The Nintendo Switch is quickly gaining ground on Sony and Microsoft with the help of games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Easily on track for their biggest year since the launch of the Wii, Nintendo is reeling off a string of critically acclaimed hits. They delivered again with the release of Super Mario Odyssey in late October. Not only does Odyssey keep Nintendo's fantastic record of polish but it is just pure fun and enjoyment. I suppose that spoils my review with just that last sentence, but if you want to know more about the why I would rank this as one of my top contenders for game of the year, please keep reading.
Mario for Switch has arrived, in a big way
Super Mario Odyssey is the first "true" 3D game since Super Mario Galaxy 2 back in 2010. Since then we have had mostly 2D Mario games; in popular opinion, Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) and Super Mario World (WiiU) felt more like 2D renditions given their sense of style and substance. Both of the aforementioned 3D games are fairly linear and feature time limits, elements that would fit a 2D Mario game perfectly. However, Nintendo has gone back to the formula that worked so well for Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, two of the most notable titles for defining the 3D Mario experience. The worlds, known as Kingdoms, are vast and have many hidden secrets. While you're still triple jumping and block-breaking, it is fantastic to have Mario stretch out his legs in fun, colorful, and dynamic worlds.
What is truly on display here is the satisfying platforming and how smoothly Mario maneuvers around the levels. Whether it be performing well executed jumps up to areas previously thought inaccessible or to 2D areas where Mario is meshed into the wall, some great old-school platforming is to be had by all. If you are an avid Mario gamer, then you will quickly find that Mario controls a bit more "weighty." He no longer has that floaty or slippery feeling, which has long been the reason that I find most 3D Mario games to be a bit annoying. The change to Mario's mechanics are a welcome one. This is due in part to the new ability that Mario gains, or rather the new ability that his new friend Cappy provides.
Cappy may feel a bit gimmicky at first, but it opens new doors in the Mario universe I never thought would be possible. Without giving anything away, the credits don't roll when you defeat Bowser; the ending sequence will have your eyes popping out of your head while grinning from ear-to-ear.
-Chris Bohatka, CLE Tech
Cappy is Mario's new "hat", after Mario loses his old one. Cappy is a Bonneter, a race of sentient hat beings that can change into any hat form they wish. Cappy's other ability is that he can take control of other living creatures as long as he makes contact with his intended target. This allows Mario to become different enemies or animals that are around in the environment. This allows Mario to reach previously inaccessible areas or use different attacks to defeat enemies. This really helps the platforming, not only to keep it from feeling stale, but also provides the player with a different set of tools and play-styles. The Kingdom's designs are very well done, taking full advantage of this new mechanic. The usual staples are here, such as Forest Area, Ice World, and Lava Kingdom, but they all have a unique twist. Such as the Sand Kingdom, which is predominantly a desert, suddenly becomes an Ice World when you go underground. It's an interesting twist that keeps the player from feeling bored.
Content for Everyone, and Plenty of It
Speaking of which, there is plenty to do in this game. The main storyline will take most people around 8-12 hours depending on how much they explore the Kingdoms the first time around. Once the main story is finished, the game opens up even more to allow Mario into new areas, or just add more of the games main collectibles. These collectibles are called Moons, which are Odyssey's version of Stars, that allow Mario to power up his ship (named the "Odyssey") to travel to different Kingdoms. There are also coins; both normal coins and a new purple currency that is used in the game's "Crazy Hat" shops. These shops are in each Kingdom and are stocked with plenty of costumes for Mario to try on. These can range from a cowboy hat and outfit, a pirate's cap and coat, and just Mario's Boxers so players can have Mario run around in whatever they feel suits the situation or what they want Mario wearing. These outfits do not affect Mario's abilities, but do allow Mario to reach certain areas that are locked until Mario is wearing the appropriate uniform.
Lastly, the music in the game is wonderful. Each Kingdom has a matching soundtrack and often 8-bit versions which add a great listening experience and assist in the immersion. This culminates into the game's main theme which has been played in the trailers, the "Jump-Up Super Star" song. This track is first heard about halfway through the game and without spoiling it, the event that happens when this song plays, is a glorious blend of nostalgia and excitement that truly makes the game shine.
All in all, this is an excellent game that even the most Mario-adverse fan can't help but crack a smile at. The game is just fun, pure child-like wonder from start to finish. I could not put this game down and if that isn't a recommendation enough, consider I am someone who is not a fan of Super Mario 64 or Galaxy. If you have a Switch, you NEED this game. If you don't have a Switch, go buy one, and get this game. Now. Please.