Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mario Odyssey Review


Even though Mario Odyssey has only been out for a week, it’s already become a cliché to refer to it as “an absolute delight”. The truth is that there may be no better phrase in the English language to describe the experience of playing this game. Since the internet has already been flooded with lengthy essays gushing about Nintendo’s newest flagship platformer (you can also checkout my impressions from last week), I’ll keep my rundown simple:
  • Each of the game’s 10+ kingdoms has a unique structure and appearance, but also a unique set of mechanics. Some of this is a function of geography, traversing a wide-open desert is very different from a tightly-packed city, but a big part of the difference between kingdoms is how the capture mechanic is implemented. Often, taking control of some of the more mundane creatures or objects can be surprisingly fun once you get the hang of their move sets. For example, one of my favorite character to capture was an onion with stretchy roots.
  • I was initially thrown off by how many Power Moons there are to collect and how frequently they were found. My concern was that finding them so often would make them feel less special and significant than finding stars in other 3D Mario games. However, I came to realize that what the moons are really doing is bread-crumbing the player through each kingdom. This incentivizes the player to thoroughly explore each stage and gives meaning to reaching the most remote areas of the map. Since finding more moons unlocks more areas to explore, a compelling and addicting loop is created; I quickly found myself saying “just one more moon” at the end of the night, only to end up sucked in for another hour or so.
  • In the past, 3D Mario games have suffered from repetitive and simplistic boss battles. While this is still true for the mid boss enemies, the Broodals, the proper stage bosses are usually much more creative. Many of them are fought while Mario is in the form of a captured character which helps keep the boss battles fresh and ensures that each is mechanically distinct.
  • In addition to the ear-worm vocal theme, “Jump Up, Super Star”, that I had mentioned in my impressions post,  this game as all-around excellent score. The orchestral pieces further add to the sense of place in each kingdom, and on a few occasions in the campaign, vocal tracks kick in at just the right moment to give the scene some extra oomph.
  • The only gripe I had with this otherwise stellar game, was with the controls. While many gamers took, issue with the motion controls (I didn’t have a problem with them), my issue is with Mario’s ever-increasing move set. Since Mario 64, the variety of jumps and flips has ballooned to a level that makes keeping them all straight a challenge. For example, I’ve never found Mario’s sideways flip to be a useful maneuver, but I accidentally executed it several times on narrow platforms, cartwheeling Mario to an unnecessary death. I think trimming some of Mario’s extraneous moves would prevent this and cut down some frustration. Also, since camera control is primarily manual in Mario Odyssey, managing the viewing angle while tackling difficult platforming segments can get tricky.
  • My playtime in Mario Odyssey was split between docked mode with the Pro Controller and handheld mode. While I preferred the TV and Pro-con setup, I also enjoyed playing the game portably and don’t think handheld-only players will be at much of a disadvantage.
After playing for over 30 hours and collecting at least 440 moons, the campaign came to a satisfying conclusion, but there is still so much more to do. There is already a staggering amount of content in the game’s main worlds, and more moons and bonus stages become available after the credits roll. Normally, after such a robust campaign I would be satiated with a game and set aside the extra content for later, but in the case of Super Mario Odyssey I’m immediately eager to dive back in. The game is just that much fun to play. If you have a Switch and pulse, Mario Odyssey is a must-buy game.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: About 30 hours (Main campaign with 440 moons)

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