The motion controls in the new Nintendo Switch Super Mario game are largely optional, but one key collectible early on indicates that the developers expect you to use them. Those motion controls are far easier to input when the Switch is connected to a TV than when it’s running in handheld mode.
The push for using motion controls for some of Mario’s moves is evident every time Super Mario Odyssey boots up. Before players can get going, a screen appears that recommends a free-handed split control scheme, the better to shake those controllers around.
The screen says “try playing with detached Joy-Con controllers. The motion controls enable extra options!” but they really mean “this is by far the easiest way to use the motion controls, which you don’t have to use but you kind of should.”
This is not a motion-control-centric game. The most important moves in the game don’t require any shakes. Mario’s basic running and jumping moves are all stick and buttons, as they’ve been for most of his adventures. Odyssey’s new signature element, Mario’s sentient cap named Cappy, can also be controlled with a button, at least at the most basic level. To toss Cappy at enemies or to use Cappy to possess other creatures and things, the player just taps a button.
You can also toss Cappy with a shake of a Switch controller, and shakes in certain directions can trigger more advanced moves that don’t have any button-based input options. These directional shakes can make Mario toss the cap upward, or away from him like a wheel, or in a sharp homing curve toward an off-center enemy, or even around Mario in an orbital attack that can chop through a crowd of Goombas. There are no buttons for those more complex throws, but you can get by without them if you don’t want to waggle and are okay with just tossing Cappy straight ahead.
There are also motion control-only moves for some of the many beings Mario possesses. When you take over, say, a frog, you’ll be shown that you can do a regular frog jump with the press of a button and a bigger jump by shaking the controller.
Regular button jump:
In our time with the game we found a small number of the game’s hundreds of collectible Power Moons that appear to only be collectible using a motion control move. Chris Kohler, who reviewed the game, found a couple. My colleague Laura Kate Dale at Kotaku UK told me that she also found a few seemingly motion-only moons among the 600 or so she’s gathered so far. I’ve grabbed 107 moons, and among those, found one.
In the shot below, you’ll see a moon hovering in the night sky that Frog Mario won’t be able to reach without a motion-control jump:
The moon is grayed out in the shot, because I already got it. Nevertheless, you can see me get it in this next clip. I do the button jump twice and can’t reach it. Then I do the motion jump and grab it. Since I already claimed the moon prior to recording, I get coins for my effort this time around.
Maneuvers in Mario Odyssey that are triggered by motion control tend to be supercharged versions of button inputs: bigger jumps, faster flying, etc. Utilizing them can be a shortcut. Unfortunately, because of the versatility of the ways a player can use the Switch, they are not going to be easy to input for all players.
Players who choose to control the game as Nintendo recommends, with a Joycon controller in each hand, will likely find that triggering the motion control isn’t bad:
The motion controls work fine with the Switch pro controller as well, though you’ll see that certain lateral shakes are easier to input with one hand than two.
In handheld mode, however, shaking the controllers means shaking the system. And that means it’s no good. You’ll want to do a higher jump and you’ll have to hoist the whole unit. You’ll be surrounded by enemies and want to do Cappy’s orbit attack and you’ll need to shake the controller enough that you might lose sight of the on-screen action.
There are no options to just turn the motion controls off for these actions, though there is an option to turn motion controls off for the game’s camera (something that appears to only be relevant when looking at things in first-person). You can’t map Mario’s special moves to button commands. To do those moves, you have to shake.
This may not be a surprise to a people who have played other games made by the Tokyo-based Nintendo studio responsible for Odyssey. Their Super Mario Galaxy games mixed button commands and shake controls. Their debut title, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, was controlled by hitting a drum-shaped controller and clapping over its microphone.
It’s still something to get used to in Odyssey and something to be mindful of if you want to use Mario’s full arsenal, especially if you’re playing the Switch on the go.