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Super Mario Odyssey review: worlds of discovery, nostalgia

Longtime Mario fans will enjoy the historical hints

Longtime Mario fans will enjoy the historical hints in Super Mario Odyssey. Credit: Nintendo of America

Super Mario Odyssey is more of a structural sequel, reacquainting gamers with the rambunctious, free-form 3-D play coined in Super Mario 64, but in a much bigger way than we’ve seen before.

Odyssey is a love letter to that Nintendo 64 classic, with tips of the hat and references littered liberally throughout. It also brings back the look and play of Mario’s first 8-bit adventure for a variety of wonderful challenges. These connections to the past produce a nostalgic charm that is always present and worthy of a smile, but Mario’s history doesn’t dominate this experience — it just makes it more meaningful for longtime fans. A number of the callbacks are clever, fun and bigger than you’d expect.

Performing a triple-jump maneuver is a clear reference to the 64-bit heritage, as the animations and timing are nearly identical, but the historical elements are just the tip of the iceberg in what is easily Mario’s biggest and most adventurous game to date.

The entire experience centers on the concept of discovery. Odyssey lets players plot their own course through over a dozen sizable worlds. The open-ended design works well, as destinations and secrets are almost always just a jump away.

The bulk of the experience is becoming a treasure hunter to find over 800 moons — a staggering number of collectibles.

Each environment’s visual style is a refreshing change from the last, ranging from element-based regions to a kingdom made almost entirely out of food. The water-based are the weakest of the bunch. Swimming has always been a little unwieldy in Mario games, and this aspect of the game lags behind the rest of the experience, feeling somewhat archaic.

Quibbles aside, Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute delight, and another Switch release that will have Nintendo fans debating which 3-D Mario game is the best of them all.

— Tribune News Service

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