This weekend, I was lucky enough to get some hands on playtime with Super Mario Odyssey, courtesy of the Nintendo booth at Hyper Japan Festival. This time around, Nintendo have taken a more sandbox approach rather than level based play and below is my thoughts on the famous Red Plumber’s new adventure.
On starting the 15 minute-or-so demo, 2 levels were available to sample, a desert based level called The Sand Kingdom and a metropolitan city styled level called New Donk City. I chose the city level, mainly because it’s been more widely showcased on social media as well as being something of a different setting for Mario.
Upon starting the demo, a representative sporting a fetching red Mario hat gave me the basics of the controls and some of the moves Mario could do this time around. The game is played with a joy-con in each hand, with the left stick controlling Mario and the right controlling the camera. The buttons allow Mario to jump, lift and crouch, just like prior titles and within seconds, I had mastered the basics. The new mechanic that is key to Super Mario Odyssey is Cappy, Mario’s hat, which is now used for a large range of purposes. The hat can be thrown forward, upwards and downwards as well as being used for a spin attack and a platform to jump on, all by flicking the joy-cons in the desired direction. I for one am not a great lover of motion controls, feeling they should be optional, but in this case they actually felt quite natural, although may be a tad irritating over time.
As mentioned earlier, Cappy is the star of the game here and can be used for many different purposes. Cappy is a weapon to be used against enemies but can also be used on power lines allowing Mario to transform into electricity and adds a vertical dimension to the gameplay. Cappy can also be used on NPC players to take control of them to complete a range of mini games in order to collect moons (not stars this time). In my time with Super Mario Odyssey, I took over an NPC who controlled a RC Car and had to steer it down a track in order to collect a moon. I ran out of time before meeting any other such mini games but was assured by the rep that there are many.
The main item for collection this time in moons, as mentioned earlier which perform in the same way that Stars did in previous games, allowing the unlock of further areas for exploration. The standard yellow coins are back but with a much more important purpose this time, used as lives rather than the traditional counter. In my time with the game, I died once and lost 10 coins and started exactly where I left off. This to me felt a little like there is no punishment for dying which takes some of the challenge away, I understand that it needs to be child friendly but there still needs to be a challenge. Another collectible available this time around are purple coins, these are a little rarer than the gold coins and are used to purchase outfits and hats that will offer more skills to Mario to help him reach his goal. This can be tricky to get and often involve some clever use of Cappy to scoop them up.
The graphics and sounds are gorgeous, as to be expected. The city environment I experienced had cars and NPC’s ambling around and gave a feeling of a bustling city, which I found quite immersive. The colours were crisp and Mario looked beautiful in all his HD glory, with the city itself looking equally impressive. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play the sand based level but from peering over the shoulders of others, it looked just as pretty as the one I played.
Overall, my short time with Super Mario Odyssey felt both familiar and new, which isn’t easy to accomplish. The move set and controls feel like a comfortable pair of shoes but the new mechanics and motion controls also gave something new. The sandbox type levels are a breath of fresh air for the series and I found a lot of activities in random doors and on rooftops which gives the impression the full game will have a lot to do! I for one am very excited to see where this adventure will go!