Everyone’s favorite mustachioed plumber has ventured far beyond the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach over the years, traversing lava-covered landscapes, haunted mansions and scorching deserts. But his next full-fledged adventure, dubbed Super Mario Odyssey and due on the Nintendo Switch October 27, will be unlike any yet seen in several ways.
For starters, it’s the first open-world Mario series installment since Super Mario Sunshine arrived on the GameCube in 2002. What’s more, Mario has a completely new sidekick named Cappy. The iconic red hat Mario usually dons throughout his quests has come to life in Nintendo’s latest action-adventure, helping players solve puzzles and take down enemies.
I had a chance to put the game through its paces at a recent hands-on demo, and here’s what I learned.
Cappy is helpful for more than clobbering foes
Yes, Cappy’s biggest job is helping Mario defeat enemies and gain their powers. Hurling Cappy at Bullet Bill, for example, temporarily transforms Mario into a menacing super-sized flying bullet. But Cappy helps Mario maneuver around stages as well: Holding a button when throwing Cappy suspends him in midair, turning him into a platform Mario can jump on to get a boost — bound to come in handy when getting to hard-to-reach items or platforms.
You can steer Cappy when throwing him
By tilting the Switch’s Joy-Con motion controllers when throwing Cappy, you can alter his path, tilting him from his default trajectory to tag additional objects or enemies, say knocking off a few extra Goombas.
Exploration is at the heart of Super Mario Odyssey
The classic goal in a Mario game is to race to the end of a course before the timer runs out. Not so with Odyssey: the worlds you encounter beckons without timetables, waiting to be explored. Players won’t get booted from a world after meeting its prime objective, which in Odyssey involves collecting tokens called Power Moons that fuel Mario’s airship.
Multiplayer will be a Mario-Cappy team-building exercise
Play Super Mario Odyssey with another person, and one player controls Mario while the other maneuvers his magical cap. This incentivizes players to cooperate strategically: one player navigates through the course, while the other takes the lead in enemy battles. That’s a departure from the way multiplayer mode worked in Super Mario 3D World or New Super Mario Bros., where players would work alongside each other to get through levels. (I wasn’t able to test this mode personally during my demo, but Nintendo representatives shared those details.)
The worlds are brimming with secrets
Players aren’t kicked out of a level after recovering its Power Moons because the moons are a fraction of all the activities — some overt, plenty more cleverly concealed — that Nintendo’s baked in. Players are encouraged to talk to the characters they encounter in each world, too, as these denizens will sometimes provide clues that can help solve puzzles or spawn new side quests.
Gold coins work totally different
Collecting 100 gold coins usually gives Mario an extra life, but that’s changed in Odyssey. Gold coins now represent your life force, thus each time you’re hit by an enemy or fall too far, you’ll lose some gold coins. When your stash depletes, it’s game over. Not to be confused with gold coins, each world will have its own currency for purchasing in-game items like new outfits. But note that these currencies are unique per world, so you won’t be able to spend them elsewhere.
Interacting with everything is essential
Chucking Cappy at anything from obvious targets to mundane objects yields surprises of all sorts. Tag a fire hydrant, for example, and it might dispense gold coins, while hitting an electrical cable will transform Mario into electricity, so that he can travel through the cabling to access otherwise unreachable areas.
Don’t miss the bird’s-eye map views
Binoculars are dispersed throughout courses and offer holistic glimpses of the terrain, hoisting your view sky-high — very helpful for scouting objectives and strategizing routes.