Final Rating: 9/10
Mario is back for another adventure, and is looking better than ever. Once again our hero is on a quest to rescue his beloved Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. This time, however, Bowser is set on marrying Peach, stealing treasures from around the globe to plan his perfect wedding. The plot doesn’t go much beyond that, but Mario games aren’t about the story, they’re about the gameplay, so let’s get to it.
Reminiscent perhaps of the more sandbox type games such as Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine, we once again get to explore new worlds as Mario hops from kingdom to kingdom in his ship the Odyssey. Each kingdom is fairly large, with a unique climate and culture. Scattered around each of these worlds are dozens of power moons required to power the Odyssey and move on to the next kingdom. The game heavily encourages exploration, with secrets hidden in every nook and cranny. Even when you think you found just about everything, you’ll soon realize that you’ve barely scratched the surface.
One of my favourite aspects of Mario Odyssey is the costumes. Although they are sadly only cosmetic and don’t grant any special abilities or skills, they are still quite fun to play around with. Every kingdom has two unique outfits which are purchased with special coins hidden throughout that world. Stickers and knickknacks for the Odyssey are also purchased with these special coins, so choose your purchases carefully. A few other outfits can be purchased with normal coins in any world including a few special costumes that can be otherwise be unlocked with amiibo. While it would have been cool to have some special skills attached to costumes, they do still add a bit of pizzazz to the game, especially while trying to capture fun screenshots. Speaking of which, Mario Odyssey does encourage you to take plenty of screenshots, even adding in a button that will pause gameplay and give you some more freedom with the camera to get the perfect angle. However, there is no way to actually pose Mario exactly how you might want, instead it’s more of a series of trial and error of pausing and unpausing in the middle of Mario’s animations to hopefully get the shot you want. Due to the lack of Miiverse on the Switch, sharing screenshots is limited to Facebook or Twitter, which really is a major step backwards from the Wii U.
There aren’t any power-ups this time around. Instead Mario is accompanied by Cappy, a sentient hat being from the Cap Kingdom who functions both as Mario’s main weapon and stylish headwear. Tossing Cappy allows Mario to block attacks, stun enemies, clear away poison and fog, and act as a boost for difficult jumps. Aside from attacking and deflecting, Cappy can also be used to possess almost any enemy you come across, allowing you to take on their skills and abilities including of course that bad ass T-Rex from the trailers. Cappy can also possess certain objects to help Mario travel such as power lines. The game heavily encourages use of the joycons to make the best use of Cappy with motion controls, but this really isn’t necessary. Aside from Cappy, Mario retains many of his old moves including the triple jump, wall jump, long jump, ground pound, and side somersault. While mastering all of Mario’s skills aren’t required for completing the main game, they will certainly come in handy trying to reach those difficult regional coins and moons. There are also 2D sections of the game which play more like the classic Super Mario Bros., with the occasional twist. Perhaps to the woe of some “hardcore” gamers, there is no real penalty for death. You simply lose a handful of yellow coins and respawn at your last checkpoint, keeping any moons or regional coins you managed to claim. This is actually incredibly helpful, especially for coins and secret moons hidden in difficult challenge rooms.
Traveling around kingdoms is thankfully made easy via checkpoints on the map, so even if you get distracted exploring it’s easy to get back on track. Speaking of the map, it’s also a sort of travel brochure, giving a bit of background info on the kingdom’s history, culture, population, and even climate. It’s a nice touch giving a little more depth to the Mario universe.
Surprisingly for a Mario game, outside of the admittedly catchy promo song “Jump up, Superstar!”, there is very little memorable music that I can recall. Like Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey seems to generally rely more on atmospheric music. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for actual gameplay, Mario soundtracks have been for me some the most memorable video game music there is, and in hindsight almost makes the game feel a bit incomplete. The music that is there IS good, I just wish it were more memorable.
Mario Odyssey is a beautiful and well-crafted game. Taking inspiration from over 30 years of the franchise’s history, Odyssey is a true celebration of Mario’s legacy. It runs smooth from start to finish with virtually no hiccups and quick load times. Enemies are varied and are pretty fun to utilize and explore with. Controls are simple enough for casual players to enjoy without too much difficulty while offering enough flexibility for more technical players to pull off some interesting maneuvers. Odyssey also offers quite a bit of replay value as most of the game’s moons aren’t even available until post-game, allowing players to enjoy exploring areas all over again while offering even more difficult challenges. While taking screenshots is a fun distraction, posting and sharing feels a bit half-hearted, it really is a shame that the Nintendo chose to end Miiverse rather than expand upon it on the Switch. All in all, I really do love this game and highly recommend it for anyone’s Switch library.