Friday, October 05, 2018

(Re-)Review Day: Super Mario Odyssey

I first gave this game a C- after playing for several hours and not finding much to draw me back to it. After 6 months without turning on the Switch, I recently dusted it off and gave it another shot. One key difference between my original abandoned attempt and now is that I can play for longer periods (sometimes an hour at a time) and on a big TV screen rather than the portable screen. Back at Christmas time, I was squeezing in games while Maia barely napped for 10 - 20 minutes at a time (just narrowly long enough to get through the interminable load screens and reminders to use motion controls) while walking around quiet corners of the house.

I appreciate this game much more on the big screen, but it's still hindered by flaws that grow more apparent as the series progresses:

  • Moon fatigue is real -- there are too many moons to collect. Many are just sitting out in the open as if the designers were saying "This is the laziest possible way we could think of to draw the game out longer". There are 999 moons, over a hundred of which are simply bought in stores and require boring coin farming to afford. I would have preferred a total in the 100 - 200 range, where each one is uniquely challenging and provides some satisfaction and achievement.

  • The camera has greatly regressed, resulting in more missed jumps or deaths caused by poor camera angles than mistakes. Super Mario Galaxy was the high point for 3D camera work that never got in the way and made 3D jumping puzzles as minimally frustrating as possible.

  • Mario now has too many different moves, whose controls are poorly explained and often interfere with each other. Precision movement can be a huge frustration when different moves (especially the not-so-optional "optional" motion controls) interact incorrectly. Some designer seriously thought that binding "jump" to "shake the controller" was a brilliant idea.

Super Mario Odyssey misses the mark on the right level of frustration to build into a game. Maybe in middle school when there was nothing else to do, I would have loved the challenge of dying 20 times on a single moon (mostly from "helpful" camera movement, random control issues, lava, or horribly controlled vehicles) but I just don't have time for that anymore. Nowadays, I want to win a game because I'm good at it, not die a lot because of random elements outside my control.

On the positive side, there is a solid amount of varied game content (filler moons notwithstanding), you can finally skip cutscenes, and the soundtrack is great (similar to Galaxy's, the one I own the CD for). In spite of its flaws, I did play this game for about 50 hours and got to about 809 moons before moving on, so it definitely does something right. I guess that just makes me more disappointed that it could have been so much better with a few different design choices.

Final Grade: B-, engaging and by no means a BAD game, but too much frustration and tedium involved

The 57 moons I skipped (because foot-racing takes too long to retry over and over, and no one wants to fight through the horrible boss fights again)

  • Cascade Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Wooded Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Lake Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Lost Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Lost Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Metro Kingdom: Jump Rope Genius
  • Metro Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Metro Kingdom: RC Car Champ
  • Metro Kingdom: Metro Kingdom Master Cup
  • Snow Kingdom: Snowline Circuit Class S
  • Snow Kingdom: Dashing Over Cold Water!
  • Snow Kingdom: Dashing Above and Beyond!
  • Snow Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Snow Kingdom: Iceburn Circuit Class A
  • Snow Kingdom: Iceburn Circuit Class S
  • Seaside Kingdom: Beach Volleyball: Hero of the Beach!
  • Seaside Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Seaside Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Luncheon Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Luncheon Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Bowser's Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Bowser's Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Moon Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Mushroom Kingdom: All 6 Boss Re-Fights and 3 Achievement Moons
  • Dark Side: All 24 Moons, because the world starts with a Boss Re-Fight that I don't want to go through again
  • Darker Side: Final Moon because the controls keep knocking me into the lava

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