On the last day of E3, I finally got my chance to play Mario Odyssey.
And let me say, I quickly forgot how long I’d been waiting as soon as I started playing.
Mario Odyssey is a new title for the series in the vein of previous classics like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy. By now, everyone likely knows that it’s a 3D-platformer collect-a-thon like the others, but I’ve got some good news for the fans in that Mario Odyssey feels even better.
My one qualm with Super Mario Galaxy was that I never felt completely comfortable with the controls. Mario always had a subtle feeling of slipperiness, and this would always manifest itself at the worst possible times, like slipping off a ledge suddenly during a very tense moment. It’s probably a combination of the new game’s mechanics and the fine-tuned Switch controller, but I was pleased to not experience this feeling when playing Mario Odyssey. Mario always felt like he was where he was supposed to be, and I managed to pull off some pretty tight saves with ledges.
Beyond mechanics, Mario Odyssey is a wonderful creative addition to the franchise so far. In my play of the demo, I tested the new Sand Kingdom level. The demo was a decent ten minutes long, and it showcased several important features of the new game.
Most noteworthy is the new possession mechanic. Replacing the familiar spin attack of Super Mario Galaxy and 3D World, Mario can now attack by throwing his iconic eyeballed hat. The throw attack kills most normal enemies, but it can also be used to possess certain characters, enemies, and objects. In the Sand Kingdom, I was able to possess bullet bills and a weird Easter-Island-head sort of creature (true to Mario form, there are plenty of trippy critters). Possessing a creature means controlling that creature directly, gaining the use of its special abilities to overcome certain trials and solve puzzles. The walking head had the unique ability to see invisible objects, though it was also unable to jump. I had a lot of fun with the possession mechanic and I tried to use it whenever I could, though I didn’t feel like it detracted in any sort of way from wanting to play Mario.
In a rather important distinction, the hat toss is controlled by either a press of the ‘Y’ button or by making a quick flick of the wrist motion. Which one of these two you decide to control your hat toss with will likely determine your playstyle in the future – either one that is more influenced by the finer platforming controls or the art of the hat toss. I didn’t care for the motion controls much myself, but they’re important for performing some of the more precise feats of Mario, such as swinging both hands at the same time to unleash a spin attack with the hat or pressing ‘ZL’ and swiping to have Mario roll Sonic-like through the level. Despite my slow learning curve, I would describe the motion controls as very precise. As someone who grew up with the Wii, I think I’m just not used to not having to exaggerate my movements.
Also featured in the demo was an apparent ability of Mario to turn two-dimensional at certain locations. Coming upon a wall seemingly inscribed with pixelated objects and enemies, I found a pipe set in the stone that attached to one of the 8-bit pipes. Entering the pipe, Mario suddenly became 2D, and the 2D world on the wall suddenly came to life. Dodging the Bullet Bills was tricky, but the character didn’t shrink when he’s injured; and I brought the ability to crouch to this old-school environment. I was able to escape back into the 3D world through a hole in the ceiling. There were at least two of these segments in the demo (that is, there were two that I’m aware of), and they were an interesting bit of flavor to bring to an otherwise 3D game.
I could also go on for a while about the level design of this new Mario, but I think pictures say enough in this department.
The last thing I might note is that I witnessed a boss of sorts available in the Sand Kingdom portion of the demo. I didn’t reach it myself, but the person two places in front of me found an evil rabbit lady who wore a spiked metal hat that she would throw at Mario. It seemed that he dispatched her quite easily, but I also noted that she appeared to have two sisters. Unfortunately, his playthrough stopped soon after this, and I was unable to reach the boss myself.
To wrap things up, Mario Odyssey looks to be what it’s promised to be and more. I’m thoroughly excited for the game’s release in October this year, and it’s a little hard to console myself with my mere ten minutes. Honestly, I can see why people kept coming back each day; this game was the perfect experience to end my E3 journey.
If you were to buy just one game shown at E3 this year, Mario Odyssey is hands-down the game to pick.