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If modern 3D Mario games have a defining characteristic, it’s that they don’t really have a single defining characteristic. When I played Super Mario Odyssey, which is due out October 27 for Switch, at E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show) in Los Angeles last week, the platformer surprised me again and again with a series of new mechanics hidden all throughout its worlds.

An example of this variety is the Jaxi Driver mission that has you controlling a sphinx-like creature (called a Jaxi) through an obstacle course. This is essentially a vehicle segment, and it features bespoke controls that Nintendo built just for this tiny section of the overall Odyssey experience. The Jaxi runs automatically, and you can turn him with the analog stick or make him brake by hitting the B button. But even while braking, the Jaxi is still bucking and sprinting in place, which is where much of the challenge comes from.

While this controls and plays in a way that is a major shift from the core Odyssey gameplay of jumping and running, it all still feels familiar. You can predict how the Jaxi will respond because the physics system is still the same as the rest of the game.

That’s the key to ensuring that Odyssey’s various distractions and sidequests are always different and fresh but also refined and high quality.

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