I consider myself a Mario fan despite not really playing many of the games between Super Mario World and….well Mario Odyssey. Despite this huge gap in my resume, I have such fond memories of the original NES trilogy, Super Mario World, and the two Super Mario Land games for the Gameboy. The only reason I hadn’t played the other ones was because I moved over to Playstation and Xbox and left Nintendo behind after the NES. Then the Switch came along and I excitedly lapped up Super Mario Odyssey. While I really enjoyed the game and beat it in a matter of days, something about it didn’t resonate with me quite the way the earlier games did. To get to the heart of the matter, I felt like diving back into the game to explore the different levels.
So with that said, here is my level review of the Cap Kingdom. Note that this review is for the level prior to beating the game; I restarted the game to do this series of reviews. I plan on updating this later once I play the revamped end-game version of the level.
Also some notes on how I plan on rating these kingdoms.
- Gameplay & Level Progression (30 points): This game is tough for me to rate because it is essentially a gigantic scavenger hunt. Thing is, my ideas of what makes a Mario game great is the progression through a level (basically getting from Point A to Point B). You know, all the enemies, challenges, traps and platforming that occurs to beat the level? That is what this section is.
- Moon Hunting & Challenge Rooms (50 points): This is only such a large part of the rating because it is the predominant gameplay loop for Super Mario Odyssey. Normally, I’d have the above section weighted much heavier because that is what I look for in a Mario game but I feel like that would undermine this game completely.
- World Design/Atmosphere (20 points): This section pertains to things like the music, the visual design, and how coherent the world is.
Gameplay & Level Progression – 12/30
- I love the opening levels of the early 2D Mario games. You get some fun platforming, a good amount of encounters with enemies, and a decent enough challenge. Basically, they are really solid introductions to the gameplay loop. Yeah, this level isn’t that…
- The gameplay in the initial version of this kingdom is so dull. You basically walk to the first bridge, enslave Cappy, and then meander to the end of the level. Why they decided to basically only have the mini-goombas as enemies in your first run-through of the level is beyond me. Yeah the para-goombas show up after beating the level but they aren’t a challenge because you can just possess them.
- There really is a dearth of platforming in this level (when not considering the challenge rooms). There is the frog section within the Cap Tower and…that’s it. I do not consider flying aimlessly around the map as a paragoomba “platforming”. Maybe if there were some hazards but as far as I could see, the only danger was when I stopped pressing the fly button. I know this game is more about the exploration but this is not a good introduction to the gameplay.
His facial expression is exactly how I feel playing this level
- At least the frog possession is decently solid. I’m not a big fan of the possession mechanic, I feel like it pales in comparison to the power-ups from previous games in that they are too specialized and a lot of them don’t feel like Mario. In this case, it is still specialized (oh theres some frogs here….and coincidentally some tall ledges you need to reach to proceed!) but atleast you still feel like this power-up is an extension of Mario’s abilities.
- The paragoombas….I like the ability to fly with them. Again, like the frog it feels like an extension of Mario’s abilities. BUT…its a tradeoff. Being able to possess them renders them basically harmless in the game.
- Though it is only used to exit the level, the Spark Pylon is introduced here and boy is it underwhelming.
- I will hardly talk about the boss fights because though they are for the most part uniformly terrible, they are all generally frustration-free and don’t affect me one way or the other.
Moon Hunting & Challenge Rooms – 37/50 (Pretty Good)
- The frog challenge room is not very difficult but it is a fun diversion. Also bonus points for it feeling like an extension of the level, seeing as it is a more complicated version some of the platforming in the main level. This is more than I can say about many of the challenge rooms in this game.
- The paragoomba challenge room where you have to fly over the purple lava is good and challenging without being frustrating. Plus, I think the hidden moon here is awesome. But other than the paragoomba, it feels like it could have been plopped down in any kingdom…
- …speaking of which, the Spark Pylon challenge is super generic. Don’t get me wrong, its challenging and fun but it literally could have gone in any other kingdom. I mean its a series of blocks that keep popping out to knock you down. This is a general problem I have with this game. They put so much work into the kingdoms but the challenge rooms feel like disjointed puzzles that have nothing to do with the level.
- With all of that said, I do like the trend of having two moons (at least) per challenge room. One obvious one and one which is more hidden.
- The other moons are a bit less fun. There isn’t really much of a challenge in finding them and there aren’t all that many.
- Maybe I missed something and I am wrong about this but I was pretty pissed that I turned on every light in the area and I didn’t get a moon for my efforts.
World Design/Atmosphere – 11/20
- The music feels more Harry Potter than Mario. Its not bad…it feels pretty relaxing but it doesn’t really make me think Mario.
- The visual design is interesting…I like the rolling hills, the fog that basically drapes much of the kingdom, and the cap motif throughout. It feels like a quaint trip through an old-timey town. But interesting doesn’t make it memorable.
“When are we gonna go somewhere fun?!”
- With that said, the design of the level is a bit simple. You have the opening area with the hills, the main town, the trip up the hat….and that’s it. The only things that jumps out a little bit are the floating homes that you paragoomba your way over to. Other than that, it is a pretty underwhelming opening level to the game.
- Also, I would have preferred a bigger world as the first level (the game only really grabbed me in the Sand Kingdom).
Summary– A bland and forgettable opening level. Thankfully, the game improves immensely after this.