INSOMNIA

Super Mario Odyssey (2017, SW)

By FlibbertiGibbet / November 12, 2017


I'm really not trying to flame bait here whatsoever, but I recently completed Mario Odyssey and, after a few days of reflection, just feel extremely underwhelmed by the experience as a whole.
   I'm genuinely shocked that the game did not receive lower marks than it did. That it currently sits high as one of the best-reviewed games of all time seems ridiculous to be honest.
   I absolutely adore Nintendo and the polished, quality games they often produce. But I think something was fundamentally lost in the transition from the straightforward, linear platforming of previous Mario titles to Odyssey's free-roaming design. This was also a reason why Sunshine felt a bit off, though I will say that Odyssey is certainly leagues better than Sunshine. Odyssey lacks a sense of cohesion and propulsion that causes its level design to take a dive in quality and creativity.

   Sure, there is wonder in exploring some of Odyssey's more open levels, and the Mario platforming levels of old do exist behind secret doors that transport you to more tightly designed platforming segments, but even these levels are either very short gimmicks or relatively throwaway platforming segments that have Mario jumping from rotating platforms or scaling plain walls and simply hopping from one moon to the next.
   And I feel the capture mechanic is severely underutilized. Each kingdom seems designed around a few new creatures or objects for the player to capture, but they rarely marry the capturing mechanics to memorable, creative action. Outside of a few select moments and boss encounters, mainly the boss battles in the Seaside and Luncheon kingdoms, I rarely felt that the capture mechanics were mixed in new or very exciting ways.
   The first time you romance a female Goomba is gold; the fifth time not-so-much. And the same goes for the timer tricks with the Scarecrows and many of the other ways moons are earned.
   And this brings with it the problem of difficulty. Since every kingdom is designed around a few new capture mechanics and exploration that evokes a more leisurely approach to the game, there is an issue with difficulty and the stacking of mechanics throughout the game. Seriously, these kingdoms could have arrived in any order whatsoever and still mostly brought about the same experience. There is no difficulty ramp, and the only moment where the game tries to bring the capture mechanics together during one end-game segment plays like a bit of a breezy letdown.
   I will give the game credit for its few blisteringly original segments that brought a huge smile to my face, mainly "that" moment in New Donk City's musical party as well as the aforementioned boss encounters. The final encounter with Bowser is also memorable, but I felt the ending of Super Mario 3D World was even more stunning in a similar way.
   Also, the 8-bit segments are incredibly overused and lose their originality about halfway through the game.
   Of course the game is polished, controls perfectly for the most part, and looks technically accomplished. But that isn't enough for me. I was expecting more innovation. More moments of jaw-dropping discovery and wonder. But outside a few moments and kingdoms, I found myself going through the motions and just collecting moon after moon with no real sense of achievement while amassing them.
   Whereas Mario Galaxy and its sequel were more focused games, I found that Odyssey lost itself in its new capture mechanic, focusing more of the game around what creature or object to possess next rather than the levels and mechanics designed around it.

   Overall, I just walked away from it extremely disappointed in relation to the reviews it has received.
   Overhyped and overblown to the point of absurdity.
   The kingdoms are tiny, the challenges in every kingdom are literally all the same and it becomes repetitive as hell.
   I was reasonably impressed by the game in the beginning and finishing the 10-hour or so campaign by collecting the minimum number of moons (and any stray moons I could find) was fun. Going back to collect all of the remaining moons is not fun though.
   Overall, I would say it's fun if you're a little kid or I guess have ADD. The game's monster copy mechanic gives you a variety of abilities but they're all surface level, barely explored before they give you some new thing or place to play around. The amount of moons in the game is absurd (you only need about 120 to finish the game). It feels equivalent to having achievements pop up every five seconds just for walking to the next section of the level (indeed, many moons are sitting in plain sight).
   Platforming and exploring is easy as sin and dying merely takes ten coins from you and sends you back a few seconds (the coins can even be picked back up). In terms of the weird and jarring aesthetic and level variety it almost feels like one of those PC games that people load with a million random mods (GTA, Skyrim and the like). The Galaxy games had a nicer, more consistent look. I wasn't expecting a whole lot anyways but Zelda turned out to be a huge surprise; this is more or less what you'd expect.
   It was pretty fun, but as soon as I was done with it I put it up for sale. Something about it just felt a bit hollow. I think it's the crazy amount of moons (800 or so, I think), most of which are more of a drag than fun to discover.
   I prefer the days of having fewer hidden items, thus making their discovery more significant and enjoyable. I don't have the time or interest to play through bloated collectathons comprehensively.
   Zelda also suffered from this, but to a lesser degree (excluding the Korok seeds). Also, it felt more appropriate in a game like BOTW. Among the two, BOTW was the much better game, and the one I still own and enjoy turning on every once in a while just to marvel at its world.
   With BOTW, considering Nintendo intends to keep using the same free-roaming design, there is a clear path to go: more enemy variety, actual dungeons, less powers given from the get-go, better boss battles, etc., but I am not sure what they should do with the next Mario. It seems free-roaming is not the way forward for platformers, but we must await icy's Super Mario 64 review to understand why...

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