Tag Archives: Mario

Super Mario Odyssey Review


It’s hard to believe Mario has been with us for nearly four decades. It’s even harder to believe, but there isn’t a bad Mario title. Some are objectively better than others. Old timers like me can remember playing as him in Donkey Kong. We have fond memories of going to the arcade with friends, and playing the original Mario Bros. Obviously everyone from 7 to 70 has probably played Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy. Again, nary a blemish to be found. The latest adventure continues this trend.

PROS: Pretty much everything. Get this for your Switch if you haven’t already.

CONS: One slight hiccup in performance in the Seaside Kingdom. If you NEED to nitpick.

FROM OUT OF NOWHERE: Rock n’ Roll anthems hit you like an RKO from Randy Orton.

Let’s get this out-of-the-way right away. If you have a Nintendo Switch, and you still don’t have this game it should be your next game purchase. If you don’t have a Switch, it should be one of the first games you get when you get the system. Super Mario Odyssey is not only a wonderfully crafted platformer, it’s one of the most engrossing video games on the console.


As usual, Bowser has kidnapped Peach again. So Mario heads out to stop his nemesis yet again. This adventure, however is different for a multitude of reasons. This kidnapping attempt Bowser has decided to marry the Princess by force. When the game starts you’re treated to an opening cinematic where Mario is in the process of trying to save Peach. Unfortunately for our hero, Bowser works him over. After suffering a hellacious assault at the hands of the King of the Koopas, Mario is thrown off of an airship to his doom. To add insult to injury, Bowser shreds Mario’s trademark hat to really drive home to the viewer that all is lost.


Mario is then tended to by a hat named Cappy. It turns out that Bowser devastated an entire kingdom inhabited by sentient hats called the Cap Kingdom. It is also revealed that the bridal tiara Peach was forced to wear is Cappy’s significant other. So Cappy decides to help Mario rescue Princess Toadstool. This is also where you’re introduced to this game’s trademark feature: Possession. Mario can throw Cappy, and if he lands on certain objects, and characters they can be controlled. It’s not something most of us probably think of ever seeing in a Super Mario Bros. title, and yet here it is.


This makes the game feel very different from previous games in the Super Mario Bros. universe. Yet Super Mario Odyssey also retains all of the things you would expect to see in the long running franchise. This entry leaves the linear design of the two Galaxy games behind. It also abandons the design of the 3D Land, and 3D World games. Instead, Super Mario Odyssey returns to the freedom of Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario 64. This time around Mario can travel between Kingdoms using an airship of his own called the Odyssey.


As you might expect, you’ll be going through these Kingdoms looking for coins, and items in order to earn entry to another. In this game the coveted item will be Power moons. You have to collect so many for the Odyssey to be able to continue onward. There are a couple of spots where you can choose which of two places to travel to next. But there’s no major hub the way Peach’s castle in SM64 was. Still, while you’ll open most of the Kingdoms in a set order, the stages themselves are open. So you’ll spend a lot of time tracking down moons.


A lot of the moons are hidden in plain sight, but there are a lot of them that aren’t. Getting some of them involve going on fetch quests. Others involve beating platforming challenges. Still others will require you to win at a mini game, or explore off of the beaten path. Some of them are purchased in shops, while others require you to buy a specific costume with a Kingdom specific currency so you can go to a specific area. That’s not counting the number times you’ll need to possess a particular enemy. Or the number of times you’ll have to solve a puzzle. Or to have a keen eye in the 2D areas I’ll get to later.  You’ll also have to contend with a lot of different bosses to get many of the moons. The most obvious being the Broodlings. These are a group of evil rabbits who have jobs planning Bowser’s forced wedding ceremony. But they’re also Bowser’s hired mercenaries. You’ll have to defeat each of them. But they’re not the only threats you’ll face. Super Mario Odyssey has many bosses hidden within it. You’re going to see all kinds of massive adversaries. Some of whom are going to come completely out of left field.


There are 880 Power Moons to be found which means you’ll be playing this long after you’ve experienced the storyline. Those who love to get their Mario games to 100% completion can even buy another 119 on top of those. But along the way you’re going to continually be astonished, and amazed. Super Mario Odyssey has something for fans of every era of the character. There are homages to Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros., and pretty much every game in the series is referenced in one way or another. Some of the most creative moments, are the inclusion of 2D sections that use the sprites, and tiles seen in Donkey Kong, and the NES Super Mario Bros. games. But it even includes the newer enemies, and characters in the mythos in that same style. These sections are often blended into the contemporary look of everything else, and they work seamlessly together. Sometimes the game incorporates puzzles that can only be solved by transitioning between the 2D pixel game play, and the modern 3D space.


