Mario Odyssey: Video game Review
By Skanda Swaminathan
'Mario Odyssey' is the personification of joy itself. You just can’t not be happy playing this game. If you don’t feel a single emotion, or a single smile comes over you when playing this then I don’t know what to say.
Right off the bat, it hits you with fossil falls, a track that sweeps you off your feet, and gives you goosebumps each time. Each and every song in this game fills you with so much joy and childlike wonder; beautifully complementing the richly detailed worlds you run around. Mario is synonymous with amazing music, bob-omb battlefield, gusty garden galaxy– all of these tracks hold places in the hearts of people who played these games when they were kids. And tracks such as fossil falls belong up there with the all time greats. I would go so far as to say 'Mario Odyssey' has the greatest soundtrack in any game, ever.
'Mario Odyssey' is a game that is really special to me. Any time I feel sad, I can always count on it to make me happy again. As someone who enjoys story-driven games such as 'The Last of Us', 'Uncharted', or the 'Mass Effect' trilogy, which heavily depend on writing and character to keep me interested, playing 'Mario Odyssey' was quite out of character for me. It barely has a comprehensible story, let alone voice acting, or god forbid, writing. And yet, there is something so special about this game that simply can’t be put in words. Games nowadays are generally dark and moody with heavy and solemn plotlines, and in this regard, 'Mario Odyssey' stands out. There isn’t an ounce of fat or filler in this game and it is very efficient in delivering new idea, after new idea.
Whenever I imagine the development of this game, I just imagine a group of people laughing and going "yeah that’s really stupid, but you know what would be even more stupid?"; simply going wild with their creativity and with their inventive new ideas. Mario games have a legacy of innovation. 'Mario 64', 'Mario Sunshine', and 'Mario Galaxy' all represent different game design philosophies and stand out in its own rights as masterpieces. 'Mario Odyssey' furthers this notion and further streamlines the Mario experience. It brings so many new ideas to the table and so many new ways for you to interact with the game. At its core lies the cap-ture mechanic which essentially allows you to throw your cap at anything and turn into that thing. Nintendo really went wild with some of the applications here...you can turn into a literal T-rex at one point, or a tank, a frog, a bullet bill, and even Bowser himself at the end. There are 52 unique cap-tures which all look, play, and handle differently with each having their own subtle nuances and ways of play. Nintendo is known for their restraint in implementing gameplay mechanics, ensuring that no one mechanic is pushed too far or used too often, and that the game stays fresh and exciting the entire way through. 'Mario Odyssey' follows this trend as even as late as 20 hours in, new gameplay mechanics and captures continue to be introduced and expanded upon.
After playing the first couple of hours of the game, you begin to wonder– is it even possible to come up with more ideas than this, to come up with more exciting challenges and gameplay scenarios? The answer is "yes". Over and over again, even 20 or 30 hours into the game, it still continues to surprise and delight you. It has something special for you around every corner, even after you think you have completed all there is to do. This game is honestly a miracle game, it is so good that it should not even exist. It introduces several new ambitious ideas and concepts and executes them perfectly with Nintendo’s signature charm and polish.
One misconception about Mario games and most platformers that even I held at one point was that these are essentially walking and jumping simulators. This could not be further from the truth. There is so much depth and nuance in the way Mario moves. Lining up a triple jump rewards you with extra height, you can throw your cap, dive and bounce off your hat and dive again, you can roll into a long jump, you can backflip into a dive. There are endless permutations and combinations that allow you to creatively tackle the problems and challenges posed by the game in an infinite number of ways. The skill ceiling is essentially limitless, and combined with the 52 cap-tures one can see why the 'Mario Odyssey' professional speed running scene is extremely active even today. It is easy to pick up but difficult to master. The gameplay of 'Mario Odyssey' is refined and polished to an immaculate sheen, to the point where the simple act of running around is rendered fun and gratifying. The stages are designed in a way that accommodates new players who know nothing about this or any other game, but still allow veteran players to get really fancy with their movements. This is the mark of a truly great and endlessly repayable game. The goal of Mario Odyssey is to collect these power moons to power up your ship and explore new lands. There are over 800 moons, out of which only 120 are required to beat the game. This feeds into the player agency and freedom bolstered by this game. If you don't want to do a particular challenge for a moon, then just don’t!
With the given context of the pandemic, limited human interaction, and all the doom and gloom around us, we need some form of escapism. Unfortunately in the artistic pursuit, most games and movies that come out nowadays tend to be really dark and gritty and try to engage you on a deeper, emotional level. 'Mario Odyssey', on the contrary, fills you with pure unadulterated joy through the beautiful music, amazing gameplay, charming characters, and worlds, 'Mario Odyssey' is the kind of escapism I needed. Around the midpoint of the game, my Mayor Pauline of New Donk city throws a festival for you after saving the city. This festival feels like Nintendo celebrating their own history, and you as a player at the same time. It is set to the song 'Jump Up Superstar'. The first time I played this I had literal tears of joy; it was a happiness overload. This feeling continues through the rest of the game. Parts of the game feel like pure fan service, in a good way, almost like a wink and a nod to longtime fans of the franchise, with you being able to turn into 2D Mario for certain sections and the explosive finale where you cap-ture and turn into Bowser himself.
New Donk city festival
Every time I return to this game, it feels like I am being given a warm hug by an old friend. The more I play this game, the more I seem to love it. The amazing soundtrack, the beautifully refined and precise controls coupled with gameplay that is in equal parts charming and engaging makes 'Mario Odyssey' one of if not the best video games ever made.