Friday, 16 February 2018

Mario Odyssey ★★★★★

If there's one character I shouldn't need to write an introduction for, it's Mario. His games have redefined the platform genre, several times over. Super Mario Bros. basically invented the side scroll. Super Mario World and Mario 3 still hold up today as two of the best games ever made. Then there's Mario 64, which set the way for all 3D platform games to follow. He's also pretty good at tennis, golf and cart racing, to name just a few of his hobbies.

Once again, Princess Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser. Who, creepily, plans to force her hand in marriage. You'd think she'd learn to hire some better security for her castle. Toads seem to be about as capable as Princess Bubblegum's Banana Guards. Mario tries to stop Bowser but is thrown from Bowser’s flying ship by rabbit wedding planners, called Broodals. Mario's infamous hat gets destroyed but luckily he wakes up on Cap Kingdom, a Kingdom inhabited by magic sentient hats known as Bonneters. (Nintendo have definitely been smoking something on this one). He soon befriends Cappy whose sister, Tiara, was also kidnapped by Bowser. They travel to the nearby Cascade Kingdom to recover the flying ship and games namesake “The Odyssey” and begin to chase Bowser and the Broodals across the World.

Nintendo has gone back to the more open ended level design, of Mario 64 or Mario Sunshine, encouraging exploration and experimentation with the game's new mechanics. Each level is filled with hidden Moons to find, often by completing set objectives, a bit like the stars in Mario 64; only more plentiful. Levels are mostly well designed and fun to explore, except for the few areas that seem to serve no purpose other than to make the level feel superficially larger than necessary. This could possibly be to hide a load point, to allow the game to render in the next section without stopping the flow of the game, but if that's the case then they kind of failed anyway. This doesn't occur too often though, so just me being overly fickle.

I love the sensation of momentum you get from Mario as he runs around. Accelerating downhill and seeing Mario sticking his arms out like an aeroplane is pretty funny. Cappy becomes an extension of yourself, using him to bounce off of, for an extended jump, spin attacks or hit and pick up things from a distance. There are no “power ups”, this time around, gone are the infamous Mushrooms and Fire Flowers. No Catsuit, Feather or Leaf. Instead, throwing your hat companion onto enemies or animals, in the world, will give the player control of the unsuspecting sentient beings. Mario will vanish into, what I assume to be the same dimensional space as Optimus Prime's trailer, each time he transforms. Via this unsolicited mind control, Mario gains all sorts of new moves and skills, allowing him to reach previously inaccessible areas and find more moons to collect and power The Odyssey.

Take control of a frog and Mario gains the ability to leap tall buildings with a single bound or the little Easter Island heads, with their shades from "They Live", giving Mario the ability to see what others can't, each time he puts them on. ...Or just be a Dinosaur. Because dinosaur. This brings up the question, is Mario in control of the hat or is the hat controlling Mario? While I'm asking questions with no answers... How does Bowser put his suit on, Can he take his shell off?

For some reason, I can suspend my disbelief and accept that Mario can talk to, and help out, Seals or a Penguin, that talk like the parents from a Peanuts cartoon. And he has a strange rivalry with some sort of punk turtle that rules his own Kingdom and shows no remorse to 30 years of kidnapping felonies. ...but New Donk City humans look weird and make the world of Mario even weirder. Mario Odyssey makes canon the idea that Mario isn't human and we've been controlling some humanoid Man like being, from another World, for the past 30 odd years.

Bry Wyatt

Mario Odyssey  at CeX

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