Going 2D in 'Super Mario Odyssey' Is Amazing

Adventures in 2D

Going 2D in 'Super Mario Odyssey' Is Amazing

Super Mario Odyssey isn't just a sublime, colorful, recreation of everything I love about video games, it also has, buried among its prodigious wealth of urbanity and wondrous minutia, entire hidden 2D throwbacks to Mario's earlier days as a plumber and adventurer.

There was a moment last week, during one of Nintendo's many streamed video updates to its portfolio, when the montage of shots from Super Mario Odyssey briefly showed off what looked a lot like an old 2D level of a Mario game created in the style of Donkey Kong.

I was mesmerized.

When I had a chance to check out Super Mario Odyssey myself at a recent Nintendo event in New York City, I made sure to keep an eye out for anything that might grant me access to one of the levels. Super Mario Odyssey, a camera-controlled 3D Mario game, is a blast to play all on its own. But I had to see what exactly was going on with those 2D levels.

Fortunately, it didn't take me long to notice that the sea floor of the Seaside Kingdom had familiar, albeit 3D, pipes sticking out in a number of places. As I explored the level, I noticed that there were a cluster of these pipes in one area. So I popped the hat off the fish I had possessed, swam over to the pipe and found myself sinking into its depths.

As Mario sank into the pipe, the entire screen sort of gently rolled up on end, so I was viewing the sea floor directly from above. I could even see the pipe I had recently descended jutting out from the sand. But Mario was now 2D and the level he was exploring was both 2D and very much old-school Mario. 

As I maneuvered Mario to hop onto turtles, pass bricks and search for coins, the 3D world above still floated by gently. Occasionally, the water would cause a slight distortion in my view, or a fish would swim directly between my view and Mario. It was amazing.

And, it turned out, the cluster of pipes and the 2D level, worked together to create what amounted to four distinct, tiny 2D levels that could be used to finally solve a bigger puzzle and find a purple moon.

Since this particular 2D level didn't have the same graphics as the one I saw in the livestream, I know that at least two of these exist. But hopefully, Nintendo had the time to pack the entire game with them, a series of fun, retro challenges that form a game within the game.