Okay, I’m going to be straight up with you. The only other Mario game I’ve ever played is Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Mario for me was always some other console’s Crash Bandicoot (hey, I’m young, and I only played PlayStation as a kid). But Super Mario Odyssey almost made me feel sad I didn’t grow up with Mario. In essence, this game is a nostalgic journey celebrating everything Italian plumber.
There are many, many references to classic Mario, from little pixel characters hidden throughout the worlds to actual 2D puzzles with classic Mario aesthetics. In fact, it’s these puzzles that I enjoyed the most. They’re diverse and quirky, and were occasionally spiced up with a modern twist – like going around corners in the 3D world.
There’s even a whole chapter dedicated to celebrating Mario’s history! But I’m not going to say anything more than that because spoilers.
Super Mario Odyssey begins like I assume most Mario games start: with Princess Peach being kidnapped. To be honest, I was a little disappointed, especially after Peach was so kick-ass in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. But … who else is Bowser gonna threaten to marry. Luigi?
As Mario chases after Bowser, he bumps into Cappy, a cute ghost top hat. It seems that Cappy’s sister, a cute ghost wedding veil, has also been kidnapped. Together they set off on a rescue mission, where they spend most of their time being several steps behind Bowser as he steals all the necessary items for the bestest wedding ever.
As it turns out, Cappy has the interesting ability to “capture” certain creatures. When you throw Cappy (who is now your hat) onto a creature, Mario becomes them. This allows you to use their unique abilities to complete puzzles or access areas no Italian plumber could go.
Despite being set in an open world (or several open worlds), I found that there was almost always a neat linear story line that you could follow. You could do the bare minimum of the game without feeling like you had to explore every single nook and cranny. However, if you’re a completionist like me, then you will be duly rewarded with all your exploring and power-moon hunting. I found the balance between both play styles to be quite good. If I was bored of a world, I could finish it off quickly and move on. If I really liked a place, I could easily hang around for another hour or so.
Speaking of getting bored, I am a hopeless millennial with a short attention span. So when I discovered that Super Mario Odyssey is one of the most varied games I’ve ever played, I … realised that I was enjoying myself. Not only does each world have a different biome (forest, beach, city, cemetery islands, you name it Odyssey has it) but each world has at least one of its own ‘capturable’ creatures with unique abilities. This kept the puzzling fresh and the moon-hunting spicy. Trying out each creature soon became my favourite thing to do.
Now, I’m happy to report that Super Mario Odyssey has drop-in/drop-out local co-op! A second player can grab one of the JoyCon and fly around as Cappy. Di and I were excited to try this out, however after ten minutes I really didn’t feel like it added much to the overall experience of the game.
I found that Player One, who stays as Mario, could just continue play as normal while Player Two zoomed around being a nuisance. Cappy can’t help Mario traverse or solve puzzles. The only thing Cappy can do is bust up some enemies, but the whole game isn’t just busting up enemies. There’s no continuous reliance on each other, which makes it awkward when Cappy whizzes off all bored-like and leaves Mario defenseless against some surprise goombas.
That said, we still had fun. One time I jumped into a pile of enemies and started freaking out because I was unarmed. I screamed at Di to help me and she zoomed in as Cappy and beat all those bad guys up easy. (Honestly, I was quite surprised I came out of the ordeal unscathed!)
As I played through Super Mario Odyssey, I could tell the game was making a good effort to suckerpunch me in the nostalgia glands. But as I’ve said I have none for Mario. However, the game is a whole heap of fun despite my lack of familiarity with the characters and universe.
It’s still adorable, entertaining and exciting as I journey through the many colourful worlds to save Mario’s girl. Wait … am I becoming a Mario fan? Well now, I genuinely didn’t think that would happen.