The premise is pretty simple. Princess Peach has been... Read All This game is bonkers. In the best way possible. It's trying to edge out Super Mario World to be my favorite Mario game ever, and it's easily the best game I've played in years. It reignited my love for gaming. When I think of labels for myself, "gamer" is definitely one of them, but for the past year or so I haven't been prioritizing gaming like I once did. It wasn't because of a lack of time, but a lack of motivation. I'd get excited about a game and give it a few hours, and then just kinda drift. They were all super fun games, I just ... drifted. All that changed as soon as I finally got my hands on this game.
The premise is pretty simple. Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser (go figure, right?) and you have to save her. The game takes place in a world with many varied kingdoms, but you start off in the Hat Kingdom, a kingdom populated by sentient hats. Makes sense. There you meet your trusty companion for this game, Cappy, who can be thrown onto many enemies, NPCs, and some objects to take control of them, with their abilities. Everything from manhole covers to dinosaurs. This leads to some of the most inventive and unique gameplay I've ever seen.
To put some misconceptions aside, this isn't Mario in a modern, real-life setting except for one kingdom. Much of the pre-release coverage was from the Metro Kingdom, and with good reason. It's probably the best part of the game for me. But it appeared to many (myself included) that the game may take place in a more real-world setting, or at least have a real-world overworld with the ability to travel to others. That's not the case. It's just one of many unique areas you can visit. It's actually the home of Pauline, the damsel in distress from the early arcade Donkey Kong games, and she's come a long way since her being-captured-by-a-giant-ape roots. She's now the mayor! The story there culminates in one of the game's best set pieces with an homage to DK and Super Mario Bros.
Speaking of which, another game mechanic is 8-bit sections that fit in seamlessly with the 3D world. Hop into a pipe and you might be in an 8-bit Mario stage that plays out on a cliffside, allowing you to scale to higher places. I love seeing how Nintendo continues to reference their history while keeping things fresh.
Overall, the graphics are exactly what you'd expect from a Mario game, just with some more shininess and polish, but the music is the real MVP here. The soundtrack is full of songs that will get stuck in your head, especially Jump Up Superstar from the aforementioned Metro Kingdom. But look closer and you'll notice that little NPC animations are in time with the music. Listen as you dive underwater and you'll hear the song seamlessly transition to a version of the same song without the higher-pitched instruments and a softer EQ. And every song transitions to an 8-bit version when you enter those sections. Incidental sounds change key to match the music currently playing. The level of attention and detail here is astounding and very appreciated.
The mechanics keep a lot of the same platforming actions from previous 3D Mario games, and they still feel the same as ever. But some new hat-assisted techniques spice things up. You can take the long way around, or do some crazy hat parkour to take a shortcut. And each creature you take over with the hat gives new abilities that elevate the gameplay. Stack some goombas, throw some hammers with a hammer bro, jump into lava with a fireball, curve around corners with a caterpillar. Like I said in the first sentence of this review: bonkers. In the best way possible.
And if you're a couch co-op aficionado, this game improves on that from the Galaxy titles. I'd say about 95% of my playthrough, my wife was playing Cappy. If you remember Galaxy's co-op, player two controlled the star you kept in your hat and could influence the world a bit while also collecting star bits. Cappy has far more to do in this game, and it adds to the fun factor significantly. Cappy can take care of some enemies or hold others, and can allow player one to focus on other things.
One criticism the game has received is that it's too easy. It may be true that it's easy to get to the end credits, but as with all recent entries in the series, things really get going after you beat the game, and that's where the true challenge lies. There are a total of 836 moon instances in the game. Some of those, especially from boss fights, give you multi-moons, which drives that total up to 880. You can also buy moons for a boost, so you can rack up to a grand total of 999 moons with that. You only need 120 to beat the game, and yeah that's pretty easy to do. A secret area unlocks at 250 moons with some of the hardest platforming challenges I've ever experienced. Another unlocks at 500 that's basically a marathon of tricky but not punishing sections-- the trick here is that there are no checkpoints, so one mistake sends you back to the beginning. THEN after that there's a secret version of the final boss battle that's much harder. So yeah, if you're just playing for the credits, it may not be that challenging, but the challenge is there if you want it.
But it's not all rosy and peachy. A few minigames throughout the game are just not fun at all, and require kinda ludicrous scores to get a moon. Some moons out of those 836 are just uninspired. But the few bad things are a drop in the bucket, all told. The game is truly magical.
This is the game I needed to revitalize my gaming interest. After finishing it, I notice myself wanting to play other games in my backlog and games I have started but walked away from. It's pure, unbridled fun. All told, I racked up every single moon, every purple coin, every costume, and every collectible in around 75 hours. I wish I had 25 more. Or 50. I'm currently playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and that game is winning Game of the Year awards like crazy, and seems to be on track to winning ours as well. If something can unseat Super Mario Odyssey for the best game of 2017 then I'm very interested.
I normally hesitate to give scores for games, but this one needs no hesitation. Super Mario Odyssey is a perfect 10/10, easily. There are issues and annoyances, but those are very easy to look past when a game is this fun. It's an absolute must play.