Let’s Chat: A Long-Overdue Super Mario Odyssey Review

– This article was originally published on 30th April 2018; it is being updated and archived here as part of the newly-named Let’s Chat series –

It only took about 6 months, but I did it, everyone – after weeks of fellow Let’s Chat voice Ashley Harrison telling me to, I have finished the main story of Nintendo Switch title Super Mario Odyssey. So, now, it’s time for our first joint-review of the game, which will cover our thoughts on the game, how it compares to previous 3D Mario games, the DLC, and each of us giving the game a score. I hope you enjoy!


William Robinson: You thought the day would never come. But after roughly half a year, I finally got around to finishing Super Mario Odyssey (the story, at least)! I think I should take up speedrunning… Jokes aside, this Let’s Chat is going to be our first joint review, as we discuss and likely disagree on the game. To start with, then – where are you now in the game, and what were your thoughts as that awesome soundtrack played to the end credits?

Ashley Harrison: I’ve finished the game completely, with 999 Moons and every single costume unlocked, bar the new ones that they’ve added recently. Gonna go on to get those at some point, as well as trying to finally get this damn jump rope challenge Moon. When I’d gotten to the point you are now, my thoughts were that I had justified spending the £350 I spent on my Switch bundle, but felt that I wanted more because whilst there were a ton of moons to collect, I was shocked at just how few levels there were.

WR: Woah, you’ve managed to 100% it? I didn’t know that, that’s impressive. Yeah – the game is split up into Kingdoms, which are all large-ish open areas reminiscent of Super Mario 64 levels, with Moons hidden everywhere for different tasks. If you’re just blasting through the main story, though, each Kingdom is pretty brief. It took me around 10-15 hours to get to the final encounter with Bowser. Looking at the statistics afterwards, though, it’s almost unbelievable how many Moons are supposedly in each Kingdom!

AH: Yeah, it’s ridiculous how many Moons there are in each Kingdom. I just wish there were fewer Moons per Kingdom, and more Kingdoms to make up for the “loss” of Moons.

WR: I’m actually the opposite. I felt the Kingdoms felt too bite-size, and could’ve felt bigger and taken longer to get through. It all felt a little fast-paced for me. However, I was undeniably enjoying the game as I played. There is a certain magic to the design and feel of Odyssey that only 3D Mario games seem to have. The capture mechanic, where throwing companion Cappy at enemies lets Mario basically possess them, only helped that; I was surprised at just how many different forms Mario could take.

AH: It’s without a doubt my favourite Mario game of all time, and the capture mechanic is a major part of that. It’s something I wasn’t too sure on when it was first announced, but once I’d played Odyssey, I fell in love with it. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a T-Rex in a Mario game?

WR: Which were your favourite uses of the capture mechanic?

AH: I loved the T-Rex, obviously, and I thought the frog was pretty cool too. You?

WR: Come on, can it be anything but the Snow Kingdom and the Shiverians there? They’re a) incredibly adorable and b) so fun to roll around as. If the next Mario Kart doesn’t have a Shiverian track, something is amiss. Speaking of, the same question for Kingdoms; which were best designed or most surprising for you?

AH: Snow Kingdom is GOAT Kingdom, followed by the Seaside Kingdom for me. Most surprising isn’t even really a Kingdom, but more the final level of the game, just for how ridiculously hard it actually is.

3D Mario games always manage to make such incredibly challenging levels that, somehow, still don’t feel cheap

William Robinson

WR: You don’t mean the final story sequence, but the traditional Champion’s Road ending or however this game names it?

AH: Yeah, it’s called “Darker Side” in this game and it’s ridiculous.

WR: I still rate my 100% file of Super Mario Galaxy 2 as one of my finest gaming achievements, and I’m looking forward to getting to the final level of Odyssey too. 3D Mario games always manage to make such incredibly challenging final levels that, somehow, still don’t feel cheap. Back to the game, though; how did you rate the general platforming design? Did you feel that some of the focus there was lost to the amount of play as different forms of Mario?

