Nintendo has made an absolutely fascinating game series where you play a board game, some mini-games, and become mortal enemies with all of your friends. It’s called Mario Party and the level with which you can fuck over players is akin to that of Munchkin or Monopoly. Unlike the latter, Super Mario Party doesn’t take 6 hours to finish. This series has had 10 entries in its main console series, and several spinoffs on other devices. But where do you go from there? Call it Mario Party 11? No. You call it SUPER. Why? Because the Switch is the greatest console ever made and it deserves the upgraded name. I’m like 70% serious here.
This looks exactly like Mario Party is supposed to look like. The quality isn’t in the graphical fidelity, but how fun they can make it. And that includes animations. Seeing all of your favorite Mario characters getting, angry, sad, frustrated, and determined are a delight. It is amazing how it mocks real life. When a play gets a star, their avatar makes boasting gesture while the other three get frustrated. Each board on the main game has its very own individual look that stands out. Even the first board, which is mostly just a bunch of grey blocks. But once you get to the board that has four islands, the graphic variety really shines.
And now, here’s the verbatim from the game’s intro cinematic:
TEXT: One day, trouble was brewing between Mario and his good friends. Each claimed to be the Super Star, the worthiest hero in all the land. Mario suggested having a party to decide, a time-honored tradition. Everyone agreed – a proper party would surely reveal the true Super Stardom.
TOAD: What do you say, Toadette?
TOADETTE: I say this time we’re going to find out what being a Super Star REALLY means!
TOAD: You can trust us to be fair and impartial judges! Give us time to set up and we can get st-
???: Aren’t you forgetting something?
BOWSER: Maybe NONE of you are the Super Star! Maybe it’s one of us instead. I brought an extra judge, too! I want you keeping an eye on things too! You know, so it’s all fair and impartial.
KAMEK: If you say so! But be careful what you wish for, Keeheehee!
TOAD: Well, at least Kamek will make setting up easy! This should only take a minute!
TOADETTE: Is everybody else as excited as I am? I DOUBT IT!
KAMEK: Wait until you see what my genius has wrought!
-gates open, everyone claps-
TOAD: Let’s party!
I laughed. I cried. I wet myself a bit. This is the most moving, emotional, satisfying plot I have ever experienced in my life. Nothing will ever top this. This is what peak performance looks li- PFFFT okay it’s dumb. But it’s Mario dumb. And it’s Mario Party. Do you even NEED an excuse to play? NO. It’s here for the aforementioned fighting among friends.
It’s fine, whatever. It’s missing some of the essential noises that made other Mario Parties so jubilant. The win music just isn’t as engaging as it should be. Everything feels like it’s been toned down a bit. It’s just okay, it does what its sets out to do, but you can’t help but feel something is missing here. Just think about all the little jingles you’d hear from Mario Party 1-3. You remember them note for note, right? The same can’t be said here. The music is on cruise control. It’s there and it’s functional, but it could be better.
Mario party has had many iterations in varieties and how the the rules worked. At one point they thought it was a good idea to have all 4 players riding in a car together. But SMP fixes that by going back to basics. This is the version of the game you loved and admired as a kid and as a college freshman. That feel you got when you found an old N64 and controllers for everyone? You played it until the late hours of the morning with the people in your dorm? That feeling is back. You face off as your favorite character in 4 boards (which isn’t enough but is a good start). Every character has a new gimmick in the form of custom dice. Every turn, you can roll your standard D6 or you can roll a special die made for each individual character. For instance, Shy Guy’s custom dice options are 0, 4, 4, 4, 4, and 4. Fun! Bowser has a 10 space side on his dice but you could also move zero spaces and lose 3 coins. It’s a new and interesting twist to the game mechanics.
The game also adds the ally ability where you can call in other characters to assist you. Once you do that, you have the option to roll their custom dice as well as your own. Not only that but every ally you have will roll a D2 to add either 1 or 2 spaces to your roll. So if you have, say, three allies on the board with you, you could roll your dice. And your allies? All 3 of them roll their own D2 so you could get anywhere from 3-6 additional spaces. Either way, this is still the maddening, frustrating, fun game you know and love, with all new minigames and variations on your favorites to boot. If you miss the good ol’ days of Mario Party, this is absolutely the best time to jump back in.
