It’s fair to say that Super Mario Odyssey is really mixing up the traditional Super Mario gameplay. Not only is it the first 3D Super Mario title since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in 2010, it also is the first to really mix up the long-tested Super Mario gameplay and really make the series feel fresh, with just a touch of old school Mario magic mixed in. And our Super Mario Odyssey preview at E3 only served to reaffirm that this is a truly special game.
As you’ll no doubt have seen, Super Mario Odyssey brings Mario’s cap to life in the form of a character called Cappy. He’s actually a white top hat disguised as Mario’s classic baker’s cap, but he gives Mario a set of new moves that can be controlled using motion controls with the Switch’s Joy-Cons. For example, you can flick them to the sides to spin Cappy around Mario for a circular attack, or flick them forward to send Cappy off ahead of you to take control of anything it hits.
The transform skill lets you turn into classic Super Mario enemies, including Goombas, which even gain Mario's hat and trademark 'tache. We never quite knew how much fun becoming a Bullet Bill could be until we were soaring across chasms, collecting rings, exploding ourselves into other Bullet Bills and sparkling blocks revealing the collectables within. You can also become things that are just a little bit weirder too, including electricity itself, which lets you zip up electricity cables to reach new heights, or tourist-style viewfinders that flings Cappy into the style for an aerial view of the map.
But it's also a little frustrating, as you can't just take control of anything and you won't know what you can become unless you fling Cappy at it. Limiting this brand new power does diminish it somewhat, as it's quite obviously designed to be used only when a puzzle requires it, rather than at will or just for the fun of it. However, there is the fact you will be able to become a mustachioed dinosaur, frog and certain types of Goomba, so we're more than prepared to dismiss those niggles.
Of course, it's not all about transforming. Cappy's skills are a great way to take out enemies from afar, or when you're a bit surrounded. You've still got your classic Mario jump of course, but it's much harder to position in a 3D game.
There are moments when it does feel like a more traditional Super Mario game, with a fantastic section of Metro Town dedicated to classic 2D Super Mario, complete with pixel art style. It's just a way to transition from one platform to another a few times, but it's a glorious moment in an already glorious game.
Unfortunately, our experience of the game in our E3 Super Mario Odyssey preview was limited to just 10 minutes on a strict reset timer, (which was even more saddening that it sounds). Thankfully, we were able to restart that 10 minute timer several times to give us a chance to properly explore each of the two zones of the demo. There was the aforementioned Metro Town, which is an urban area that we assume is part of New Donk City. We were tasked with meeting with the Town Mayor, who is looking to revitalise the town by putting on a festival for which you'll need to find the musicians.
The strange thing about Metro Town it that you find out Mario is absolutely tiny compared to the "normal" human, which actually just look rather freakish comparatively to our cartoonish, chubby childhood friend. The open world is littered with pipes to take you to dedicated platforming sections, that are more akin with traditional Super Mario antics, but there's also plenty to discover in the main hubs – including clothes shop to deck Mario out with some new threads like a poncho, pinstripe suit or a fedora.
The second hub world we explored was Desert Town, which is a locale you've seen in previous Super Mario Odyssey trailers with the Day of the Dead-themed residents. It's far more bright and colourful than Metro Town, although the main shanty town had less to explore than the urban paradise. It's homes were full of mini-games though, which suggests there's going to be multiple ways to pick up Moons, which are the main collectibles in Super Mario Odyssey.
We particularly love the section where you've got to discover hidden parts of a level by becoming a dinky little Easter Island statue, with special shades that can see secret areas. Just look how awesome he looks:
Is Super Mario Odyssey any good?
Although our Super Mario Odyssey preview wasn't as extensive as we'd have hoped – could we ever had had enough? – there's no doubt this going to be one special game. The Nintendo Switch's first year is going to be bookended by the five star Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the hopefully equally five star Super Mario Odyssey.
From what we've seen so far, this is a game that's full of charm (you just wait for the abundance of adorable Mario idling animations), things to do and manages to perfectly blend classic Super Mario gameplay with brand new mechanics that still manage to feel old-school.
Mario's next 3D adventure is shaping up to be his best yet.
Super Mario Odyssey is coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch on October 27, 2017.