AH: I genuinely feel that whilst they’re not as good as the Galaxy games, the levels in Odyssey are some of the best Nintendo has ever produced for a Mario game. Everything is tightly designed so there’s always something to do or find, and the capture mechanic only adds to that, rather than feeling like anything was lost because of it.

WR: I was very rarely challenged by the platforming; it had more of a puzzle feel, figuring out which powers were needed when. That’s certainly a great side of the game that encourages intuition, but I did miss some of the platforming focus that I would have liked alongside it.

AH: See, I didn’t find myself missing the pure platforming elements at all. I loved the puzzle focus to it, and I’d be more than happy to see it make a return in future games.

WR: Did you feel that they were trying to recapture that Super Mario 64/Sunshine feel, rather than the pure platforming of Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World? If so, is that the kind of 3D Mario you prefer?

AH: Oh, without a doubt, they were trying to make it more like 64/Sunshine than Galaxy or 3D World. I wouldn’t say I exactly prefer it that way, as I’d rank both Galaxy games above either 64 or Sunshine, but I preferred it for this game.

WR: For me, Odyssey sits around the level of 3D World (which is possibly the most underrated game ever, in my books). Both Galaxy games are clearly superior to me, due to their sheer creativity and platforming prowess; Odyssey, despite the varied gameplay brought through the capture mechanic, still feels very grounded, you know? The joy of movement I have come to expect from a 3D Mario is there, but not that same freedom the Galaxy pair give. Still, being -slightly not as good as Galaxy– still puts Odyssey ahead of most games.

AH: Fun fact: 3D World is the only main series Mario game I’ve not completed, because I just didn’t like it one bit. So to even compare Odyssey to 3D World is blasphemous in my opinion.

You never really got to see every Kingdom properly unless you looked for Moons afterwards, so I would’ve preferred if more Moons were needed to progress so that I was forced to explore each Kingdom.

Ashley Harrison

WR: Right, before we start fighting, let’s put the spotlight back on Odyssey. In terms of the main structure and story, did you like the pacing and challenge? The Moons required to progress didn’t really require much extra grinding; I found I tended to naturally have enough a lot of the time.

AH: I think there was only one time during the whole game where I didn’t have enough Moons to progress right away, and even then I was only 2 Moons off, so I definitely feel it could’ve done with a change in pacing. You never really got to see every Kingdom properly unless you looked for Moons afterwards, so I would’ve preferred if more Moons were needed to progress so that I was forced to explore each Kingdom.

WR: I agree with that. Seeing the amount of Moons I have left to collect is almost unbelievable – I don’t know how they all fit in those Kingdoms! It’s exciting, though, that I can now slow down and enjoy exploring what Odyssey has to offer without feeling pressure to get to Bowser and see the credits. It’s similar to the modern Tomb Raider games, where you can go back to areas after the story and experience them as a relatively relaxed open world game. Considering you have all the Moons, I’m guessing you feel a similar way.

AH: Yeah, I do. It’s cool to go back after you’ve beaten the Darker Side level and restored peace to the Mario Universe, and seeing all the different animals and people you meet along the way interacting with one another in every Kingdom. It made mopping up the Moons I’d missed an absolute joy.

WR: It’s funny you say that; this game gave me a real feeling of a Marvel-like Mario Universe, in how you see different locations with different characters, such as Pauline in New Donk City. Also with how, as mentioned earlier, Odyssey references older 3D Mario games – particularly the ending with Bowser, which gave me a vibe of Bowser just wanting to be friends with Mario and Peach (but going too far with, you know, trying to force Peach to marry him, which gets into some pretty dark ideas actually).

AH: Bowser kidnapping and forcing Peach to marry him is essentially the storyline to every Mario game though, so does he really just want to be friends?

WR: I mean, sure, but right at the end he just wanted to come along. Mario didn’t need to jump on him and leave him on the Moon, after Bowser and him have just connected over Peach-rejection. Either way, the appearance of Captain Toad helps this game a lot. He’s just minding his own business, with hordes of Coins, being the real hero of the Mario Universe.