It’s hard not to have fun when it comes to this game. Maybe if you played by yourself, you would have a bad time. It’s understandable that most games should be able to stand on their own merits for some single player action. But, if you’re really playing a PARTY game by yourself, what are you doing? You don’t even need friends to play it, just find some acquaintances to play. Or random people on the street. Or with your family (even if you Mom has absolutely no idea how controllers work and needs to be constantly instructed on what buttons to press. Damn it mom, the okay button is on the right, and the L+R buttons are on top! Why is this so hard, Mom?). No matter what you do, you are bound to have a blast. Even if some of the minigames are blatantly unfair.
I have yet to think of a complaint about this game.
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker is a delightful puzzle adventure game based on the adventures of d-list Super Mario mainstay, Toad. This is possibly the first time he’s had his own spotlight. It was published and developed by Nintendo and originally released for the WiiU in 2014 and has since gotten a brand new outing on the Switch. Portability of the game is a huge enhancement, as the touch screen options are more intuitive than ever. The bite-sized levels are also great for pick up and play whenever you feel like playing it. I’ve not finished the game but there’s little more that can be done to change my mind, and you all may find it agreeable.
The game is divided into a series of tiny, neatly designed levels that encourage you to explore every nook and cranny. The graphical style is exactly in form with the current visual design of 3D Mario titles and the performance quality on the switch is solid and unflinching. Not once did I encounter a stutter or a slowdown, the game runs flawlessly and the loading times are practically nonexistent. All the individual levels are also very appealing, as no two levels look alike (and there’s roughly 70 of them) and they are always inviting and warm looking. The memorable designs and the quality of the skyboxes are a great addition as well.
You find a star. Then a bird steals a star and kidnaps Toadette. Then, you as Captain Toad must chase the bird down while collecting diamonds for unexplained reasons. Once you defeat the bird, the game drops a great fakeout on you, rolling the credits over what may have been quite the cakewalk, only for you to find out that a much harder second episode awaits you. It mixes things up a notch the second time through. You find a star. Then a bird steals the star and kidnaps Captain Toad. Then, you as Toadette must chase the bird down while collecting diamonds for unexplained reasons. You don’t have to fight the bird the second time; instead, the game branches off for the third episode and you jump back and forth between Captain Toad and Toadette. What more could you ask for?
You would think the absolutely obnoxious train flute theme song would get on your nerves, and yet it does not. It merely adds to the charm of the game. There’s not a lot to pick apart here. It’s a good soundtrack and very fitting of that “Mario” mood. There’s not much in the way of talking other than the occasional mumblings of Captain Toad and Toadette. The sound FX in this game are anywhere from new sounds to old ones from other Nintendo games.
Mario games like these get straight to the point, have you playing quickly, and keep you engaged with constant rewards for progress. Every level has 3 things to achieve; finding 3 diamonds, completing a bonus challenge, then playing a hide and seek challenge where you have to hunt down an 8-bit Toad sticker hidden in the map and tap it on the touchscreen. There were many instances where I didn’t move on to the next level because the challenge of either finding stuff I missed or doing the goals made the game that much more fun. Super Mario Odyssey showed off that Nintendo can put loads and loads of features into relatively small environments, and that is on display here too. No nook or cranny goes unwasted in these very small but very well made maps.
This game was just spectacular in its delivery. Load times are unfathomably short and there are no bugs. It’s hard to hate on this game, it’s just so simple and easy to pick. It has that Nintendo charm that went missing earlier this year with the new Kirby game. This game is a perfect Switch title, the instant access to play just a quick level gives you plenty of opportunities to stop whatever it is you’re doing just to play a level or two.
In fact, I did that just now. I stopped to play it a bit and left feeling happy. Now, this game may not be for everyone, from an objective standpoint, the game is perfect. Now, they could have done more and added a ton of new levels instead of just 4, but who knows, maybe it’s hard to make the levels because they are so well-crafted. Still, if my only complaint is that there needs to be more, that’s really not a flaw. $40 is a decent asking price, but it may be too much if you’re looking for a big drawn out adventure. Now that this is out of the way, the question remains, are when are we gonna get the Switch version of Super Mario Maker.
Mario is back, and he’s got a funky cap! Super Mario Odyssey is the billionth(*approximate) Mario game developed and published by Nintendo. In it, Mario finds himself once again trying to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser, this time framed as a globetrotting adventure as you chase his airship with your very own hot air balloon and mobile home, the ‘Odyssey.’ It’s Mario for sure, but just how much ‘Mario’ did the game accomplish in this newer age of games?
