Su­per mario odyssey

The plumber’s spaced-out quest is Switch’s lat­est shin­ing star

Games Master - - Contents -

We know you’re ex­cited, and we’ve pulled out all the stops for this re­view, ex­plor­ing ev­ery inch of Mario’s globe-trot­ting ad­ven­ture. Is it good? It’s bloody bril­liant, and we’ve given it a score to match.

Ev­ery­one’s favourite dun­ga­ree-clad dude has been a jump­ing jack-of-all-trades down the years. Oc­ca­sion­ally he pops up as a kart-rac­ing speed­ster. Other times he’s a sus­pi­ciously ag­ile ten­nis player. And on ex­tra rare oc­ca­sions, you may even catch him im­per­son­at­ing a puz­zle-solv­ing GP with a ques­tion­able doc­tor­ate. Yet it’s only now the iconic Ital­ian can claim to have starred as a cap-wear­ing tyran­nosaur. Wel­come to Su­per Mario Odyssey: the sec­ond bona fide mas­ter­piece to hit Nin­tendo Switch, and the plumber’s bold­est out­ing in two decades. Much of the credit for this re­vi­talised new di­rec­tion can be cred­ited to Cappy, the sen­tient top hat Mario meets five min­utes into Nin­tendo’s lat­est plat­form­ing won­der. Re­plac­ing his tra­di­tional shiny red bon­net, the bug-eyed head­wear is one hell of a use­ful side­kick. As the pair chase after Bowser – the de­mented dino once again cap­tur­ing Peach, this time with the in­ten­tion of mar­ry­ing her – Cappy also proves to be the galaxy’s fore­most hypnotist. With a quick press of Y or a flick of the Joy-Con, it can in­stantly con­trol all man­ner of colour­ful crea­tures spread across Odyssey’s di­verse se­lec­tion of king­doms.

Cappy chappy

It’s th­ese crit­ter-cap­tur­ing hjinks that make up the core of many of the game’s bite-sized Power Moon hunts, re­sult­ing in an ad­ven­ture that never fails to sub­vert ex­pec­ta­tions. Such is the seem­ingly bound­less scope of Nin­tendo’s won­der­fully daft imag­i­na­tion, the scrapes you get into with th­ese brain­washed foes are dizzy­ingly var­ied. Quirky new features are in­tro­duced at ev­ery turn, then quickly thrown away with­out ever run­ning the risk of out­stay­ing their wel­come. In lesser ti­tles, the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence could be built around any one of th­ese crea­ture-pos­sess­ing me­chan­ics – we’d gladly play an en­tire game as the con­tort­ing, cater­pil­lar-like Trop­i­cal Wrig­gler. But in Odyssey, they sim­ply pop up for a few Power Moons, briefly de­light you, and are then cast aside for an equally en­gag­ing idea.

One minute you may be crush­ing pesky Chain Chomps be­neath the mas­sive feet of a T-rex in Cas­cade King­dom (that’s se­ri­ously sat­is­fy­ing,) and the next, you’re us­ing the stretchy limbs of an Up­root to scale the walls of Steam Gar­dens’ enor­mous in­ter­ga­lac­tic green­house. And a few mo­ments after that? You could be bundling about as a roly-poly yeti, us­ing the beast to win a frosty fun run around the ice caps of Shive­ria. Con­sid­er­ing there are enough bril­liantly silly ideas in Odyssey to fill ten av­er­age games, the end re­sult is a hugely var­ied ad­ven­ture that feels ef­fort­lessly in­ven­tive.

