Super Mario Odyssey
Sarah’s Rating: 9.5/10
Rated: E 10+
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Platformer, 3D, Action, Adventure
This year has truly felt like the year of Nintendo, at least in our house. I have been calling my husband “Matt the Nintend-nerd” for approximately a decade, and this year, with the Nintendo Switch on the market, and a truly impressive lineup of games coming out, he’s been on a roll. And what would any good Nintendo launch year be without a brand new Mario game arriving. In fact, it’s unusual for a Mario game to not be in the initial launch lineup of a large console, the only other console to not do so was the Wii. Well, when Nintendo released their first trailers for Super Mario Odyssey, all Nintendo fans seemed to jump up and take notice. Odyssey was their main push at E3 this year, in spite of a truly impressive line-up of games being showcased. And this game got even more excitement out of Matt than the first Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid, or even Breath of the Wild.
First of all, this post is about my first impressions of the game, we haven’t finished the main story yet, or even made it to all the worlds yet, but we’re close. One of the things that is slowing us down is that we are playing this game with a toddler. Player 3 would never be willing to be left out of a Mario title; the pint sized, pudgy plumber holds a very special place in his heart. I have no idea why, but the first time Player 3 glimpsed the Super Mario 64 cartridge, he was fascinated. So we have had a few short forays into the Mario franchise as a family. We’ve shown him little bits of Super Mario 3D World, Luigi’s Mansion, and Mario 64. I even made him some easy levels in Mario Maker, where he could try his hand at jumping around and collecting coins and power ups; I left out enemies, and just let him practice movement. Odyssey will be the fist Mario game we ever attempt to complete the main story with a child. And, boy are we learning a lot about how to game with toddlers on this one.
Mario games are not known for their complex plots, instead, they are known for their creative game mechanics and level design. In Odyssey, you’re dropped straight into the action as you discover that Bowser and his batch of deranged wedding planners are robbing the entire planet blind, in an attempt to pull off the perfect, albeit coerced, wedding with the, as usual, kidnapped Princess Peach. Mario is not going to take that lying down, and with his new buddy Cappy, the cap ghost possessing his hat, he’s going on a world tour to chase Bowser down.
In their top hat shaped airship, the Odyssey, Mario and Cappy visit a varied group of kingdoms in their ongoing journey to crash Bowser’s wedding. There is a Sand Kingdom, where the locals are all modeled after Candy Skulls. A Wooded Kingdom, full of gardens maintained by watering can inspired, jittery robots. And of course, who can’t mention Metro Kingdom and New Donk City, a Kingdom inspired by the urban setting of the original Donkey Kong arcade game from 1981, where Mario made his first appearance. These, along with all the other worlds, have their own unique purple currency,as well as the classic gold coins. Both types of coins can be used in the Crazy Cap shops to purchase costumes for Mario, and other items.
Your main goal in the game is to collect Power Moons, unlike the stars you have to collect in other Mario games. Not really a big difference, but this game is the closest any Mario game has ever gotten to open world. There is no hub world or Map to get knocked back to, therefore when you find a moon, with a few story based exceptions, you are allowed to simply keep going. Hallelujah! Every time I’ve attempted to play a 3D Mario game I would love exploring the unique maps, but I’d get mildly annoyed when I’d find my star, get knocked out of the level, and have to go back in from the beginning to explore and find the next star. This is a minor thing in most Mario games with their smaller maps, but Odyssey’s maps are huge and there are hundreds of moons. If I got knocked back to my airship every time I stumbled across one it would quickly become tedious.
The main new mechanic in the game is Cappy. You tackle most problems by getting Mario to throw his hat at them, Cappy is the way you engage with the world. The main skill Cappy brings to the table is the “capture” ability. When Mario throws Cappy at certain enemies, creatures and even inanimate objects, you possess them; it’s really creepy if you think about it too much. This skill replaces the traditional Mario power ups, and provides some really unique and creative ways to approach game-play. Everything you can capture provides you with unique abilities that Mario doesn’t have. This broadens the scope of what you can do and where you can go, but often imposes time limits, different controls, and other challenges.
The Toddler Experiment
Super Mario Odyssey is very immersive, and it can be challenging for us to maintain limits on play time with the boys. Player 4, who’s only 8 months old, has no real interest in the game. He’s content to play on the floor with one of us while the other plays the game, snuggle on laps with teething toys, and enjoy the atmosphere of being surrounded by his family. (We also often play during his nap time, or after his bedtime) Player 3 on the other hand, is incredibly engaged. He’s jumping up, pointing at things, asking questions, and suggesting things to do. It is incredibly easy to get swept up in the game and lose track of time.
Time management has been the biggest struggle we’ve had with the game. It may possibly be too fun to play with kids, everyone is enjoying themselves so much that Matt and I have let play time go on far too long. We have found a remedy for this however, and it also seems to be easier to bring Player 3 out of the game than if we tried to play with a time limit. When we play we tell him that we are going to collect a specific number of power moons, five for example, and when we get them all, that’s it. Since these moons are everywhere, five doesn’t generally take very long, and we can make a nice little bit of progress with that in mind. We’ve done this with other games we’ve played with him; for example, in Ducktales, we only played one level a day instead of keeping an eye on the clock.
Matt and I have been trading back and forth controlling the game. I tend to do better at the more abstract aspects of the game, such as finding creative ways to use Cappy, while Matt is better at the more challenging platforming sections. As we’ve moved forward, I’ve been improving my platforming skills, and Matt’s gotten better at understanding the somewhat bizarre mechanics. After the boys have gone to bed , we’ve had fun revisiting the worlds and doing the job of hunting down more of the optional power moons. Matt wants to complete this game; He intends to find every power moon, coin, and secret, and that is way beyond a toddler attention span. We’ve been limiting Player 3 to the story of the game.
On a funny note my son has recently started using his building blocks, furniture, and toys to build little platforming levels, and running his Mario Plush through them. He’s gotten pretty creative. As long as he doesn’t make Mario bounce off of people’s or animal’s heads, I’m going to leave him be.
When we were at Game Stop picking it up most of the people I saw were buying this game, in spite of it sharing a release date with Assassin’s Creed Origins and Wolfenstein II. It’s also received critical acclaim, and is topping the games list on Metacritic with a score of 97/100. That’s all great, but to me, since this was a game we got for the family to play together, that is how I’m judging it.
Super Mario Odyssey is a romp for all ages. I’m not certain which of us is having the most fun. It is well designed and creative, it brings back many of the things that people love about Mario games, and repackages it in a fun fresh way. As the wife of a Nintend-nerd, who still has his original completed save file of Mario 64 from 1996, and the mother of a toddler who brings his Mario Plush everywhere, this game delivers. I’ve got a house full of happy boys, and we’re going to be slowly working our way through this game for months to come. I’m pretty certain the Odyssey has parked in our home for a long time.
If you want a fun game to play with your kids, spouse, or even on your own this may be the game for you. Especially if you love Mario games.
Just keep your eyes open for the Tyrannosaurus Rex that pop up from time to time… they bite.