More than twenty five years on since the original release and Nintendo is still finding ways to keep Mario relevant. The latest entry comes in the shape of upcoming Nintendo Switch title, Super Mario Odyssey.

Like with Nintendo Wii U’s highly acclaimed and criminally overlooked title, Super Mario 3D World, Nintendo is continuing the theme of experimenting with one of its keys franchises. In this new adventure, Mario’s very cap not only has a name, Cappy, but also provides the ageless plumber with new abilities. The two levels that were playable in the demo both made use of a shop that sold various clothing items for Mario to wear. Albeit wearing a fedora hat didn’t give Mario new abilities, it did make him look like a pimping gangster.

What is truly fascinating though is how these levels weren’t strictly traditional levels where Mario had to just push forward to find a key item and finish the level. Instead, Mario started off in a hub of sorts for each of these levels and then players were free to explore. The many paths that could be found whilst playing the New Donk City area really made it seem like a hub that linked to various smaller levels. Those with inquisitive minds will no doubt lose many hours just trying to find new sections within levels in the retail version of the title.

It’s not just what can be found by exploring each area thoroughly that made for an impressive first time playing Super Mario Odyssey. Areas like New Donk City come with various activities that players can partake in. These range from simple activities, such as using a skipping rope ,to even using a motorcycle and perhaps attempting to mow down some civilians Grand Theft Auto style. This is a family oriented video-game so fortunately it’s definitely not possible to hurt any of the civilians. Still, it’s possible to harass these human characters by jumping on their heads or hitting them with Cappy.

Given the more realistic approach to the city area, it means that Mario gets involved in the mostly ordinary affairs of the citizens, which means taking up requests from characters such as the Mayor, Pauline. One such request involved gathering musicians at the town hall for a party and it felt odd given the kinds of adventures that Mario usually gets up to. At least Nintendo rewards patient players by getting Mario to dance to the music that these musicians play. If anything, it just goes to show how committed Nintendo is when it comes to making its games as charming as possible.

As already mentioned, Mario is equipped with a lot of new abilities and these can be activated by making use of the incredibly precise motion controls. All it takes to activate a spinning cap attack is to wave both Joy-Con controllers to the side. Moving both Joy-Con controllers upwards will result in Mario flinging Cappy up. Using these cap abilities recklessly can leave Mario briefly open to attacks, so it’s better to think before using them to attack one or more enemies. For example, the spinning cap attack makes it much easier to deal with a group of weak enemies surrounding Mario.

Mario is also more agile than ever and can climb poles, leap forward and continue to perform many of the high jumps that he is famous for. Just pressing down the ZR button and using the motion controls will result in Mario moving around at high speed as a ball – Samus would definitely be proud of the plumber. The same can be achieved by pressing down ZR and continuing to press a button, but the movement speed isn’t quite as smooth as when using the motion controls. These abilities definitely came in handy when dealing with the many challenges found scattered all over the demo levels and it was a clever idea to let players discover how to use of most of them.

One of the highlights from the initial announcement of the title was the possibility to control certain characters and inanimate objects. Being able to control the likes of Bullet Bill certainly made for an interesting twist on a franchise that has been around for a long time. Nintendo even manages to make controlling an otherwise ordinary pole to fling Mario up seem like a fun activity. It’s nice that it seems like most of these hijackings are limited and are only there to provide players with the means to gaining access to more sections of an area or even just to make traversing a section of a level a bit easier and perhaps even more memorable.

The use of retro Mario game mechanics during one of the demo levels is done in a way that compliments the level, rather than just being added to please fans. It was definitely enjoyable to make use of old school side scrolling platform game mechanics to get through these retro sections. It will be fascinating to see how Nintendo manages to potentially incorporate more of these in other levels within the retail version of the title.

Perhaps it shows how big the levels are when Nintendo is giving players the ability to instantly move between checkpoints that Mario has reached. This will definitely make it easier to find every collectible.

Those who have played Super Mario 3D World will not be strangers to the wonderful sights that a high definition Mario experience can provide. If the demo levels are anything to go by, then Super Mario Odyssey is more than capable of providing gorgeous views that will make exploring the levels feel even more special. In a way, it feels similar to the levels of Super Mario 3D World, but it seems to favour a more subtle approach to its art style. The open nature of the levels means that players get an incredible view of what lies ahead long before getting there.

When it comes to Mario, it always feels like Nintendo won’t settle for anything less than special and it might be early days, but it really does feel like Super Mario Odyssey won’t be an exemption. If anything, it feels more than ever like it’s going to be another must play title on the Nintendo Switch and a system seller come late 2017.