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Super Mario Odyssey's Sublime Platforming Sees Nintendo At Their Most Inventive

Picture a pooch.

Time was that every Nintendo console was expected to ship with a Mario game ready to play on day one, but then that all changed with the Gamecube when his taller brother was given a chance with the ghostbusting Luigi’s Mansion. Nintendo like to take their time with development you see, and that’s often led to unconventional business decisions with their marquee titles. The Legend of Zelda games have twice been used to bookend the end of one generation and begin the next, and you’ll have to wait until Nintendo are ready with a new spark of inventiveness for a new Mario game (even if they did quite happily churn out New Super Mario Bros. games for fun in the last decade).

The wait is absolutely worth it for Super Mario Odyssey, which is a simply joyous experience. At the heart of that is a newfound feeling of exploration thanks to Cappy. All of Mario’s usual array of platforming skills are here, from his skipping, hopping triple jump to butt stomps and turning a jump into a forward dive, but Cappy lets you manipulate so many more elements in the world than just headbutting question mark blocks.

Cappy lets you possess or “capture” creatures, people and objects all across the globe just by throwing your cap at them. Suddenly you’re a frog, a Cheep Cheep, a dinosaur, you’ve possessed a fork and pinged yourself up a wall, assumed control of a pair of binoculars that then soar up above the map to let you look ahead, and plenty more. You’re never quite sure what they’ll offer you, and yet you’ll throw Cappy at anything and everything just to find out.

Hammer Bro. let you jump high and throw dozens of hammers a second, the frog let’s you leap up high, the curious water squirting octopuses of the Seaside Kingdom let you jet up into the sky and propel yourself around on a stream of water, and so, so much more.

Cappy also offers you an opportunity to play dress up, which might be a necessity when it comes to getting past certain barriers in the world, as a character guards it and demands that you be dressed as a chef, for example, in order to get through a particular door.

There’s everything from Safari Mario and 1930s gangster Mario to classics like Dr. Mario and Mario in a set of polka dot pants, it looks like. If you think back to last week, Mario’s hairless, nipple-sporting chest caused a huge storm on the internet. You have two different groups of caps and outfits that you can buy, bought from the split store owners using two different currencies. On the one side you have the global and traditional gold coins that are the standard currency, and then you have a local currency to search for in order to pay for the other.

Super Mario Odyssey’s co-op mode is thankfully a bit more involved than that of Super Mario Galaxy and it’s very basic star collecting, though nowhere near the level of Super Mario 3D World that graced the Wii U. The second player controls Cappy independently from Mario, able to shoot off in different directions, sweep round and attack enemies, possess them for you, or pull tricks like creating a platform for you to jump on – you can of course do all this on your own, but it’s actually really quite nice to play and share this with another person.

Embracing a more open world sandbox sensibility compared to the more linear adventures of recent years, each world is full of Power Moons to collect that will let you fly the hat-shaped Odyssey balloon ship to new kingdoms. The way that you obtain them is often unexpected. You could simply be exploring and then Hey! Here’s a Moon! Other times it’s indulging in the mini-games and little quirky offshoots to the main game, from venturing into a slot machine room to playing volleyball, and of course you’ll get a Power Moon from defeating bosses. Even here, there’s a new and personally unexpected inventiveness, from small arena battles through to boss fights that have you chasing after a huge octopus around almost the entire Seaside Kingdom level.

There’s also some exciting new variety to the various kingdom’s you visit as Nintendo really play with exploring different parts of this world that we’ve never seen before. They all have an unusual gimmick, that makes you wonder at the sustainability of their respective economies (or at least you would if there weren’t so many coins just lying around). Visiting Bonneton in the Cap Kingdom to start the game – this is where you team up with Cappy – it’s a wonderfully monochrome world filled with various sentient hats just hanging around. By contrast, the Luncheon Kingdom is overly saturated, looking like its been made almost entirely out of hardboiled sweets, but these are just two of quite a number of kingdoms to visit.

There are still some quibbles I have with the control scheme, where performing a spin attack with Cappy whizzing round Mario to knock out a bunch of enemies is too awkward – you have to spin the left stick and then throw him on gamepad, which is particularly unintuitive – and Mario is especially twitchy, which could easily lead to a mite of overcompensation when trying to perform tricky 3D platforming, but on the whole, the game plays great and does exactly what you’d want and expect from it.

The game is truly gorgeous, and it’s no wonder that Nintendo have included a Snapshot Mode to let you freeze the game and try to frame and capture the action just perfectly. Of course, as soon as I spotted him, I spent a good 15-20 minutes running around trying to capture the perfect poses with Mario and the Dog on the beach of Bubblaine.

There’s few ways to express just how full of joy playing Super Mario Odyssey is. Each world is packed full of small details that will delight fans of the former plumber from Italy, and there’s just a wonderful playfulness all the way through the game as you throw Cappy at practically everything in sight.

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Super Mario Odyssey
  • Developer:Nintendo EPD
  • Publisher:Nintendo
  • Platforms:Nintendo Switch
  • Release Date:27/10/17