Nintendo Switch9.10
Overall 9.10
Mario odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey is the return of the large scale levels with exploration style of 3D Mario that began with 64 and continued with Sunshine. Super Mario Galaxy came along and did 3D mario perfectly in my opinion but still many longed for Mario to return to his 3D roots, I personally like the Galaxy approach more so I came into this game with some concerns. Will an exploration based mario game not be as well designed or paced? Will the game be filled with mindless tasks rather than tight platforming challenges? The answer is yes and no, this game has plenty for all Mario fans, it's monstrous game with impeccable gameplay that might be too large for its own good.

The core of what makes Mario so great is how perfect the game is mechanically, how great it feels to control Mario. Odyssey presents the largest repertoire of moves Mario has ever had thanks to Cappy, the brand new game defining element. Besides Mario’s standard 3D moveset he has had since 64 you can now throw cappy at enemies to transform into them, this is the hook of the game and is used in many creative ways. Cappy has a multitude of other uses as well which serve to supplement Mario’s core moves, throwing the cap allows you to spin it in place and use it as jump platform. You can throw it in the air which allows mario a small break in his floating momentum which can be used in different ways like to change direction or transition into a different move. There are some motion controlled abilities which are not the easiest to perform when you are not using the joycons, this requires all sorts of waggle and allows you to essentially guide cappy’s movements like make it fly upward, or to lock on attack enemies. Luckily the motion control stuff isn’t required for the main campaign and is only used when dealing with really advanced levels and moves, even then it’s done sparingly.  

Mario can also roll and dive, two new standard moves which greatly add to the speed at which mario can travel. Mastery of these moves allows incredible controls at great speeds with stunning precision, for instance roll into long jump into cappy air throw into dive off of cappy into second dive back into roll (believe me it’s awesome to do). This is the best controlling platformer I have ever played. Controlling Mario is an absolute joy, running and jumping feels so satisfying because it is all based on the player's skill.  Mundane actions like climbing up a tower can become a makeshift challenge when you decide to use Mario’s moves to skip intended paths and create your own.

The transformations play a huge part in delivering a varied gameplay experience which is the key to a great platformer. Gone are Mario’s power ups instead now you can basically become most all the enemies and creatures you see which open up all new gameplay possibilities. I was in awe at how creative some of these powers were. Each level has something new, a couple of new gameplay mechanics that serve as the basis of maneuvering around the level. Some of my favorites include a caterpillar which stretches out and can bend around poles and corners to reach areas mario cannot. There is a squid which can shoot out water to boost high in the air or boost forward which is used in excellent ways in one of the water levels. A small bird with a sharp beak used to attach to walls and slingshot your way up and around all sorts of obstacles. There are 50 transformations (not all are winners) but this game for sure has the most gameplay diversity of any Mario game. Hell I was riding a scooter while being chased by a Trex, when would that ever happen in a Mario game. I was the T-rex in another level breaking chomp chomps. This is a game FILLED with crazy situations like that.

Odyssey’s structure is what defines the game and deviates from the structure of recent Mario games. There are 16 hub worlds, most are larger and more dense than any level in Mario 64, which Mario travels to in a mostly linear fashion acquiring many moons which serves as the game's main objective collectable. Like in past 3D Mario games there are main missions which have to be done in order, the reward is still just a moon but this keeps the story moving and allows access to more and more moons. The main missions are well done and are almost a tutorial into all the many new gameplay ideas scattered across the game. There are plenty of bosses even though some repeat, they are clever and a blast to play mostly cause many make use of the levels’ specific transformations. Every world that opens up is like Christmas with a host of new gameplay possibilities and wondrous design. The final world and mission is one of Mario’s best, making use of nearly every skill that came before and delivering a great cinematic moment which is rare for a Mario game, that final Bowser boss battle is epic in many ways.

Odyssey is about exploration, it's about discovering new activities. This game delivers a drive to see what is next which kept me hooked for so many hours; will there be a new puzzle to solve, a new mini game to play, a new clever platforming challenge. I understand why exploration Mario is beloved by many, because it allows the player to be the director of the gameplay session. The player is not bound to starting a level and going through the intended set path to reach the goal. Instead the player can be free, use their own ingenuity to solve objectives in multiple ways and or simply just enjoy these detailed worlds. There is so much content jam packed into every area of the game world, so many moments that bring a huge smile to my face like discovering a new 2D mario section that pays homage to the past. Or seeing a moon in a strange location and having that a-ha moment when you figure out what actions are needed to reach it, this was a sensation I usually feel in a Zelda game but it's present all over Odyssey.

