After losing our lunch with Breath of the Wild's VR mode update, we entered the Cap Kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey with a sense of trepidation, as well as a slight headache. We’d been excited to explore Hyrule with the Labo VR Goggles and it was disappointing to have our latent fears concerning the Switch’s limited VR prowess confirmed.
Happily, then, it was most pleasant to discover that Mario’s tailor-made mini-missions are far better suited to prolonged play sessions. The bite-sized nature of these trips to the Cap, Seaside and Luncheon Kingdoms means you won’t be spending very long with the Goggles held to your face, but even so, you’re unlikely to experience dizziness or pain in your temples either.
Once you’ve downloaded the update you can access the VR levels from the main menu. Starting in the Cap Kingdom, the camera is rooted to a fixed point in the middle of the level from which you control the plumber and guide him to close-by treble clefs. Collecting the notes that appear after touching them reveals a musical instrument to deliver to one of three musicians milling around.
That’s it. You shouldn’t go in expecting much – you’ll visit three kingdoms in total but the whole thing will probably take you 15 minutes, if that. However, that’s 15 fresh minutes in the delightful world of Super Mario Odyssey, and compared to the migraine that is the Breath of the Wild VR update, this is a lovely little treat.
Having the camera stuck in the same spot means Mario can move pretty far away – far enough that you’ll be able to count the pixels in his cap – but fortunately hitting ‘L’ or ‘R’ zooms to give a better view of distant detail. If you lose sight of Mario at any time, clicking the right stick will snap the camera round to frame him in the centre again, otherwise an onscreen indicator points you in the right direction. Get too far away and you'll be plucked up and delivered back to the play field. Slingshots exist which fling you to other small areas of the level and there are a handful of secreted coins to discover, but you won’t be staying anywhere very long.
Even if you don’t own the requisite Labo kit to enjoy the VR, you can still play using the console’s gyroscope. You might lose that feeling of immersion, but you’ll gain a massive increase in resolution and it plays just fine outside of VR, too.
Once you’ve found the musicians in the three kingdoms it’s off to the concert with you for another encore of Odyssey’s signature song. We remember 'Jump Up, Super Star!' bringing a tear to the eye the first time we heard it, although it doesn’t quite have the same effect the 562nd time. Pauline takes centre stage, of course, and you still have control over Mario. Jumping on Pauline’s head causes her to stop singing, which we found hilarious for some reason.
Also viewable in stereoscopic 3D are the opening and closing cutscenes. Presented in ‘Theater’ mode, you can't move your head and it feels almost identical to watching cutscenes on a 3DS. A nice extra, but hardly scintillating.
The patented Nintendo ‘take a break’ advice screens are present and correct which is a tad irritating when the whole mode is so slight, but Super Mario’s Odyssey’s micro-brand of VR is very pleasant indeed, especially coming after the disappointing implementation in Zelda. It’s a fluffy, throwaway thing, but cute nonetheless, and the fact that its also available without VR means there’s no reason not to give it a try. We wouldn’t buy Labo VR just to play this update, but the cumulative value of this and the Labo VR Kit itself (specifically the Starter Kit + Blaster) makes Switch’s VR experience worth investigating if you are at all curious. On the strength of this, we'd be up for seeing more VR novelty updates for other Nintendo games - a blaster-based on-rails update for Splatoon 2, for example, wouldn't go amiss.
How did you find Super Mario Odyssey's VR update? What other games could benefit from a little Labo VR seasoning? As always, let us know below.