For the first time, Super Mario Odyssey was publicly available to try in the UK, so this journalist seized the opportunity to sample Mario’s upcoming adventure at Insomnia61. It seemed to be the same demo they’ve been using for all its other events, so I was restricted to the Sand and Metro Kingdoms, and only had about 10 minutes before I had to stop. Nevertheless I’ve been so hyped to try this game so let’s get straight to impressions!
The most notable thing I took away from the experience was just how solid the controls were. Anyone familiar with a 3D Mario game will feel right at home as it includes all the traditional mechanics, with the only new features being Cappy (obviously) and rolling which turned out surprisingly fluent and effective for moving around. The camera movement was so natural I didn’t use it until several minutes in, and I had to stop and remember that the camera would be controlled by the right stick! The only thing I’d improve is changing one of the duplicate face buttons for a forward dive, because I never figured it out and think it’d feel inline with Sunshine and 64 to have it as B or something.
Cappy has such a dynamic range he can move to and return from, like a boomerang with unlimited control both horizontally and vertically too. He works incredibly well with motion controls, perhaps even better than with traditional inputs – but like with ARMS – I say that now but when I sit down for a proper session, I might prefer the consistency of a control stick in the long run. Capturing things felt awesome with a slick transition and such a variety of things you can do! Flying round as a Bullet Bill had to be the most fun, and even with the few things we had available to capture, I can really see this pave the way for some fantastic level design throughout the game.
I drone on about the controls as the most notable thing because I’ve been sold on the Odyssey concept from the start. But for those more skeptical on what the game’s really about, here’s how I found it: Imagine what Breath of the Wild does for Zelda; Odyssey does for Mario. Obviously this isn’t a full-blown open world, but structurally, Odyssey removes a lot of linear features of past games and delivers on being like numerous sand-box areas per Kingdom. Where normally you’d collect a Star from and area and have to re-enter a slightly different version to get another one; you collect Moons across the same giant overworlds, uninterrupted (like how the Shrines are in Zelda). Personally I didn’t opt for many Moons in the demo as I was having too much fun purely in gameplay, and saw most of the available Moons collected by players before me in the line… someone even got to the boss in the Sand Kingdom!
The only thing left to discuss is performance. Instantly noticeable was the 720p resolution. From a distance, the game looked incredibly blurry. Admittedly, the TVs for these demos are hardly ever optimised for games – and I’m sure the game looks lovely in portable mode – but I still felt a bit let down given how crisp things look in the trailers. If Nintendo can bump the resolution to 1080p (or even 900) before release like they did with Splatoon, I’d be over the moon. Even if it was a patch later down the line, it would drastically increase the experience. That said, I wouldn’t want them to cut the solid 60fps mark they’re achieving, which is a far more important aspect in this game’s presentation. And finally, the loading times were pretty much instant. Of course, this could be because it’s a demo with potentially a lot less content, but if the final game loads anywhere near as fast I’d be mind blown.
Overall this was a lot more than I was expecting to find out and enjoy from the demo. Having seen many people play this exact demo before me, I thought I knew what I’d be in for. Yet the fluid controls, gorgeous art style and Cappy being a joy to play are positives only amplified by experiencing them in person. And I didn’t think I could be, but I’m even more hyped for this game now and can’t wait for release!