Mario’s back and once again he must trek across the world to stop the evil Bowser and rescue Princess Peach. This time he’s accompanied by Cappy, a sentient hat who can possess anything that Mario throws him at. In gameplay terms, this allows the player to take control of that object or enemy.
The addition of Cappy and his abilities may have initially seemed quite gimmicky, but this actually proves to be a stroke of genius on Nintendo’s part. Everything Mario can control through Cappy offers either a quirky bit of fun or a completely new game mechanic, resulting in a game that always feels fresh and exciting.
This feeling carries over to the level design. Each kingdom is vibrant, beautiful and filled with content. Nintendo have previously spoken about the importance of utilising the space within their worlds, and Odyssey epitomises this ethos. Much like the Italian plumber himself, the levels pack a bigger punch than their small size suggests. The main objective for the game is to collect moons, done via a series of mini games à la Mario Party, but with a bit more depth. The variety of content when acquiring moons is what astonishes most: one minute they’ll be playing volleyball, the next they’ll be controlling a tank. There are over 550 moons in total, but every single one feels diverse enough to keep the player interested. A particular highlight is the recurring 2D segments, which perfectly balance nostalgia and genuinely brilliant game design. All of this combines to make Odyssey much more than your typical platformer.
Controls are pretty much spot on, as would be expected from a company that’s been defining platforming for over thirty years. Every death and mistimed jump feels like a player error rather than the game being unjust, meaning even at its most challenging Odyssey remains fun and hardly ever frustrating. While the motion controls can sometimes feel a bit annoying, they are rarely necessary should the player prefer not to use them, with many of the actions having a button combination equivalent.
With more content than the technologically restricted Sunshine and 64, and a clearer focus and less gimmicks than Galaxy and its sequel, Odyssey is by far the greatest 3D Mario game, possibly the best game on the Switch so far. The only other real contender is Breath of the Wild, Nintendo’s flagship title to introduce the Switch. But if Zelda introduced the Switch, Odyssey has solidified the console and Nintendo’s place in the market. Zelda is certainly a triumph in innovation and storytelling through games, but what Odyssey offers is something far purer: simple and enjoyable gameplay. A fittingly good iteration of a legendary games franchise.