The jewel of Nintendo’s E3 2017 offering, Super Mario Odyssey feels in some ways similar to last year’s star attraction, Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Odyssey is, like Zelda, a game about exploring – of wide, open landscapes seeded with subtle clues to secrets awaiting discovery. On foot, on horseback, on the back of a shield surfing down a ravine, Breath of the Wild’s learning curve was smooth and inviting, its play space and possibilities laid out before your eyes from that first vista: the shrine you awoke in behind you, your ultimate goal of Hyrule Castle clear in the distance. Mario’s journey feels a lot more experimental, and – on first impressions, at least – a tad trickier too.
Two of Odyssey’s Kingdom worlds are on offer here at E3 – New Donk City, a mix of real-world New York and that of the original Donkey Kong arcade game, along with a more traditional Mario desert world which riffs heavily on the Mexican Day of the Dead. Arriving in each via Mario’s new starship – shaped like a top hat – you’ll find a specific goal highlighted via a pillar of light in the distance which will further the game’s story. (A tuxedoed Bowser is organising a wedding for himself and Peach. The game’s mini-bosses are his wedding planning firm.) How you get to that goal point and what you decide to do on the way is left up to you. Instead of a single reward or six objectives per area, each Kingdom offers around 30 smaller collectibles – Power Moons – which are required to power your spaceship. Some are rewarded for completing little side-quests, whereas others can be found hidden in simple environmental puzzles, similar to Breath of the Wild’s Korok seeds.
Mario is joined on this adventure by Cappy, the seemingly self-aware hat with Rare-style googly eyes you’ll have seen in previous footage. Cappy unlocks a new set of moves for Mario – it can be used as a boomerang-style weapon to throw out at enemies, or thrown and made to hover in place to act as a mid-air platform, bridging gaps too large for a standard jump. Another move lets you spin Cappy around Mario, knocking out anything within an ever-widening diameter. Finally, Cappy can be thrown and then directed – up, down, left or right – to target foes or objects like switches out of Mario’s general reach. Pass a lamp post in New Donk City and want to ding its bulb to knock out a coin? You can send Cappy up there with a throw and a flick to collect the reward. Yes – a flick, of motion controls. And it’s that motion moveset which really takes some getting used to.
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