Not that hack­ing into di­nosaurs and Bul­let Bills is Cappy’s only party trick. It turns out the lit­tle hat-chap also ex­cels at im­prov­ing Mario’s plat­form­ing abil­i­ties and at­tacks. Shake the Joy-Con from side to side to take out en­e­mies in a 360-de­gree flurry of mur­der­ous millinery. Hold Y and Cappy spins on the spot, pro­vid­ing Mazza with an im­promptu tram­po­line to vault from. Hurl him at a pole in the Big Ap­ple-es­que New Donk City, and you can ping the portly

“This is Switch’s sec­ond bona fide clas­sic, and Mario’s bold­est out­ing in 20 years”

trades­man 40 feet through the air to the bal­conies above. Com­pared to FLUDD from Su­per Mario Galaxy, Cappy nat­u­rally com­ple­ments Mario’s core abil­i­ties in the sort of fluid, un­fussy fash­ion the gim­micky jet­pack was never re­ally ca­pa­ble of.

Even with­out his killer cap, this is the most ver­sa­tile ver­sion of the plumber to grace the screen since Su­per Mario 64. His ar­ray of but­tery rolls, long vaults, cart­wheels, and butt smashes can all be chained to­gether in hyp­no­tis­ing ways. Whereas the Galaxy games stripped down Mario’s base skills in favour of more con­tex­tual in­ter­ac­tions with the en­vi­ron­ment – say, spin­ning the Wi­imote to open up paths – Odyssey rev­els in its hero’s play­ful, for­ever-pli­able plat­form­ing moves. Hell, the core con­trols are such fun, we could hap­pily run around chain­ing Mario’s triple jumps into mid-air som­er­saults for hours at a time. Sim­ply put, Odyssey’s ac­ro­batic plumber is one of the most end­lessly fun char­ac­ters we’ve ever con­trolled.

King­doms of heaven

This be­ing Nin­tendo, the worlds Mario gets to stretch th­ese stumpy legs in are pre­dictably a bril­liant hoot to ex­plore. Most of the game’s 14 king­doms are ex­pertly de­signed. A se­ries of ver­ti­cally lay­ered sand­boxes that show­case both a su­perb eye for de­tail and canny ways of max­imis­ing space, they act as twist­ing, hair-rais­ing plat­form play­grounds to get lost in. The dif­fer­ences are more than cos­metic. Whether fu­ri­ously pad­dling Mario’s stubby arms around the gi­ant fish­bowl that dominates the la­goons of Lake King­dom, or tak­ing ad­van­tage of a moon level’s lack of grav­ity to pro­pel the plumber hun­dreds of feet into the air, you rarely in­ter­act with any two worlds in quite the same way. And some of them are also bloody bonkers. Soon after land­ing in Lun­cheon King­dom, you quickly re­alise you’re essen­tially ex­plor­ing one big bowl of steam­ing soup.

A special men­tion for New Donk City, too. Mario’s take on New York is elec­tri­fy­ing. A densely packed maze pep­pered with taxi roofs to spring off, mopeds to race around in, and sky­scrapers to scam­per up, on first in­spec­tion it’s one of the least Mario-look­ing lev­els that’s ever been. And yet de­spite this for­eign ap­pear­ance, it taps into the core spirit of the se­ries’ joy­ful, bouncy plat­form­ing bet­ter than any sin­gle stage from the Wii-U’s still-stellar Su­per Mario 3D World.

Odyssey is a game that begs you to prod and push at its edges at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. Wan­der over to an ob­scure cor­ner of the map and in­ves­ti­gate that glow­ing bump in the ground. Fling Cappy at a scare­crow and watch an on-the-fly ob­sta­cle course sud­denly pop up nearby. In­habit a gi­ant slab of steak to en­tice the area’s res­i­dent boss, which fan­cies it­self an expert avian chef. Giv­ing in to your cu­rios­ity is al­most al­ways re­warded, and there are few games on Switch (or any other plat­form) that have so much re­spect for player agency.

Mario him­self is a great ex­am­ple of Nin­tendo’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to make

“After land­ing in Lun­cheon king­dom, you re­alise you’re ex­plor­ing a big bowl of soup”

ev­ery­thing in Odyssey’s world its own di­vert­ing play­thing. Not since the days of Mario 64’s slap­stick rub­ber-faced start menu has the Big N en­cour­aged you to play around with its mas­cot like this. Rather than stretch­ing out Mario’s pudgy cheeks, though, the game of­fers a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent cos­tumes to un­lock. Mex­i­can-themed Mario! Snow Suit Mario! Samu­rai Mario! Pi­rate Mario! Tuxedo Mario! And, for those who’ve al­ways longed to see more of the plumber’s pasty flesh – se­ri­ously, seek help – say hello to Boxer Shorts Mario!

