Gamescom 2017 – Super Mario Odyssey shows Nintendo still has the power to surprise

Finally! I’ve finally managed to get hands on time with the one game I came to Gamescom to play. The content I got to play was essentially the very same bits of the game that was available at E3 and that those bastards Alessandro and Darryn lorded over me. The first slice of action took me to the Sand Kingdom, one of the many worlds or Kingdoms that the mustachioed plumber gets to visit.

Super Mario Odyssey feels immediately familiar to anyone who’s played any of the 3D Mario games like Super Mario 64, Sunshine and even super Mario Galaxy. The hook here is of course that Mario’s hat Cappy has come alive, and can be used to confer special abilities to him. The big one of course, is that u throw ur hat on the frog and u r the frog. It’s all terribly intuitive, with either traditional controls or the optional motion ones that have you throwing Cappy about with the flick of a wrist. Flick both Joycons and Mario does a defensive spin that sends Cappy into a spiral, a whirling dervish knocking whatever might be in your path.

As with other Mario games, you’ll have to collect coins, but in each of the worlds you’ll also be tasked with collecting the hidden moons that’ll enable Mario to travel to new kingdoms. Throwing your hat on to things is exciting in and of itself, but the way that it changes Mario’s moveset opens up a world of gameplay opportunities. As an example, throwing your hat on to a Bullet Bill lets you fly across sections that you’d otherwise be unable to cross. And of course, a big part of the fun is seeing what happens when you throw Cappy at different parts of the world.

There are even sections that have taken their cues from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Words, transitioning Mario from a 3D world into a 2D one, bringing that classic 8 bit aesthetic and gameplay back. It’s exactly as magical as it seems, and the game left me with an enduring smile on my face.

There’s also a real reason to go exploring. Finding the moons themselves can be tricky, but going off the beaten track opens up the opportunity to find the many secrets of Odyssey. Pipes, quicksand, manholes and more can lead to exciting new areas with new gameplay experiences.

Yes, jumping to New Donk City where Mario runs alongside humans is jarring and decidedly weird, with Nintendo magicking away the dissonance by saying that Mario’s a proud native of the Mushroom Kingdom. Odd as it is, it doesn’t detract in the slightest from what is bound to be one of the year’s most exciting and engaging games.

The sheer scale of it is both impressive and terrifying – but it’s an able demonstration of the unwavering fact that Nintendo still has the power to surprise. Up until now, I thought Super Mario Galaxy was the pinnacle of Mario in three dimensions, but I was clearly wrong. I know I’m going to spends hours exploring every nook and cranny of the game’s many words, and I can’t wait.

Super Mario Odyssey is out on Nintendo Switch on October 27.

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Last Updated: August 25, 2017

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