AH: Captain Toad is the MVP of the game, though how he manages to get to some of the places he does in the levels I will never know.

WR: I’m glad I’m making you see the majesty of Captain Toad. Also, yeah… he can’t jump, yet somehow he got to the cave at the end of that Wiggler section in the Lost Kingdom. How? The stickers, outfits and Photo Mode also gave Odyssey a more modern feel, with the extras we have now come to expect from big name game releases. One particular joy? No real-money purchases in sight.

AH: Photo mode is legit one of my favourite things about the game. Can we make sure every game from now on has one? Please?

WR: I’d also like to get your thoughts on the presentation of the game in general – 3D Mario titles are often so magical from a visual and musical perspective. I really enjoy how each game has a distinct vibe now; Galaxy was very orchestral, then 3D World had an awesome jazz feel, and now Odyssey has a rock undertone.

AH: I think the whole presentation is great. The game itself looks incredible, and the soundtrack is way better than it has any right to be. I genuinely would go as far as saying Mario Odyssey is the best game on the Switch right now.

WR: I’m in the Zelda: Breath of the Wild camp on that front, but I’m not going to get too into that, as I think there is a split of people who think either Zelda or Mario is the best Switch game (and best game of 2017). It’s down to personal taste, I think, as both are incredible. I played the whole of Odyssey in handheld and the visuals were pretty great – on the small screen some rough edges were occasionally evident, but overall it was slick if not revolutionary; it doesn’t stand out as a massive step from 3D World on Wii U.

I think there is a split of people who think either Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey is the best Switch game of 2017

William Robinson

AH: I also played it in handheld mode, and I agree that whilst there were some rough edges in a couple of places, overall it was spectacular. It’s made me wish Nintendo would be willing to adopt technology like Sony and Microsoft do – imagine Odyssey in 4K!

WR: Did you try any other control or display options? On the 4K topic, I’m in no huge rush. The artistic direction of Nintendo is enough in these games, but I do have to admit, a Switch 4K Edition in a few years would be amazing.

AH: Not with Odyssey, no. With the way the game is designed, it felt like the kind of game made to be played in handheld mode rather than on a TV.

WR: Yeah, for sure – with Moons everywhere, you can literally just play a few minutes at a time and still have a sense of progression. So, how many hours did it take you to get where you are? Have you played the Luigi’s Balloon World DLC?

AH: Um, I think in total I’ve put in about 40 hours? That was just for the main story, and getting all the collectibles. I haven’t tried out the Balloon World DLC yet, though. As much as I love Luigi, sadly this concept doesn’t do anything for me.

WR: That DLC seems kinda light on substance, but I haven’t given it a proper shot yet?. Kingdom DLC in the future would be great, and make a lot of sense. It would allow the developers to get really creative; imagine Kingdoms based on other Mario games like SunshineGalaxy or even Kart, or maybe even other Nintendo properties! A Hyrule Castle Kingdom would potentially be incredible.

AH: I would absolutely love that. As I said earlier, my only real criticism of the game is that there aren’t enough Kingdoms, and at this point, I’d even pay for an expansion pass! Which completely goes against my point in our previous Let’s Chat about microtransactions and DLC and stuff, but Odyssey is genuinely just that good that I’d happily pay for more.

WR: Nintendo have so much goodwill in not exploiting players that I think they’re an exception. You think we see DLC announcements at E3?

AH: Hopefully! But at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t, to be honest with you.

WR: How so?

For me, Mario Odyssey is the quintessential Switch game.

Ashley Harrison

AH: I just think Nintendo will see Odyssey as a finished product now, and leave it to move onto the next Mario game.

WR: I can see that, but I can see them also realising how much money that massive Odyssey install base could produce. Remember that Super Mario Odyssey has sold over 10 million now! Either way, it’s a superb game on its own, like you say. Before we close out, I’d like a final thoughts from both of us and a score out of 999 Moons. Just to be awkward.