Mario makeover

Switch­ing up Mario’s wardrobe doesn’t just pro­vide the in­nate plea­sure of see­ing a great gam­ing icon dressed up in the sort of cheesy tourist gear nor­mally re­served for pen­sion­ers on Mediter­ranean cruises, it also has practical im­pli­ca­tions. After all, cer­tain Power Moons can only be un­locked if you’re wear­ing a spe­cific piece of clob­ber – like the one in Lake King­dom that de­mands Mario strip down to his speedos in or­der to catch a glimpse of a special gown. Don’t ask.

As a tech­ni­cal show­case for Switch, the level of pol­ish on dis­play in Odyssey is un­matched. There’s noth­ing else out there on Nin­tendo’s hand­held hy­brid that even comes close. And yes, that does in­clude Breath Of The Wild. While games like Zelda look pin-sharp played on Switch’s lovely 720p screen, Mario is one of the few games on the sys­tem that can gen­uinely com­pete with top-tier PS4/ Xbox One ti­tles when you play it on a TV.

We spent most of our 40 hours with the game play­ing on a 55-inch 4K screen, and de­spite a lack of anti-alias­ing the core art de­sign and glo­ri­ous colour pal­ette are so vi­brant, Odyssey is eas­ily one of the most im­pres­sive-look­ing games of 2017. Just as im­por­tant as all that artis­tic flair? Re­gard­less of whether you play docked through a TV or in hand­held mode, Mario al­most never dips be­low a silky 60 frames-per-sec­ond. The bal­anc­ing act be­tween ul­tra-pre­cise con­troller re­sponse and deca­dent de­sign doesn’t come much more eye-arous­ing than this.

The only slight is­sue stop­ping Odyssey from pulling in an even higher score? A few of the game’s king­doms dis­ap­point. An ice and beach level stick a lit­tle too closely to samey genre tropes, while ex­cur­sions to a fog-filled Hal­loween town and a teensy cloud world are too in­sub­stan­tial to stick in the mem­ory. Even the game’s best play­grounds can’t quite match the au­da­cious flip-flop­ping play­ful­ness of Mario 64’s Wet-Dry World or Tiny-Huge Is­land. Though the galac­tic jour­ney to scup­per Bowser’s wed­ding plans is a con­stant thrill, it falls ag­o­nis­ingly short of top­pling the plumber’s very best work.

Of course, when you’re com­par­ing Odyssey to one of the best games of all time, there’s no shame in Mario’s lat­est tak­ing a run­ner-up’s place on the podium of all time greats. Not only is this one of the two best games on Switch, it’s one of the most en­er­gised, ex­cit­ing ti­tles Nin­tendo has re­leased in years. This is both a thor­oughly pro­gres­sive up­date to a beloved se­ries and a mod­ern clas­sic that’s al­ways re­spect­ful of its sto­ried lin­eage. Be it wash­ing away pud­dles of muck a la Sun­shine or winks to the char­ac­ter’s NES ori­gins, thought­ful nods to Mario’s past are ev­ery­where.

With hun­dreds of Power Moons to un­lock and some kick­ass se­crets to dis­cover – in­clud­ing the coolest end-game Easter egg we’ve ever seen – only BOTW can match Odyssey as the most must-have pack­age on Switch. Mario’s star has rarely shone brighter.

In Odyssey’s two-player mode each per­son takes a Joy-Con, with one con­trol­ling Mario and the other Cappy.

Swim­ming is nowhere near as grace­ful as Mario 64, but at least the un­der­wa­ter bits look glo­ri­ous.

Some of the boss fights are ruddy mad. Yes, that is Mario fly­ing a statue’s own hand into its ugly mug.

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