The Fitzgerald Scale – Mike Plays Super Mario Odyssey (and Talks a Bit About 3D Mario Games)

So I mentioned about a month back that I’d been gifted a Nintendo Switch for my birthday. At the time I only had one game in my library, that being The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, but that I would be looking at adding more games in due course. Since then I have indeed picked up two additional games, along with a wired controller. The first one was the Ghostbusters game remaster that came out around Halloween, which I bought mainly because I loved the original movie and had never played the game back when it first came out. The second game I purchased is one that I’d always intended to get eventually, which was Super Mario Odyssey.

Super Mario Odyssey was a big hit back when it came out a couple of years ago, with our very own Ian Cooper enjoying it so much that he actually gave it a perfect score. Considering just how picky Ian can be (a fact that anyone who has been unlucky enough to go shopping with him when he’s been on the lookout for a decent bottle of Sancerre can attest to) makes that one heck of an achievement! I’m not sure whether it deserves that Full Monty or not, but what I can confirm is that I’ve been playing Super Mario Odyssey pretty much every evening for the past week, and I’ve been utterly transfixed by it.

I’ve actually not been that well the past week and have been bogged down with a chest cold (an annoyance for most people, but having severe asthma has seemingly contrived to give me the immune system of a newborn baby deer, meaning I tend to feel such things more than most), but Super Mario Odyssey was so great that it momentarily made me forget that my body had suddenly considered that the ability to breathe without wheezing and coughing was an optional extra. This surprised me somewhat as well as I’ve never particularly been a huge fan of the 3D Mario games. That may be seen as sacrilege by some, but outside of Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U, I’ve just never been won over by Mario’s 3D adventures.

Super Mario 64 may have been impressive at the time of its release for its analogue control and 3D environments, but I don’t think it’s aged especially well, and I never found it that enjoyable to play. More often than not, I found it hard to get Mario to do what I actually wanted him to do, and the 3D levels, impressive though they were, tended to be quite sparsely populated, and the fact you often had to go out of a level to select new scenarios broke the game up a bit too much for me. Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube looked nice, and I enjoyed it to a point, but it never hooked me, and it’s not a game that I’ve gone back to (maybe I should one day as I might find elements to it that I will enjoy?).

I didn’t mind the Super Mario Galaxy games that much, but I felt about them the way I tended to feel about quite a few of the major games on the Wii, being that they were okay games that would have been much better if I’d been allowed to play them will a real controller and not the lame “Wii Motes” that Nintendo seemed determined to force onto us for most of the major releases on that console. They even try and pull that trick somewhat with Super Mario Odyssey by “encouraging” you to play with the detached Joy-Cons when the game boots up, but thankfully, you can plug in a wired controller as I did and play the game just fine (even though they cheekily block you from using some of Mario’s special abilities when you do that).

I won’t go into huge amounts of detail regarding all the ins and outs of the game as you can get that sort of stuff from Ian’s excellent review, but I’ll instead focus on what I liked about the game, starting with the graphics. Personally, I think Super Mario Odyssey looks absolutely fantastic, with lots of great weather effects and a good mix of bright, colourful stages and dark, imposing ones. The water effects in particular in the two water-based kingdoms you visit along your journey are absolutely incredible, and I even love the way the hot, purple gloop in the Luncheon Kingdom is animated as well. Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute treat for both the eyes and the ears, with a wonderful soundtrack complementing all the delicious visuals. More than once I stopped playing just to have a look around and marvel at what was in front of me.

Having a look around and just general exploration is something you’ll want to do throughout each level as it will often lead to you finding the coveted “Power Moons” that you require to power the titular “Odyssey” that you and your new pal, Cappy, will use to chase down Bowser after he comes down with another serious case of Princess-napping. What I enjoy about this in comparison to 3D World on the Wii U is that you actually have time to go at your own pace and explore each nook and cranny without worrying about a timer counting down. That’s the one element of 3D World that I didn’t enjoy as you often felt rushed to get things done, whereas in Super Mario Odyssey, you can often take as long as you like to cover every corner of the stage.

The end result was that I would linger in each Kingdom of Super Mario Odyssey long past the point that I’d collected enough moons to advance the plot because I was having so much fun hunting down the moons that I hadn’t found yet. There’s no particular reward for doing this, but I was just enjoying myself and wanted to keep doing it, which was in stark contrast to Super Mario 64 where I’d simply want to get enough stars to advance the story and then get out of most levels as quickly as I could. I’m not sure why I was so tempted to keep going in Super Mario Odyssey when I wasn’t in Super Mario 64, but I think a large part of it was that finding additional moons and exploring in the former is just more fun than the latter, and the stages themselves are better designed, encouraging you to keep going.

Being able to possess other beings with Cappy also adds a lot of interesting elements to the gameplay, and it encourages you to try things. For instance, in the Luncheon Kingdom last night (I’m writing this up over the weekend), I realised that I could take control of the Lava Bubbles that jumped out of the lava-like gloop that surrounded the stage. I recalled that previously I’d seen some coins above the gloop a while back and had wondered how to get them. Now that I had controlled the Lava Bubble, I decided to try and jump back into that section and realised that I could, thus opening me up to a whole new area to explore along with a new Power Moon for my troubles. The best thing is that the game is full of little things like this that reward you for trying stuff, which makes it all the more enjoyable to play it as you view every section of a level with the thought process of experimenting.

Overall, I love Super Mario Odyssey, and I’m looking forward to finally finishing it. Thus far I’ve played two first-party games for the Switch, and both of them have been of the usual high standard that you expect from Nintendo when it comes to their first-party content. If you have a Switch but don’t own Super Mario Odyssey, then you should pick it up ASAP as it’s fantastic!

The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”

Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave

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