Mario has gotten up to some weird shenanigans in his 30 year existence. He's been a doctor, Olympic athlete and graffiti removal expert, but none of those dalliances will ever rival the sheer madness of Super Mario Odyssey.
In this all-new adventure your favourite plumber can be a flagpole, a fire hydrant and a dinosaur. And that's just what we've seen so far of this Switch game’s delirious charms. An open world platformer that's every bit as ambitious as Zelda: Breath of the Wild, we really can't wait to play it in full when it hits stores in just a month's time.
Not got a Switch yet? This could be all the excuse you need.
So you're probably wondering how the hell a dungaree-revivalist can assume the form of a dinosaur? Through the help of a magic, eyeballed hat called Cappy, of course. As if there would be any other answer.
Just fling Cappy at your chosen object, inanimate or not, and there's a fair old chance Mario’s consciousness will subsume it. In a totally non-creepy way. Every controllable object gets a Mario-style hat, eyes and moustache, and in the brief time we spent with Odyssey this visage rarely proved anything thing less than hilarious.
There is a point to this incongruous approach to exploration, and it’s to make Mario seem new again. As much as we’ve never seen Nintendo’s greatest creation roam around on an enormous scale before, you could pretty much imagine how that might go were this game set in Mushroom Kingdom again. Instead you’re tasked with traversing skyscrapers of New Donk City or uncovering the desert sprawl of the Sand Kingdom, and initially have no idea how to interact with their many landmarks and citizens.
The only way to make sense of it all? Fling your hat at everything that moves and plenty that doesn’t. With this simple mechanic the old rules of Mario have been totally rewritten, just as Breath of the Wild tossed aside a load of old Zelda conventions without a second thought. Even if Odyssey turns out to be more Super Mario Sunshine than Galaxy, you still have to admire its chutzpah.
While Cappy is by far most noticeable introduction to Odyssey there’s plenty more about it that’s different. Mushrooms are no longer used to power-up your health, costumes can be bought with the coins you collect and you quests are handed to you by various denizens of the game. Also, did we mention the dinosaur thing? It’s kind of a big deal.
Crucially, there’s still enough of the old Mario games in Odyssey to ensure you’re not completely bamboozled by it. Anyone who’s played his recent 3D World or Galaxy outings will be familiar with both his controls and impossibly acrobatic move-set. That’s not to say Princess Peach’s protector doesn’t have a few new tricks up his sleeve. He can now roll into a ball and spin along a level, as well as use Cappy to traverse across chasms and slay Goombas for good measure.
Odyssey gives you all the means rule supreme over its many worlds, however unfamiliar they may seem at first. And that’s what makes its many challenges fun, at least from what we’ve played so far.