The visuals are something to behold. Nintendo proves once again that raw power isn’t everything, with area after area oozing with color and jubilant design choices. Every time you enter a new Kingdom, it’s a whole new adventure of exploring just for the sake of seeing everything. It is true that the Metro Kingdom AKA New Donk City is the least graphically impressive area in the game, but you can pretty much blame that on being the only level that is trying to create a real-life appearance. As soon as you leave that kingdom you’re in for a visual treat, as level after level continue to deliver on unique palettes and radically different NPC designs. Somehow all these different areas keep everything together and exude that quintessential “MARIO” feel without ever missing a beat. Even the aforementioned Metro has an event that more than makes up for the “at odds” design, with a crazy blast of throwbacks and nods that all look spectacular.
Oh for f*ck’s sake, Mario! …okay but really. Peach gets kidnapped again and this time Bowser is trying to marry her, so he travels across the world to steal things he needs for the wedding. It’s stand operating procedure for Mario. But this time he meets Cappy, a talking transforming hat that just so happens to also have issues with Bowser. See, Bowser kidnapped his sister, who is Peach’s marriage tiara. But even with the additional context, that’s not what drives you forward in this game. It’s the power moons. This game is constantly rewarding you as a player by doing various odds and ends, all to collect more of these moons to power your airship. You can find a bunch from fighting bosses and following the mainline “quest” for each kingdom, but so many more can be found for just doing various things. The game keeps you playing because you will want to collect all those power moons, and although you only need around 150 to get to the “final level”, there’s still more than 400+ to collect, some only unlocking after you beat the game. Also, never has an ending been so satisfying in a Mario game. I laughed so hard I cried at some of the antics you get up to during the game’s ending moments.
Gotta love a game that builds up to having a musical number. “Jump Up, Super Star!” is an amazing little Jazz that features about 2/3s into the game, and in some of the game’s trailers and promo content. It’s a good song on its own and the lyrics are written on the interior of the box art, which was a nice touch for the physical copy. It’s even better when you reach the level where you have to work to get a festival going and when the song does finally hit, you play one of the most entertaining and fun levels you’ll ever encounter. The song gets stuck and my head, and it’s not even the best one. While only a couple songs are a bit on the dry side, most are bombastic and motivational. Not to mention they are usually a perfect match for the level you’re on. The game’s final level, once again, has a moment with an unexpected vocal track, but if I shared any more it would move into spoiler territory. Besides that, the audio all sounds like Mario is supposed to sound. The only sound effect I noticed was that the “death” jingle didn’t feel as authentic as the rest of the game did.
Mario has all his acrobatic skills and has never controlled better than he has here in Odyssey. A lot less focus is put on jumping on the heads of enemies though, and you don’t throw punches as you did in Mario 64 and others. Instead of offensive capabilities, most of the gameplay revolves around throwing your hat/companion Cappy at creatures so you can take control of them to solve the many mini puzzles and challenges you face throughout the game. Each map was designed perfectly and uses every inch of space to its maximum potential. You’ll revisit worlds repeatedly, and every time you do you’ll find more hidden coins, power moons, and challenges. It is guaranteed that way after the game ends, you’ll find more to do, as the game actively encourages it. As stated earlier, acquiring the moons is the games central mechanic, and it is constantly rewarding you with them for exploring and finding new challenges. You won’t be done with the game once you’ve defeated Bowser, you’ll be done when you’ve decided you have had enough. That might not be for a long while though.
I’ve sort of illustrated what makes this game so much fun in all the other categories. Nothing in the game feels too hard or poorly implemented. The lives system has been supplanted with losing coins when you die. Collecting coins and specialty coins serves an actual purpose in the game too. Each level has regular coins, and then its own individual currency, which you can spend in their stores to buy an extra heart, a moon, 10 moons (really), or any one of many many MANY COSTUMES. That part is even better. All the costumes are mostly cosmetic, save for one special quirk per level, and collecting the costumes is fun all on its own. After beating the game, I spent most of my time as Mario decked out in a pinstripe suit with its accompanying fedora from New Donk City. But if that’s not your style, you can always dress Mario up as, and not limited to: a chef, a caveman, a pirate, a snorkeler, an aviator, an Eskimo, a ‘murica, and of course, his all white wedding getup. So many outfits, so little time. The more power moons you find, the more outfits you can buy with your regular coins. Believe me, it keeps you going.
Super Mario Odyssey is the final sign that Nintendo has truly returned to the forefront of mainstream gaming. The Nintendo Switch is an amazing console that’s actually getting support from third party developers and fantastic games from the creative minds at Nintendo HQ. Just think, Mario had TWO amazing games just this year and Ubisoft made one of them. It’s unreal! But this game is the quintessential 3D Mario experience, the best one to come out since Super Mario Galaxy, and it’s been a long time since that game graced us. A must-have for Switch owners, don’t miss it!