AH: For me, Mario Odyssey is the quintessential Switch game. It ties together the Mario charm everyone knows, with brand new ideas such as the capture mechanic. Whilst it might not be as good a pure platformer as the Galaxy games, it’s without a doubt a contender for the best Mario game of all time and more than worth picking up as a Switch owner. I give it 998/999 Moons; it needs more playable Luigi.

WR: My turn, then. Despite having played it a tinyyyyy bit later than everyone else did, I can see why Super Mario Odyssey was received in such a positive way. As a fan of the 3D Mario games, they are unmatched in that sense of pure platforming feel and creativity, with new ideas around every turn that could literally have entire games based around them. The return to a more hub-world feel has advantages and disadvantages – the rewarding exploration of 64 and Sunshine is back, but at the same time the game does sacrifice some of the tightly crafted focus that Galaxy and 3D Land/World had. As well as this, there is a very fast pace to the main throughline of Odyssey, and whilst there is plenty of opportunity to go back and revel in that exploration later, I can’t shake that that I felt hurried in that 10-15 hour story. I’m going to be playing this game for a while yet, and y’know, it has Captain Toad, so it has to be a good game, right? My score is 900/999 Moons.

AH: Missing out on nearly 100 Moons? What does it need to do for you to earn those?

WR: Hey, that’s -just- over 90%. That rushed pace and the smaller spotlight on levels that feel more exactly crafted for the purpose of platforming are just less to my tastes than previous 3D Mario games. It’s still a great score, just not the 998/999 you gave. Bear in mind, I wouldn’t give Breath of the Wild too much more (I guess that would be out of Korok Seeds?).

AH: Fair enough, that’s a reasonable explanation.

WR: Y’know, I’m glad that settled pretty peacefully. We welcome differing opinions here, unless you don’t like Spyro or Captain Toad.

AH: Indeed. I’ve actually been watching a Spyro: Year of the Dragon speedrun whilst we’ve been doing this; bring on September for the remaster!

WR: Can’t wait! We may have to do one of these joint-reviews for that as well. Until next week!

AH: Until then!

Finally, then, we got to review Super Mario Odyssey. The joint-review is a fun format, and perhaps one we will use again in the future for certain releases.

For more Let’s Chat, you can see other articles here!

Let’s Chat: Saying Farewell to Max, Chloe, & Life is Strange

– This article was originally posted on 2nd April 2018. It, and other articles, are being archived and updated here for continuity and collection, which is why parts of it may seem out of date. –

The episodic Life is Strange series recently wrapped up the story arc that covered the original game and prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Bonus episode Farewell gave us a peek at a fateful day in the history of main characters Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, uncovering a new layer of their relationship whilst also giving them a final send-off (bringing back original voice actors Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch). Ash Harrison and I – both huge fans of Life is Strange – have now played the Farewell episode, so it is time to talk about our impressions!


William Robinson: I took my time – though it’s nothing compared to my still not playing Super Mario Odyssey – but I finished the Farewell episode that concludes the Max Caulfield/Chloe Price story in the Life is Strange universe. There’s no way we can do this without spoilers, so let’s get that warning out of the way… We’re both pretty massive Life is Strange fans here, so this felt like the end of a long journey. It’s amazing when I think back to the first time I played Episode 1 back in 2015…

Ashley Harrison: Has it really been that long? Jesus. It feels like Life is Strange has been around forever, but only just came out at the same time!

WR: I know the feeling. So, after the main game and the prequel Before the Storm, what did you make of the Farewell epilogue?

AH: Honestly, I’m still unsure. There were parts of it that I really enjoyed, but I didn’t click with the episode as much as I did with the others.

