Note: Nintendo’s newest Super Mario game is a sprawling sandbox-style 3D adventure that thrives on the element of surprise, so we’ll try not to ruin too much of the actual gameplay, but be warned that there are spoilers ahead.
Here’s the one thing to know about Super Mario Odyssey: You will never know everything about Super Mario Odyssey.
The basic premise of Odyssey is that perennial Super Mario antagonist Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach in a bid to marry her, so Mario globe-trots to save her, visiting various kingdoms, like the desert-style Sand Kingdom or beach resort Seaside Kingdom, collecting Power Moons to fuel his airship, The Odyssey.
Where Odyssey truly wows is with the introduction of pseudo-sidekick Cappy (literally his hat), which allows Mario to take control of a myriad of objects and enemies, like the enormous T. Rex, to wee goombas and even — spoiler alert! — Bowser himself. There’s also a neat two-player option that allows a friend to take control of Cappy by using the second joy-con.
Odyssey is chock-full of Easter eggs that will make any Mario diehard salivate, like hidden side-scrawler entryways that take the game 2D, or familiar faces hidden atop famed castles — looking at you, N64 fans. With that said, Odyssey is also, as Mario games tend to be, a good entry point for newcomers learning the basics of an open-world free-for-all. There’s even an Assist Mode that guides a player through locations and can be quickly activated or deactivated.
The variety of moves Mario has in this game far surpasses what we’ve seen before in the franchise’s history. There’s even a whole action guide in the pause menu to help get you acquainted with old standards like ground pound and wall jump to newbies like homing cap throw and cap jump. (It’s actually sometimes better to disconnect the joy-cons from the console to achieve some of these, but not totally necessary.) However, Mario’s new moves can occasionally be unnecessarily complicated. The mechanics of becoming a Bullet Bill, for example, are sometimes confusing, with movement often being the exact opposite of what you’d expect, leading to frequent death. (A small gripe in an otherwise stellar game.)
However, the positive side of death in this game is that you don’t get bounced from the level, per se. You’re sent back to the last checkpoint with a few less coins, so be sure to keep stocking up on that gold because they’re actually important for once! You also don’t get bounced from a level once you score a Power Moon, allowing a player to continue on until they’ve decided to move on from each Kingdom — if you have enough Power Moons to power up your ship, that is.
The breath of Odyssey is almost delightfully overwhelming at times when you step back and look at the game as a whole. But on a micro level, it’s the little things in the game that are most exciting: Sometimes the game is interactive with the senses, by sound or by touch. Sometimes you discover a mini game hidden in recesses you only accidentally discovered. Sometimes turning around in a long hallway pays off. Sometimes throwing your hat at just about anything will cause something to happen. Sometimes the Power Moon counter lies and more awaits you. Sometimes putting on a different costume geared to the kingdom you’re in pays off in surprising ways — yes, you can even drop down to your skivvies.
Sometimes you’ll stand on a giant silver box and wonder what the hell to do before realizing you can’t do that yet. Honestly, sometimes you’ll wonder if you could even actually finish the game with the sheer amount of activities they’ve jammed into it. Seriously, once you actually beat Bowser, there is still so much more game to play, making it reminiscent of Nintendo’s last premier open-world adventures Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy. And that’s not bad company to be in — not one bit.
Super Mario Odyssey will be available Oct. 27 on Nintendo Switch.