Mario controls as fluidly as ever too. If you fall off of a ledge, get shot by a Bullet Bill, or land a quarter of an inch in front of a Goomba you’ll know it’s your fault. Another thing that might surprise you is the fact that the traditional system of lives is gone. You’ll have unlimited lives in Super Mario Odyssey. Your punishment for getting killed, is the game takes some of your money from you. However, don’t think you’ll be blowing through this one in a day. A lot of players might think that not needing 1-Ups, and Continues makes this game easy. It really doesn’t. In the early goings, things might seem like they’re simple enough. A few easy to nab moons. Running to the beacon of light to progress to the next story mission. Simple, right? While you might be able to get through the first handful of required areas, and claim their moons without too much trouble, later ones aren’t so easy. Some of the later stages require some significant puzzle solving, and a bit of dexterity. This is a Super Mario game after all.


You’ll need at least 124 Power Moons to be able to get into the final boss showdown. If you’re persistent you can probably get there within a day of non-stop gaming. But with everything there is to do, and see, you’ll probably want to explore for more moons, and secrets in that time instead. Some of the areas can’t even be reached until after you complete the campaign, all but guaranteeing you’ll be playing this long after the big showdown. Another thing that sets this game apart from the other Super Mario Bros. games is the vastly different environments in each of the game’s kingdoms. Not only do they have different themes, each of the themes has a completely different art style. The Luncheon Kingdom has a minimalist look, all rendered in soft neon colors. Take your ship to the Metro Kingdom, and everything goes for a more modern, photorealistic look. Head to the Seaside Kingdom, and things look absolutely beautiful. Plus the inhabitants of each Kingdom are completely different from each other as well, lining up with the aesthetics of the area perfectly. There are also all sorts of little visual touches that you’ll appreciate. Like the rain effects in New Donk City, or the soot that lands on Mario whenever he walks through fire.


The soundtrack is absolutely spectacular. If there’s one thing this title has over many other games it’s the music. Everyone has likely heard Jump Up Superstar, as it has been in all of the promotional material for the game. The trailer, the spots at conventions, you can even buy the song on iTunes. But everything else on the soundtrack is just as good as that title track. From the orchestral pieces to Big Band Jazz, to Heavy Metal to Power Pop. Even if a certain genre isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll recognize the sheer talent, and greatness of the compositions. All placed in parts of the game that suit themselves best. There is just so much to like here. No matter what you’re doing the music thumps along perfectly. It’s energetic, and light-hearted when it needs to be. It’s ambient, and dark when it needs to be.


Quite frankly, so much of Super Mario Odyssey is done so well, it can be difficult to find anything all that wrong with it. Controls are spot on. The environments, character design, and sound are all simply brilliant. Some of the mission types repeat here, and there. By the second or third Kingdom you’ll pick up on the general formula. But again, everything is done so superbly, it feels like nitpicking just mentioning it. About the only technical issue I ran into at all, was a very minor hiccup when running along the beach in Seaside Kingdom. Once. Ever.



There are several other things I haven’t mentioned yet, like Amiibo functionality. Pretty much all of Nintendo’s releases utilize them in some way, and Super Mario Odyssey is no exception. If you buy the three figures specifically made for the game they’ll give you different wedding themed costumes you would ordinarily have to get in the game far later. They’ll also give you the bonuses associated with the non-Odyssey themed figures of those characters. Peach gives you a Life Up Heart, Mario gives you a few seconds of protection, while Bowser gives you purple coin locations on your map.

Some of the other figures you have knocking around can also end up giving you some early access to some of the game’s costumes. But generally just about any figure will get you something. You can also show your Amiibo to a machine Toad appears with after you clear a few kingdoms. Then it will bring back rewards at a later time. Another interesting Amiibo piece of trivia has to do with some cross-promotion with Kellogg’s. The cereal vendor has made a promotional Super Mario cereal you’ve no doubt heard about if you live in the United States. The cereal box has an Amiibo NFC chipset glued to the inside so you can actually scan the cereal box for the same rewards most non SMB related figures do. With one exception: There’s a line of dialogue that may bring about a smirk upon seeing the game recognize the cereal box.


There are a ton of crazy items in the shops. It is worth looking into them for the costumes alone. Which is good, because after finishing the story the game opens up a host of new areas, moons, coins, and other content. Some of the post campaign moons are tied to unlocking items in the shops. So you’ll definitely want to be looking into them. Many of the costumes get pretty wild too. Some of the ones I really like include a clown costume, a samurai costume, and a couple of retro costumes.

If getting to new areas wasn’t enough, some of the kingdoms have super-secret warps hidden in paintings in them. You can even get a glimpse into some of the kingdoms you may not have visited yet when you find one. Some of the game’s moons even require their use in order to be obtained. Beyond that, there are a number of crazy features you’ll just sort of stumble upon. Like the ability to steal a moped, and drive around on it. Or an RC Car mini game, where you get to use an RC Car in attempt to speed run a track from Super Mario Kart.


