
- Played on: Switch
- Also available on: –
- Time to get into: 30 Minutes
- Time to complete: 10 Hours
- Multiplayer: not really, although there are some features
Super Mario Odyssey is a celebration of all things Mario! It’s a joyful and wondrous ride that manages to encapsulate everything that we love about the old plumber whilst at the same time giving him an almost limitless amount of new things to do. The basic platforming gameplay is probably the most rock solid ever created and the levels range from good to great with no misses. In fact, for me it includes the best level in gaming ever! It’s not perfect and it’s over far too soon but if you have any love of gaming at all you have to play Odyssey – it’s exciting, enchanting and euphoric.
Gameplay – refined and maybe defined
Nintendo‘s first proper Mario adventure on the Switch is an absolute triumph of gameplay design. I remember saying when I (finally) played Super Mario Galaxy last year that Nintendo had focused almost entirely on the fun, varied gameplay mechanics. Well, in Odyssey, they have taken that even further: I think this might be the best platforming ever created from a technical standpoint. Everything Mario does just feels so right, so precise. Which means in turn that you can play the game confidently and thus enjoy the truly ridiculous number of abilities available to you. Sure, we have the Mario standards like jumping and ground pounding but everything is taken up a notch by the introduction of Cappy. More on him from a story perspective later but for gameplay this means throwing your hat about the place. Not only does this open up additional abilities for Mario like collecting coins you can’t reach with a quick hat throw but also Super Mario Odyssey‘s main new gameplay feature: being able to use Cappy to become anyone and anything. Want to stop worrying about holding you breath under water? Throw your hat at a Cheep Cheep and then you can swim about to your hearts content. Or throw it at a Bullet Bill to be able to travel quickly over big gaps. The possibilities are more or less endless, including a few chances to be a T-Rex! Nintendo have done an amazing job, through a combination of intuitive controls and helpful but unobtrusive on-screen tips, of making sure that this neverending arsenal and abilities never gets overwhelming. 99% of the time it was immediately clear to me what I had to do. I expect that Nintendo will, at some point in the future, prove that platforming can be improved but right now I cannot imagine how!
Story, characters and levels
Wedded to this, everything that Odyssey puts around the gameplay is as fresh and interesting as it has been in any Mario game since Super Mario Sunshine. But whilst the FLUDD and everything else they tried to do there arguably fell a bit flat, the levels you play through here are fantastic. A review isn’t enough space to even go into everything I love about just the best one: Metro Kingdom, aka New Donk City, so I’ll try and summarise across Super Mario Odyssey as a whole. Whilst it’s still the traditional Bowser-kidnaps-Peach story from every Mario game ever, there are a few aspects here that actually made me pay attention. The wedding, the introduction of Cappy as a companion character fighting the same fight alongside you and some other twists I won’t give away all add up to make this as fresh as a Mario story has been in years. Bowser has his usual minions trying to get in your way – this time they are the ‘Broodals‘ – but they are fairly nondescript. But there are plenty of characters you meet on your journey through each level that brighten the game. All of the levels are great too: after the constant stream of small new levels in the Galaxy games, it’s a nice change on pace to have a few, much larger levels with huge amounts to do and discover. It can’t be considered an open-world game but there has been plenty of influence from such games in the level design and it works wonderfully.
But not perfect
So if Super Mario Odyssey has class-leading gameplay and best-ever Mario story line and levels, what can possibly be wrong with it?! For me, there are 2 aspects that hold it back. Firstly, it’s just too easy. This has actually been great for The Boy – more on his experiences with the game later. However, I breezed through it with barely a stutter. It wasn’t until the final couple of world’s facing the most difficult challenges and bosses that I felt I really had to try at all. Perhaps it if it was harder it would lose some of it’s joyful carefree abandon but I am not convinced they have the balance right. Secondly, it’s over too soon. Sure, there is plenty of post-game content – I’ll discuss this more in the next paragraph – but playing through the main game at a reasonable pace I completed it in only 10 hours. Whilst I didn’t spend ages doing ‘unnecessary’ things, neither did I rush at all – I totally enjoyed those hours. I just wish there were more of them before the credits roll.
After the credits roll, you open up a huge amount of new content. Suddenly there are more power moons everywhere and the Mushroom Kingdom opens up to play in. For me, this all felt a bit after-the-fact. There’s just not enough reason to keep playing. I tried to go on for about another hour but I felt I needed more direction to maintain enough interest. I was going to criticise the game for this but then The Boy reached the end… and went on… and on… and on! He loves this game so much and he has had an amazing time with this additional content. Searching for moons is an end in itself for him and Super Mario Odyssey is an amazing playground for him to look for them. This is officially now his favourite game ever and a huge part of that is the freedom to just do whatever he wants in the quest for all the moons. You also get a huge ton of customisation for Mario with different clothes, hats and other bits. Odyssey really does reward it’s fans with a lot of content to get stuck into.
Whether or not the post-credits content captures your imagination you’ll find more than enough fantastic gameplay here to justify the asking price. Playing Super Mario Odyssey is just a stream of joy, wonder and delight! It’s the ultimate Mario experience and one of the best games of it’s type ever made. Enjoy!