WR: The premise is pretty simple, really; we go back to a much younger Max and Chloe and play through a particularly fateful day; Max is telling her best friend that she is leaving Arcadia Bay for Seattle, which cruelly coincides with Chloe’s father passing away in an accident. There is a balance of them being two kids playing around and also dealing with deep issues, which is very much on style for Life is Strange. The main thing that hit me was how sorrowful the ending was – I thought they might end it on a higher note, but bittersweet is perhaps the nicest way to interpret it.

AH: I was ruined by the ending. I didn’t tell Chloe that Max was leaving until the end of the episode, so Chloe sort of found out her best friend is leaving (she already knew beforehand) and that her Dad has died in a car crash in the space of 30 seconds. I should’ve seen it coming, given that’s how Life is Strange does things, but at the same time I was so unprepared and felt like a massive d**k for doing that.

WR: I tried to tell Chloe in her bedroom, but Chloe distracts you and you can’t do it until the end anyway, so don’t worry too much. Poor Chloe, she deals with the Max thing so well, but then gets the news about her father… Knowing what else happens in her life after this makes it especially heartbreaking.

AH: She does? That’s a slight relief, at least, but doesn’t change how bad I feel. But yeah, Chloe really doesn’t have a great life at all, does she? Poor woman, always gets hit with more when she’s down.

WR: Do you think part of not clicking with it is that it’s been so long since we’ve seen those two together for a significant period, and then we’ve been dropped into this 1-2 hour episode?

AH: Possibly, but I also think there’s the fact that we knew where the whole path goes before we even start the episode, unlike with Before the Storm where, although we know how it turns out, we didn’t know anything substantial about Rachel beforehand.

WR: Also, whilst they’re the same characters, these aren’t the exact versions of the characters I love so much from the original game. I’d almost prefer this being a side story that we didn’t see during the timeline of the main game… I still enjoyed this a lot, but I felt it didn’t connect with me like other episodes have.

AH: I have to agree with you there, a side-story would’ve been a better choice than this prequel.

WR: What did you make of the actual gameplay? The whole treasure hunt quest.

AH: I guess it suits the younger characters better, having something as innocent as a treasure hunt be the main objective of the episode, but ehh… I’m not sure. It feels too light-hearted for the Life is Strange series.

WR: That’s sorta what I meant with them not being at the age we see them in the main game. I did really like some of the new things they did though, like the Choose Your Own Story that made me engage with a reading item in a way games don’t normally do. In addition, there were some profound moments, like Max saying we are scared of being hurt when we’re young, and scared of hurting others when we get older. Would have liked more of that.

There were some profound moments, such as Max saying we are scared of being hurt when we’re young, and scared of hurting others when we get older.

William Robinson

AH: Oh man, that comment. I genuinely don’t think I’ve resonated more with a comment during the game than I have that exact one, especially since I’m pretty much living that reality myself right now…

WR: That ability to resonate with our actual lives is a big part of the magic of Life is Strange. Despite flaws, are you satisfied with the Max and Chloe story being concluded like this?

AH: Not really, to be honest. Whilst I enjoyed playing as Max & Chloe for a final time, I feel like it was unnecessary after seeing how events unfold in Season 1 and Before the Storm.

WR: Oh, so it’s more that it felt unnecessary rather than being bad?

AH: Reflecting on it now whilst we’re talking, I feel so, yeah. There wasn’t really much story that needed telling, as everything was covered in Season 1 and Before the Storm.

WR: Maybe it’s better to view this as just another little glimpse at their history, then, rather than the final, ahem, farewell. To me, the ending of the original Life is Strange is still their final narrative moment and the proper way to think of the story being finished.

AH: Definitely. Even though it is technically the ending of the series in the game’s chronology, it’s the only one to me that feels like an actual ending.

WR: Kinda apt to think of the series in different time orders, anyhow. You could argue playing them backwards (FarewellBefore the StormLife is Strange) makes the most sense.

AH: It does, but at the same time, I think given the story basis of Season 1 in finding out about Rachel and Jefferson killing everyone, the only way to play them is the order in which they were actually released.