The map I mentioned earlier is part of an overall travel guide you can pull up. It has maps for every one of the worlds you visit along with checklists. You can also pull up the little tutorials that explain some of the more advanced techniques. This can be handy for those who haven’t picked up a Mario game in years, or for someone who has honestly never played a Mario game. It’s also a place where you can review things that you might have forgotten how to do during the course of your time with it.


Another really cool feature is the camera mode. It really enhances the screen capture function in the Switch. Normally, for any game you can press the camera button, and take a screen shot. But in this game you can press the Down C button first, and pull up a camera mode. In this mode you can zoom in or out before taking a shot. You can also tilt the camera, and apply a number of filters to the image. The absolute best of these are the vintage console filters. One of them is supposed to be the NES palette although in some situations it seems closer to something like the Commodore 64. Another is a Super NES palette, and a third is based on the original Game Boy. Plus you can slap the game’s logo in the corner of your photo. Then you can use the social media function on the Switch to post it to your Facebook account, or Twitter account. It might not sound like much, but you can honestly get pretty creative with what you’re given here.


It’s hard to say if Super Mario Odyssey is the best Mario game of them all, but it’s absolutely in the running. It’s one of those rare games that makes you feel like you’re 8 years old again, experiencing the series for the first time. It’s so full of awe. It’s so full of wonder. Even though you’ve likely been playing Super Mario Bros. games, and spinoffs for most of your gaming life. It’s a celebration of every era of this universe, and its characters. While at the same time making the entire game feel new. Sure, you’ll spend a lot of hours hunting down the items, and MacGuffins to see what comes next. But it rarely, if ever feels like busy work. With the wonderful environments, stellar game play, and absolutely fantastic soundtrack this is one Odyssey you’ll want to embark upon.

Final Score: 10 out of 10

Super Mario 3D World Review

One might ask “Why bother reviewing Super Mario 3D World?” Everyone in the gaming press pretty much loved it upon its release. It’s one of the best games on the Wii U, and one of the bright spots in an otherwise dreary time for the console.  On the other hand, there are a lot of people who haven’t played it, and perhaps I can add something new to the discussion despite being late to the party on this one.

What you’ll love: The new power ups. The 4 player mode. MiiVerse stamp collecting.

What you’ll hate: Probably nothing. Though you might have wanted more sandbox levels.

Get on the floor: Bowser is apparently way into Disco.

Super Mario 3D World is easy to write off as the big brother of Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS. Many did just that to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, as well as New Super Mario Bros. Wii U when those games came out. Despite the fact that they were both, and are very good games in the long line of Super Mario Bros. games. But to paint SM3DW with that same brush would actually be pretty far off of the mark.

Super Mario 3D World is actually more of a send up of every kind of Mario platformer rather than a strict 2.5D or 3D sandbox game. There are moments where you will have a sandbox or side scrolling experience. But most of the game’s levels are structured somewhere between the A to B design of Super Mario Galaxy, and the exploratory design of Super Mario 64. The game seems to cast the widest net this way, hoping to get not only long time fans of Mario, but lapsed fans, and new players as well.

All of the levels are fun, and in many cases addictive. As in every game since the Nintendo 64 era there are stars to collect in every stage. Every stage has a certain number of stars that need to be found in order to be able to play it, and most stages have three stars hidden within them. Some of which are a huge challenge to find, as they are well hidden. You’ll also need to use the gamepad’s touchscreen in a few levels, using it to open doors, pull out platforms, and more.

The game also uses its environments really well. Sometimes you will have to find a star in the background, and figure out a way to get back there to collect it. Other times there may be one that lies somewhere so far into the foreground you cannot see it. Some may ask you to risk your life to get them, and you’ll agonize over the logistics of how to do so without dying. Or sometimes there may be a time limit associated with it. The game tells you: “Hey, nab all of these green coins in 8 seconds.” To which you reply: “But there are Podoboos, Piranha Plants, and Goombas there.” The game then says to you: “Oh, sorry, I’m afraid you ran out of time. You’ll have to replay this level again if you want that Star.”

But you will replay that level. As well as all of the other ones. Because you will become a star fiend trying to get through to the end. Furthering the need to find secrets are the MiiVerse stamps in almost every level. These stamps don’t do much for you in terms of winning the game. However during your time with the game you can connect with other players for strategies, asking where a secret item is, or even just venting about your 43rd loss on Grumblump Inferno. When you do, you can use the stamps to illustrate your message to the other players.

Also coming over from MiiVerse is Ghost Data. This feature shows Mii’s from other Wii U’s during your time in a stage, playing that stage, as you are playing (Say that five times fast!).  This sometimes shows you how to find a star, or secret area because you can see what other players were doing when they played the stage you are currently in. The downside is sometimes on a difficult section you may find yourself paying more attention to the Mii than the stage hazards costing you precious lives.

