Nintendo is no stranger to acid-soaked craziness in their titles. While over the decades always a bit centered in kid-friendly motifs, their more popular titles have slid slowly into Bizarr-o World oddity. With the Nintendo Switch now fully rolled out to the public, the juggernaut platform and game developer now shifts their focus to their host of homegrown characters and styles. Super Mario Odyssey gleefully plays with the more eccentric edge of its host character’s universe.
Here, Mario gets a stab at what we’ll call an almost open world. Playable in this demo was either a desert world or a vast citycape. We opted for the cityscape. The city is curiously inhabited with denizens who looks more like vintage 1930’s real-world humans than they do the normal, colorful characters of the Super Mario Bros. franchise. And that makes it all the more strange. It literally looks like Mario is somehow existing in a world rendered altogether different than the way he is. Still, the game is massive in scope and an expert blend of unique foes, platforming expertise and creatively blended mini games.
Beyond the standard jump and head bomp dynamics of the standard Mario titles, this one features the use of Mario’s hat as a boomerang projectile weapon. In fact, beyond just throwing it at various objects or foes, it appears to occasionally work as a form of soul possession. One segment featured using the hat to completely become the famous, lifelike ammo, Bullet Bill. While possessed, the Bullet Bill even temporarily has a Mario hat. There’s evidence that other hats are out there too—likely to be purchased at an in-game store called Crazy Caps—that have a variety of other effects.
In the city, quests are available from a variety of the humanoid denizens. Some even involve assembling musicians for a band of some sort. Others, involve mini quests where “moons” are prized rewards (literally the whole game stops and throws up a title card congratulating you on finding one if you do). Most interestingly, the rooftops of the city provide just as much adventure and secrets. Certain switches activate secret ramps (like blue ! switches in the traditional Mario series would) and others become ziplines Mario can descend on back to the street level.
Most interestingly—and included without explanation—is how this game apparently nods back to famous Mario Bros. installments of yesteryear. Amongst the mini games, various warp pipes actually live mutate the game into a 2-D formulation of the original Super Mario Bros., quite literally as if projected on a wall in the 3-D world. It’s a nice touch, but it’s hard to understand how and why this is possible in this game. One would hope this will be set in the foundation of the game’s opening, but it would be nice to know how this is logistically feasible in this version of the Mario world.