Fun fact: I immediately pre-ordered Super Mario Odyssey – alongside Yoshi’s Woolly World for 3DS – when it was initially unveiled in January. That game alone was enough for me to go to my local Gamestop and pick up a Nintendo Switch at midnight on its March 3rd release date. My time playing Super Mario Odyssey‘s demo at PAX West only reassured me that I would be getting my money’s worth and then some.

The demo had two areas to choose from; one was obviously New Donk City (the city world prominently featured in promotional materials), while the other was a desert-ice hybrid level that I think was called Sand Mountain. The former has a big emphasis on exploring around and finding stuff to do and/or Moons to collect, while the latter is more focused on Mario platforming traditions. Both of them play like a dream.

It just feels so good to finally play a new Mario game with the mechanics established by Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy. The new things that are thrown into the mix also make for a refreshing take on this well-aged formula. Although you can’t quite possess EVERYTHING, there are still loads of objects in varying degrees of importance you could still take advantage of. This can range from simple poles to fling yourself to the enemies Mario faces throughout the adventure.

I also have to props to the world design props. It really felt like there were countless things to do in New Donk City as I scrambled to make the most of my time with the demo. I managed to get at least three Moons in one go during my time playing the level! But to achieve them, I explored. There’s always a sense of wonder and excitement as you would try and see what else there is to do around here; the Moons reward your sense of curiosity, effectively motivating you to search even more. It’s not fun if the level design is boring and monotonous, but Super Mario Odyssey‘s exploration is anything but.

For the more action-orientated moments in the demo, there was Sand Kingdom. There’s a more realized path to take throughout the level, but you’re still able to roam about as freely as in New Donk City. If anything, the level’s style demonstrates what a more traditional Mario stage would play out like with all this new stuff in mind. The result is pure 3D platforming goodness…with a bit of 2D even sprinkled in for a surprise!

Nintendo’s creative decisions are back in full force with Super Mario Odyssey, and I love it. I can’t wait to play this one fully when it finally arrives at my doorstep!