Earlier in the month Nintendo gave us access to two levels from the game: Metro Kingdom and Sand Kingdom.
We didn’t get to finish the levels completely but we did spend well over an hour exploring the maps as best we could and feeling out the mechanics of the game.
Details about the plot are almost non-existent which is both unsurprising and also fairly pointless anyway. Mario is won through its level design, exploration and the sheer joy of tackling its three-dimensional puzzle world.
Graphically speaking, Odyssey is an absolutely beautiful game. Nintendo are much like Apple in that they’re masters in making their software and hardware run harmoniously together.
We started the demo in Sand Kingdom, a sprawling Mexican-themed desert that has, thanks to Bowser, been turned into an icy world filled with shivering citizens and cactuses encased in ice.
The first thing that strikes us is how much this game takes us back to the glory days of playing Mario 64. It’s a fully-open world but one that still incorporates an semi-linear level design.
To put it another way, you can clearly see where you need to go, but Odyssey will present you with countless routes, almost all of which are eventually worth taking.
In addition there are an exhaustive supply of hidden rooms, mini-missions and special areas that can be accessed as well.
As we progressed through the level we were presented with walls that contained mini levels in the style of Mario on the NES. These were accessed via the classic green tunnels and provided an nostalgic break from the 3D oasis that surrounded them.
To get around Odyssey’s expansive worlds Mario is given complete freedom to explore. Want to get to the roof of a building? Simply find an object that’ll let you trampoline up there or use your new tool Cappy to embody an object and use it at will.
Which brings up to the first major new game mechanic: Cappy.
Again we’re not really sure where Cappy has come from or what it is but what we do know is that Mario’s hat now has the ability to help him embody objects.
In the Sand Kingdom we were able to momentarily take over a Bullet Bill and use it to fly over ground that normally would have been impassable for Mario.
Cappy can also be used to embody elemental forces as well, becoming an electrical spark and letting Mario travel down power lines. It’s typically quirky in Nintendo’s hallmark way and yet completely charming. It also adds a fantastic new gameplay dimension that means some levels will require you to discover which objects can be embodied by Cappy.
It can also be used as an offensive weapon, thrown out in front or spun around Mario like a boomerang.
Moving onto the second level Metro Kingdom it becomes clear just how serious Nintendo were when they said Mario could explore everything.
Skyscrapers might seem daunting but it would appear as though, somehow, every single one of them hides a secret at the top, while the cloudy ground below you could hide numerous hidden levels.
It is in this metropolis that we meet our one single moment for pause. Inhabiting this particular kingdom are normal humans, Mario’s world has never had normal humans, and to see their tall gangly forms looming over Mario is odd.
We’re not going to say that it’s jarring, simply that it never stopped being a little bit weird watching Mario double-jump on the bonnet of a New York taxi cab as he bounced, ‘YIPEEED’ and swung his way through the city.
All-in-all though our experience with Odyssey was about as perfect as we could have hoped for.
It gave us a taster of a Mario game that was stunning, versatile, full of depth and challenging.
It should also be noted that all of this was experienced in the Switch’s most conventional form, sat on a chair playing it on the big screen.
We have a feeling that being able to play a game that feels like a spiritual successor to one of the greatest video games ever made on the go is going to be something rather special.