As you play you can explore at your leisure to look for the excessive amount of moons scattered all over these worlds. Depending on the size of the world it could be upwards to 70 moons, most have 50, for a staggering 900 moons total to collect. Only about 250 are needed to complete the core story but ignoring the rest is basically ignoring the meat of the game which is where all the best platforming levels are accessed

This is where the unevenness comes in, when there are 900 collectables not all of them are going to be interesting. How a game incentivizes good content from busy work is very important, sadly Mario Odyssey makes no distinction between a moon that you earn after playing an awesome platforming level or let’s say one you find cause you randomly talked to an NPC. This results in a significant chunk of my time simply running around levels searching for quality content; for every warp pipe that takes you to well designed platforming challenge there are a few moons that are obtained by doing mundane tasks like ground pound the glowy spot on the floor, hit the glowy thing with your cap, or run over there and jump on that thing to grab the moon that is just sitting there for no reason. Many objectives repeat as well across all levels so prepare to follow a dog around while it digs holes many times, or run around looking for captain toad, or hit a bird that flying around with your cap.. I find many of these moons to be way too easy to collect, where is the challenge, who thought this is a worthy activity for the player to do. This is a platformer, I get that it is one that’s more relaxed and played at the player's pace but why am I getting so many moons from activities that require no thought or skill.

I have gotten used to Mario games where there is almost no down time, it’s level to level, objective to objective non stop greatness. While the design of these worlds are magnificent, a kaleidoscope of ideas, not all of them work. Enough of them are so simple that it starts to make some play sessions feel unfulfilling. Then there are times I play and I find a bunch of great side levels and extremely clever puzzles and I am in love. I feel a lot of this could have been solved if the difficulty level wasn’t so easy, even with the main missions almost nothing provides a serious challenge. It’s not until the expansive post game where there are levels designed around advanced move sets. Even then the post game moons are uneven, for each challenge mission there is a new moon just sitting somewhere in the world to find, hide and seek is not a fun activity.  Mario games do not have to be hard to be fun, this game is a shining example of that, but I ask for a game to steadily build up to something somewhat challenging or offer alternative extra levels for a challenge. While Odyssey does have that, the optional unlockable levels have some great designed challenging levels, it’s not a game where the player is constantly scaling up to tougher objectives, it’s all scattered objectives; a bunch of it good, some of it boring.

On the technical side I think the game is gorgeous, it runs perfectly at 60fps, has incredible art design with such vibrant colors. The included picture mode got loads of use from me, there is just so much attention to detail and every world is so different from the last. I was a bit disappointed with the music, some worlds have an odd absence of music or have very low key background music which is at odds with this series history of iconic catchy level music. It of course has some stellar tracks and includes the first ever Mario song with lyrics used to incredible effect in key moments of the game.  All in all Nintendo’s mastery of polish is on full display, from beginning to end there is not one issue with this game on a technical level, no patches needed, it is perfect as is.

Super Mario Odyssey shares a bit in common with Nintendo’s other mega franchise that had a  greatest game of all time reception, a game that breaks tradition with past entries and allows massive amounts of freedom to the player. As a fan of more linear experiences that constantly give me quality content I feel I am once again on the outside looking in when it comes talk of these games being all time masterpieces. Mario Odyssey is a fantastic game, if this were any other franchise I would be blown away at the quality of this game, but this is Mario, this is the best. So once again I feel some disappointment because I truly wanted this be the best platformer I have ever played and it falls short of that. The uneven nature and lack of difficulty hold it back even though it controls better and has the best gameplay variety of any Mario game. Super Mario Odyssey is another fantastic entry which for many will be a landmark game, but slightly misses the mark for me.

Posted by Dvader Tue, 07 Nov 2017 21:55:36
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 01:20:10
Good review.  I love the post game stuff.  New Donk is amazing and I still love the Mario Easter Eggs.
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 15:26:36
There are so many moons in this game. I don't mind ones just hanging around. There are so many, it doesn't really impact the rest of the game and I like hunting every one down. I also think that the post ending content gives Odyssey the best of both worlds, the exploration of 64 combined with the unique challenges in Galaxy.
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:25:11
The moons hurt pacing, galaxy is like 25 hours of non stop greatness. Odyssey is like 50 hours of varied quality.
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:51:53
So far Odyssey is a lot of fun, but it's likely to be my least favorite 3D Super Mario game.
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 22:45:46
That’s still Mario Sunshine to me.  The Fludd was kind of cool but wasn’t quite a good fit for platforming.  The camera was Mario’s worst enemy.
Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:45:37
After getting over 500 moons, I feel like Vader is underselling this game. Yeah there are a lot of moons hanging about but there are also tons and tons and tons of them that you gain by unique, awesomely designed sections. Or ones that you gain by making a "Eureka!" moment where you think outside the box and are rewarded by experimentation.
Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:46:05
Also, I think this is the most content stuff Mario platformer there has ever been.
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