Stages are laid out in worlds. Much like Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and the New Super Mario Bros. series there is a map screen you can explore. When you’ve gotten enough stars you can enter stages. At the end of every world is a castle stage with a boss. Defeat the boss, and you get to go to the next world. Rinse. Repeat. There are not only your standard stages in the worlds, but also Mystery House stages. These stages can give you anywhere from five to ten stars, and put you in a timed gauntlet of puzzles on par with those found in Valve’s Portal. There are also Captain Toad levels where you have to traverse  a fully 3D stage without the ability to jump while figuring out how to get the stars within it. Usually these have at least five stars to collect.

If all of that wasn’t enough, elements from previous map screens return. Super Mario Bros. 3 had Toad houses, where Toad would give you free power ups. They’re back. Super Mario Bros. 2  had a slot machine for 1-Ups at the end of every level. They appear on the map screen here. SMB3’s encounter spots are here too. So you may have to tangle with 3 Hammer Bros. one world, or Charging Chucks on another. New to the map screen are Sprixie houses, where a Sprixie will give you a free stamp.

Most of your favorite power ups from Super Mario Bros 3 return. Of course you’ll see the iconic Mushrooms, and Fire Flowers. But you’ll see The Tanooki Suit, Hammer Suit, Kurbio’s Shoe ( as a skate mind you but it’s here). The new attraction of course is the Cat Suit. This suit allows Mario, and the others to climb walls for secrets, break certain obstacles, and leap great distances with a pounce. There are also cherries. These clone your character allowing you to solve certain puzzles. You’ll also see a lot of glass pipes holding items, stars, and even enemies. These not only give you the ability to go further in a level, or lead you to secret areas, but some act as well crafted puzzle sequences.

You’ll also notice I said “Mario, and the others” in the previous paragraph. That is because the game also brings back Super Mario Bros. 2’s biggest feature: Pick the right character for the level. Each character can, of course complete any level in the game. However, some levels will be easier with certain characters. Almost every level has an item only one of the four characters can get without using an item. Some go as far as putting a switch in with the character’s face on it. Essentially letting you know you HAVE to use that character to see what that switch will do.

This also leads into the multiplayer co-op feature.  Super Mario 3D World can be played with four players for couch co-op. While it’s unfortunate there is no online co-op, the feature does lend itself well to party gaming. It has a very nice balance in terms of the risk of lone wolfing levels, or trying to really work as a team to get the job done. Each of you will get a different character: Mario, Luigi, Toad, or Princess Peach (Toadstool if you’re an old-timer like myself). Mario performs as you’d expect. Luigi tends to skid farther so he feels slippery at times. But he jumps significantly higher than the rest of the characters. Toad tends to run the fastest, but doesn’t jump very high at all. Peach can float for a short time, making her a nice option on stages with a lot of pits.  You can also play as Rosalina, (The mysterious character from Super Mario Galaxy, and it’s sequel) by getting enough stars to unlock a stage in a secret world.

If you, or one of your partners find yourselves too agitated by a certain part of a stage there are also the golden Assist Blocks. These allow players to essentially coast through, flying over the entire level. Beware though, if you use this feature even one time, it forever taints your save file with the inability to have glittering stars as reminder that you used it.

If by the end of the game you have enough stars you can open up secret worlds. Of course there is Star World, but there are even more beyond that.  If nothing else this game gives you more content than a lot of other games do for your $60.  Visually, the game is very impressive too. Nintendo’s artists always do an amazing job with character models, textures, and art in general but this game is gorgeous. It may not be to the level of a bleeding edge PC game. But even those obsessed with photorealistic graphics will admit that it still does look really good. It’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s a lot of fun to look at.

It’s even fun to listen to. Of course Charles Martinet is back, and great as always. But musically this game is also a joy. Every song accents what is happening on the screen near perfectly. While the story in the game is your typical Mario fare,  the music still goes a long way to making you care about what is going on even if it isn’t very deep. One stage features a very catchy New Wave song that plays while parts of the stage appear, and reappear in time with the song. One world map screen has music right out of a Roller Skating Disco movie. Other stages have grand orchestral themes. Other spots feature some Jazz.  All of it going a long way to help tell a tale about the four main Mario characters stopping Bowser from keeping fairies called Sprixies  captive in jars. Why does he want them held captive in jars? Because he wants to use their power to take over the world. Again.  For what has to be at least the thirteenth time.

It all comes together in a really great package that like all of the Mario games before it is indeed a must buy for any Wii U owner. It’s one of the most fun games to come out near the end of last year, and if you missed it, pick it up while you still can. Even if you don’t typically play platformers it’s a fun ride worth taking.

Final Score: 9 out of 10