Oioioi then, lucky ol’ me has get ma hands (albeit temporarily) on a pretty lil’ Nintendo Switch, along with a coupla games. While I’ve already played Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 (even if it was nice to have a go on the deluxe tracks), it was Super Mario Odyssey that stood out to me as the game I needed to play, coming in at a solid numero cuatro on my Anticipated Games list. With each teaser and trailer, my excitement grew in collocation with my burdgeoning need for a Switch to play it on. However, with that problem solved, and the game played and stored in my memory banks, was Odyssey an excellent adventure? Or a bogus journey?
I don’t even like Bill & Ted but whatever.
As Mario wakes up from a 6-month coma following the gunfight that closed out Super Mario 3D World, he finds Peach’s severed finger on the table next to him, with Bowser’s calling card next to it. Unfazed, he embarks on a bloody rampage to find his lost love — with King Koopa’s head on his list.
No. Of course this isn’t the plot. She gets kidnapped and you have to save her. A-gain.
Yes, Odyssey‘s story isn’t groundbreaking or surprising; it’s the same plot since 1985 for God’s sake. Though I could defend this choice by saying “but that’s not what I’m looking for in a Mario game”, I’m sure it wouldn’t kill the writers to employ something a little bit different or interesting as a plot. Sure, it didn’t notably detract from my enjoyment of the gameplay, but I know I’d enjoy it a lot more if I was at all invested in what was going on — which I can’t say I was.
Moreover, the characters are some of the weakest I’ve seen in a Mario game. Sure, the characters we know and love — Mario, Peach, Toad, Bowser, Luigi — are all the same as we’ve left them and it adds a nice sense of familiarity to the game, but the new characters, particularly the Broodals (a group of rabbits with hats that add nothing to the game but repetitive mini-boss battles), are kinda weak. That being said, the character design is better than ever, with the hugely varied NPCs each being fully realised from a visual perspective.
In fact, the imagination pumped into this game is very impressive — from everything to the visuals to the sound to the mechanics to even the writing — making the lacklustre story seem almost fully irrelevant. The writing, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. Much like Breath of the Wild, Nintendo have employed some writers with a really fun sense of humour, with a lot of the one-liners packing in more comedy than they rightfully should and it’s great.
As I said, Odyssey is visually G-O-O-D (Good Ood Od D). As the story determines that you travel from world to world — each individual world (and there are a good lot of them) is designed with an ingenious helping of uniquity (it’s a word now, bitch) and detail. The vibrant colours and on-point sense of atmosphere breathes life into each setting, becoming characters of themselves. After Galaxy‘s so-so planet-type deal, this has given new hope that Nintendo are at the top of their game when it comes to just being awesome. This is helped, of course, by the stunning HD graphics and wonderful textures, with the sand above being utterly captivating when you look at it for too long.
Sorry! I got caught in its beautiful gaze. As I was saying before I was so *ahem* rudely interrupted, the technical specs of Odyssey prove undisputedly that Nintendo have finally caught up with the rest of the world, at times even putting the power of the PS4 or Xbox One to shame.
BUT, the real meat’n’bones of Super Mario Odyssey, as it should, lies in the gameplay. And what an absolute masterclass in gameplay it is.
The backbone platforming elements of Odyssey remain pretty unchanged from previous entries in the franchise. This serves to the game’s benefit, as it allows for the many new mechanics to not feel to cluttered or unnecessary. Plus, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — so they didn’t need to fix it anyway. However, as all these new game features come in, Odyssey becomes so rich and entertaining and full of things to do, it becomes hard to fault it for anything else — hence why I got my story niggles out of the way first.
The addition of Cappy and the idea of “capturing” other creatures and such in the game was a stroke of brilliance. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed completing little puzzles or simply running raucous across the land as everything from a frog to inky squid thing to a goddamn T-rex. It’s undoubtedly a little gimmicky, and could possibly run thin if they continue it into the next games, but, within the context of Odyssey alone, it’s excellent. Furthermore, the 2D-platforming elements that we saw in Breath of the Wild make a return here and it feels so apt to see Mario return to his roots in such an interesting way.
Though the Broodals act as mini-bosses and, as I said, are widely uninteresting and mundane, the proper bosses found in each world provide a challenge that is as fun and engaging as it is absolutely f*cking atrociously tricky at times. Alright, I may be exaggerating, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Mario Odyssey can prove a real challenge at times and the varied boss battles are a key example of this. The learning curve of Odyssey is perfect, allowing both the casual and more experienced player to take enjoyment. As well as this, the game is absolutely full-to-the-brim of things to do and collect — providing a solid 50+ hours of gameplay for the perfectionist in ya. Needless to say, you won’t be putting this down in a hurry.
Overall, Super Mario Odyssey is the best Mario game in a long time, and one of the best ever. The varied and rich game worlds (plural) provide a playful backdrop for some of the most solid gameplay this generation of games has seen, with a treasure trove of content and a boundless kick of energy, if slightly let down by its predictable plot. Still, if anything’s gonna persuade you to fork out £280 on a Switch, it’s gonna be this.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations