There’s a lot of bloody hype around Mario‘s next adventure, Super Mario Odyssey, and for good reason. If you’ve played Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you’ll know Nintendo is absolutely at the top of their game right now.
I was incredibly lucky to get my hands on Odyssey before any other Australian media and folks, it’s so damn good.
Before that, senior members of the game’s development team ran us through the basics, including your new companion, Cappy.
Cappy, as you can probably guess, is Mario’s cap, a useful item that you can throw to take down enemies or become them. That’s right, Mario is getting all Kirby with his hat, allowing you to take advantage of an animal’s or enemy’s powers, like, say, the ability to fly across gaps.
This feature was designed with the Switch in mind, allowing you to chuck the hat with a simple flick of the JoyCon or, if you’d prefer, just tapping a button.
The story this time is that Princess Peach has been captured by Bowser who has arranged a wedding for the two of them. Classic Mario is out to put a stop to this, following bowser through different worlds on his ship, the Odyssey.
Similar to Super Mario 3‘s worlds, each has a unique theme and a number of stages to complete. Instead of segregating these stages, each world is a completely open sandbox, allowing you to seamlessly jump between levels with no interruption.
To continue to another world, you need to power your ship with Power Moons. Think of these as the stars in Mario 64, only there’s heaps more of them.
I got to fang around in two different worlds for 10 minutes each – New Donk City and a hella cool desert world.
New Donk City is the human city you saw in early trailers that kinda looks like Mario has entered a far less violent Grand Theft Auto. I hooned around on a scooter for a little bit before getting completely lost in everything the world has to offer.
You couldn’t turn a corner without having something to do, making it feel like one gigantic level. It’s different in terms of previous Mario games, but it definitely works.
The desert world tasked me with getting to the top of a distant tower. Using my ability to change into those incredibly annoying giant bullets, I was able to fly across a number of platforms in a flash.
Mario director Yoshiaki Koizumi said the key concepts for Odyssey were “surprise” and “emotional resonance”, traits that were clearly present in everything I played.
I was constantly surprised by something at every turn, whether it was the ability to turn into something or someone new, or a hidden level for me to complete.
During the tower ascent, a pipe leading into a wall that turned the game into classic 8-bit Mario. It instantly changed the gameplay to a side-scrolling platformer while spewing forth buckets of nostalgia.
During a Q&A with the team, I asked if this was a deliberate play for our nostalgic heartstrings and if there were other throwbacks to previous games in the franchise.
“Yes, and we hope you look forward to them,” said Koizumi. Hell yeah.
Super Mario Odyssey is set for release on October 27.