WR: With the tease of Jefferson at the end of Before the Storm, I actually think it would work, but in a different way. Speaking of, what’s your opinion on the general package of Before the Storm now it’s all out?

AH: I genuinely feel like I enjoyed Before the Storm more than I did Season 1, I have to admit! I don’t think there was a single bad episode out of all 3 of them. My only criticism is that it was a little bit too fast-paced, and would’ve benefited from a fourth episode.

WR: I think it was only the third episode that really suffered from that. It did seem to lose some of the drama at the end, which I think is because they split Rachel and Chloe up in that episode and lost their relationship, which is the best part of Before the Storm.

AH: Yeah, Chloe and Rachel’s relationship is undoubtedly the best part of Before the Storm. I dunno about you, but it felt more natural than Max and Chloe’s, even with the weird way it started.

Yeah, Chloe and Rachel’s relationship is undoubtedly the best part of Before the Storm.

Ashley Harrison

WR: I can see why you’d think that, but I think Max and Chloe are my favourite pairing. They have so much more history and layers to their relationship over the course of the first game. I’d say they’re the main two characters of the series, but I wouldn’t say that for Rachel. I think Before the Storm, including Farewell, is a really great package that adds a lot to the world of the game. This doesn’t feel like a case of an unnecessary prequel.

AH: It’s definitely a great sequel that does well to feel fresh whilst re-stepping old territory without feeling unnecessary, and is well worth playing if you haven’t already and were a fan of Season 1.

WR: Of course, we know this is only the end of the story of these characters, not the series. We recently got official word that news of a sequel to Life is Strange isn’t far away, and given that Before the Storm was announced last E3, I’d say another E3 reveal makes sense.

AH: Yeah, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to get news of Season 2 at E3. It just makes me wonder, with the Microsoft conference giving us Before the Storm last year, will it happen again with Season 2, or will the news come during the Sony conference this time?

WR: It was genuinely the only thing I was excited for at Microsoft last year. Between this and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Square Enix has my money this year.

AH: I think this is the only money I’m giving Square Enix this year, assuming Season 2 does begin before the turn of the year, of course.

WR: Do you have faith that a completely new setting and characters can work? It’s a tough ask when we have had such an attachment to the previous story. Telltale’s The Walking Dead had a big focus on new characters in Season 3, but ultimately I only really cared about Clementine from the previous seasons.

AH: I think that’s something DONTNOD need to tread very carefully with. As we’ve said before with The Last of Us being the story of Joel and Ellie, Life is Strange is the story of Max, Chloe, and Rachel to me. I’m willing to give Season 2 a shot, but I’m going into it a lot more cautiously than I did with Before the Storm.

WR: It’s so hard to do. Especially resisting the temptation to make references to the characters we know; in a way, the best way is just to do what they seem to be doing and almost completely disconnect from it.

AH: For sure. They’ve got to get as far away from the characters we know, whilst also keeping the Life is Strange feel. It’ll be interesting to see how they pull it off.

WR: DONTNOD having been working hard on it, you’d think. They’ve got that Vampyr game coming, but Deck Nine were the developers of Before the Storm. I get the feeling they’re taking the time to do this properly.

AH: Oh, without a doubt. Let’s be honest; Life is Strange made DONTNOD a mainstream developer, so I doubt they’d want to mess the series up now.

WR: Are you happy it’s actually getting a new season? We’ve had this conversation about The Last of Us (and likely will again in a couple of months); would you rather Life is Strange was left as is?

AH: Yeah, I’m happy it’s getting a new season, but like I said, I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

WR: Until then, I’m happy to be left with the story of Max and Chloe – for me, one of the very best in gaming. I’m sure we’ll be back to speculate about the next Life is Strange!

AH: Indeed we will. Now you can go play Super Mario Odyssey, dammit.

Look. One day, I’ll play Super Mario Odyssey. Then, we will have a long-overdue discussion about the game. Until then, you can go back through our previous Let’s Chat discussions here!

Images from the Life is Strange Official Website