Oh no, that Bowser's up to no good again. Who would have thought? After kidnapping Princess Peach for the two-hundred-and-eleventh time (we counted), he's escaped the Mushroom Kingdom and plans to marry her on the other side of the world. So start packing, because the world's most famous plumber is bringing us all along on a trip around the world to rescue her royal highness. Super Mario Odyssey will be all about the journey, then, and the game will return to the open-ended gameplay of Super Mario 64, with many different kingdoms to explore along the way.
Six of these have been revealed thus far, including the colourful and cosy Luncheon Kingdom, and the prehistoric Cascade Kingdom, and they'll all be filled with unique characters, enemies, side quests and fun minigames to partake in. During our time with the game, we got to explore Tostarena, a small desert town inhabited by skull creatures. While the map pointed us in the direction of the main objective, we couldn't stop ourselves from exploring on our own. We ran, jumped and rolled all around Tostarena on a hunt for hidden collectables. There were people to talk to, shops to visit and beautiful vistas to behold, and the exploration felt really solid thanks to intriguing environments and great platforming.
We also got to walk the streets of New Donk City, a world filled with humans akin to the people of our real world. It was pretty weird to see Mario interacting with these people since they were twice his size, but just like the desert town, the sprawling metropolis was a great place to explore. Taxi cabs roam the roads and can be bounced on, there were vespas for Mario to drive, and street lights he could jump into as if they were coin blocks. There were also countless references to previous Nintendo titles. With streets such as "Cranky Avenue" and "Dixie Street", and with stores such as "Diddy's Mart", one could speculate that New Donk City is supposed to be the setting for the original Donkey Kong arcade game.
We even spotted some of the red girders that Mario had to climb in order to rescue his love interest Pauline from the clutches of Nintendo's big bad gorilla back in the '80s. And speaking of Pauline, video gaming's original damsel in distress is now the mayor of New Donk City. Good for her! Luckily, things weren't that awkward between her and Mario despite him having moved on. Pauline even asked our hero for help gathering a jazz band for a city festival, which was the main objective of the demo that we got to play. Finding all of the musicians led to the performance of a great musical number starring Pauline as the singer, but that wasn't the only thing New Donk City had to offer.
This new urban environment was very big, especially when you consider that it's a level in a Mario game, and it contains lots of hidden areas and secrets to uncover. Finding green pipes and other teleportation devices took Mario to enclosed areas where the exploration took a back seat in favour of classic platforming and combat. Triple jumps, wall jumps, rolls and ledge grabbing had to be mastered in order to collect hidden Power Moons, with these moon shards being much like the Stars of previous Mario titles. They won't be required to complete the game, though, but they do power Mario's Odyssey, a huge hat-like spaceship that players will use to travel between the different kingdoms.
We also got to explore the interior of the ship, and inside there's a wardrobe that contains a collection of classic and obscure outfits from Mario's past, like the chef costume from the 1993 game Yoshi's Cookie, and a safari outfit from Mario's Picross 2. We even bought a pinstripe suit from one of the shops, and it looked great on Mario as he bounced around the desert collecting coins.
Mario won't be alone on this great journey though, as a new character named Cappy will join in the fun. During the game he'll take the shape of Mario's signature red cap (and other headwear in case you ever choose to change the plumber's outfit), and you'll even be able to throw him around by flicking your right Joy-Con. Pushing it forward will send Cappy swirling toward nearby enemies and coins, while flicking both controllers up or down will initiate the cap's special moves. We found the Switch's motion controls to work well during our time with the game. They were simple enough not to feel tacked on, and quite honestly they were more fun than just pressing buttons, however, you won't have to use them if you don't want to.
Cappy's most important power is his ability to possess other characters, both friend and foe alike. Have you ever wanted to see a Goomba dressed in a red Mario cap and a moustache? How about a tree, or perhaps a tank? Good news, you'll be able to play as all of those things in Super Mario Odyssey. In the demo we got to play as some pedestrians in New Donk City, and as a Bullet Bill that we used to explode various things around the map. All creatures will have unique abilities, and in the latest trailer for the game Mario even takes control of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yes, you read that right. Mario will be able to possess dinosaurs in the final game. All in all, Cappy seems like a great addition to the classic Mario formula, and he even allows for some local jump-in co-op. Just hand your friend one of your Joy-Cons at any time and you'll both be playing.
Whether they'll come via Cappy's cool abilities, or some exciting new Kingdoms that we've not seen before, or even because of all the secrets buried underneath; Super Mario Odyssey seems to be full of surprises. In one sequence we got to play during our E3 hands-on, Mario travels through a pipe that leads him into a wall where everything is made out of 8-bit pixels. Even though everything on the screen was inspired by the original Super Mario Bros., Mario still kept wearing the pinstripe suit that we had equipped, and it looked amazing. It's this kind of fun and imaginative gameplay that has gotten everyone at Gamereactor stoked about finally getting to experience a brand new Mario adventure. We've already packed our bags, and now we're awaiting the great journey. October 27th can't come soon enough.
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