It's pretty hard to pass up more opportunities to play Super Mario Odyssey - even though its release is now very close indeed.
When Nintendo dropped us a line to ask if we fancied seeing a little more of Super Mario Odyssey, there was only one possible answer - and so here we are, a few weeks after that hands-on opportunity, and I've got some fresh impressions for you and some lovely new video to go along with those thoughts.
Honestly, my thoughts about the new content shown to us is mostly about the layout, design and style of the worlds Super Mario Odyssey has on offer. I've written about how I feel about how Mario Odyssey controls in general twice before - once at E3 and once with video a little while afterwards - and to say too much on the game in general would simply repeat my comments from there. Here's the short version: Odyssey is controls in a slick, satisfying manner that really feels brilliant when platforming. This is tight-controlling 3D Mario at its absolute best, and the game reaffirms something I've believed for a while: the open structure 3D Mario of 64 and Sunshine is the better form of Mario in 3D.
We've entered an interesting time now where Nintendo has realized that the two can coexist with things like New Super Mario Bros and there can even be something of a cross-over with things like 3D World, but your flagship 3D Mario game should be like this - Odyssey has the right idea.
Anyway, let's talk about the new stuff we saw. Nintendo let us play three new Kingdoms, two of which I've included a snippet of in the new gameplay video above. Some of this was covered in the Nintendo Direct, but how about some hands-on impressions, eh? Here are the new worlds...
This location is the home of Cappy, Mario's new hat friend with the power of possession. The section of this level I got to play acted as something of a tutorial, with Mario meeting Cappy and the player learning about his abilities. There are some NPCs around and the plot gets laid out - and Bowser and his wedding planning minions have clearly caused some ruckus here.
Mario helps out the terrified caps by battling off some of Bowser's bad guy buddies, but this Kingdom was still really straightforward (and I skip it in the video) because it really is just a tutorial. With that said, one gets the impression that the structure of Mario Odyssey is such that you'll probably return here for a more open look at this level later on - more on that later.
The Luncheon Kingdom was something of a stand-out from trailers - a colorful land where everything around looks like food, albeit heavily stylized versions of it. This level featured a good mix of puzzles, a sort of town area, and lots of things that you can unlock by destroying things to open doors and so on. For example, you can possess a Hammer Brother Koopa and use their hammers (in this level, frying pans) to blast away blocks of cheese blocking your path to new areas.
This level also gives a bit of a glimpse at how possession can take weird forms in this game: at one point you encounter a slab of meat atop a mountain. If you possess it you can then hammer A to make the meat jiggle, and if you do enough of this a giant bird will come and pick you up for lunch, taking you to a new area, a platforming challenge and an eventual reward. This land features a lot of lava, and you can possess the classic Mario lava blobs to swim around in it.
Hidden away in this level is a Mario 64 style painting of another world you'll visit later in the game. Nintendo doesn't want us to spoil this new world, but it's a cool little well-hidden bonus for those who explore deeply - and it seems very much like Mario Odyssey will often provide you with glimpses of what's to come in future worlds through nods like this - thus why I think the tutorial is likely a tease for a more fully-featured Cap Kingdom.
The town area features not just the stores for buying Mario costumes and the like (there is a chef's outfit, of course), but also features a lot of NPCs (who are living, sentient kitchen utensils because of course) to chat to who can offer up quests and the like. It seems like often levels will adjust based on what's going on with NPCs, something which was also a bit of a theme in Mario Sunshine.
The Seaside Kingdom feels like far more of a traditional Mario world than the Luncheon Kingdom, with a lot of the tropes you'd expect from your typical water and beach-based level in a platformer. This world is being terrorized by a boss, and if you go around completing the initial tasks presented to you that'll eventually coax the boss down for a fight.
When the boss is defeated the NPCs around the Seaside Kingdom will relax a little, letting loose their dogs(!) and chilling out enough for things like games of volleyball. Basically, by completing one of the major objectives in this level more areas and activities here will open up, an encouraging thing to see.
Mario Sunshine is a divisive game (listen: I'm sorry, but if you ask me it's a mess) but its core concept gets another little run-out in this world thanks to Octopus creatures that Mario can possess with Cappy.
These creatures can shoot a limited amount of water either aimed by you or directly down to shoot themselves in the air - and a combination of the two can be used to effectively fly for a limited time. Touching water 'reloads' the octopus, too. This is mainly used to defeat the boss, but there's even a little area of the map where you use the water spray to blast away lava that feels very Sunshine-esque. It controls better than that game, mercifully.
Aside from the big boss encounter and the tasks leading up to it this appropriately feels like a more relaxing level, however - it's a place where you can explore in a leisurely fashion without too many threatening enemies hassling you - and the ability to possess fish enemies makes travelling around underwater a relaxing breeze. The cap and clothes stores on this level are mobile, operating off the back of roaming dinosaur sea creatures that call back to Mario 64's Dorrie.
This one was without a doubt my favourite level of the day. Oh - and there's a dog. He'll catch your cap if you throw it, and is an ideal companion for the game's newly revealed photo mode. Game of the year?