‘Super Mario Odyssey’ replaces power ups with the ability to become enemies
Super Mario Odyssey is all about the unique worlds. And the hat.
Mario’s hat, to be specific, which is brought to life by a mysterious being named Cappy. Cappy’s game-changing ability is called capture, which allows Mario to take over the bodies of objects both living and inanimate by tossing the hat boomerang style at them.
We got to test out Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch at E3 and experience the new sandbox-style Mario game and all of its typical Mario charm, including exploring New Donk City and capturing all sorts of enemies and odd objects.
In Odyssey, Cappy replaces the traditional Super Mario power ups. In lieu of fire flowers and tanooki suits, Mario can throw Cappy at a bullet bill and fly around to distant platforms, or embody a frying pan-slinging hammer bro to wreak cast-iron havoc on whatever unfortunate being wanders into Mario’s path.
With his new buddy Cappy, Mario travels outside the confines of the Mushroom Kingdom to new places, gathering moons (the new star or shrine) to power Mario’s top hat-shaped rocketship and continue on his quest of rescuing Princess Peach from a non-consensual marriage with a dapperly dressed Bowser.
Odyssey is a sandbox game of sorts, but instead of one huge, wide-open sandbox like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s Hyrule, Mario explores a bunch of smaller, compact sandboxes called kingdoms.
There’s the New Donk City kingdom with its tall buildings and taxi cabs, the Sand kingdom with its Mexican architecture and quicksand traps, and a dinosaur-themed kingdom where Mario can capture an actual Tyrannosaurus Rex with Cappy.
They’re like the different levels of Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine, each one a confined space with a clear theme. But instead of jumping into portraits or paintings to tackle one objective at a time for a single star or shine, Mario can travel to kingdoms in Odyssey and stay there collecting as many moons for as long as he wants.
That’s because there are a lot of moons, and they’re all over the place in these compact kingdoms. Given 10 minutes to explore New Donk City, I managed to stumble upon more than five moons. One I got from successfully participating in a jump rope session, three I got from a quest to find different musicians for the mayor’s impending concert, and another I grabbed after wandering into a series of steel construction beams.
With so many moons to collect, though, Super Mario Odyssey risks falling into the collect-a-thon genre of games. The moon collection didn’t lose its luster in the 20 minutes I had with the game, but it runs the risk of becoming a bit monotonous if it doesn’t keep things fresh throughout the game’s kingdoms.
Luckily, the kingdoms in Odyssey are so varied that doesn’t seem like a problem. The two kingdoms I explored, New Donk City and the desert-themed Sand kingdom, were two completely different experiences, not just in looks but in mechanics.
New Donk City’s skyscrapers could be scaled by capturing an electrical charge and traveling along power lines; Mario could leap off of taxi cabs and swing around on traffic light poles; quests were obtained by talking to different city citizens; and there were no real enemies wandering about so the focus was purely on exploration.
The Sand kingdom had more of a traditional Mario feel with dangerous platforming and bullet bills and goombas trying to take the plumber out; there was a clear path for where Mario is expected to go; there were 2D portions filled with bullet bills to get to otherwise unreachable destinations; and Mario could capture Easter Island statue-esque Moe-eyes to see invisible platforms hovering over deadly quicksand.
Along with all of that are the outfits. Using gold coins or kingdom-specific currencies, Mario can waltz into local shops and buy new hats and clothing.
In New Donk City I bought a three piece pin-striped suit and a matching fedora, which almost made Mario blend into the more normal looking human crowd. The suit wasn’t purely aesthetic, it allowed Mario to enter a building that had a strict dress code. There was also a construction hat and outfit in the store needed to access the city’s construction site.
And it wouldn’t be a Super Mario game if it didn’t show off some feature unique to its console. Well, semi-unique.
You can play Odyssey with motion controls using the detached joy cons or with more standard controls. The only thing controlled by motion (at least that we saw) was the tossing of Cappy, performed with a flick of the wrist.
Alternatively, the hat throw is mapped to the X and Y buttons.
Unfortunately, that means there is no run button in Super Mario Odyssey, but that speaks to the feel of the game. Odyssey isn’t about running through levels to beat a timer, it’s about taking your time, exploring every inch of each kingdom, and solving puzzles to get moons.
Plus it’s a nice consolation prize to be able to toss out Cappy and use it as a stepping stone across wide gaps.