If you ever needed proof of the effect internet cats have had on the world, you need to look no further than Bowser's Fury – the brand new Super Mario adventure being lovingly tacked on to the re-release of Wii U title Super Mario 3D World on the Switch. Bowser's Fury is an Instagram dream. Everything is cat-themed, and I really do mean everything.
The attention to detail is fantastic, to the point that I'm regularly stopping dead in my tracks as I notice another feline-themed tweak. Handily, the new photo mode that's arriving with the Switch release is perfect for catching a duo of seagulls sporting tiny cat ears sitting on a wall, or a shoal of Cheep Cheep with ears, tails, and new fuzzy texturing leaping out of the water. Even the flora and fauna has got a touch of the feline madness, with ears sprouting from the shrubbery and flowers looking suspiciously like big fluffy paws.
Of course, this sudden influx of feline influence isn't just Nintendo succumbing to the pressures of the internet's obsession with cat content. Rather, Bowser's Fury is taking direct inspiration from it's partnered release, Super Mario 3D World, which introduced the series to Cat Mario via the Super Bell powerup. It wasn't just Mario that can turn feline though, with all four playable characters in Super Mario 3D World able to don a catsuit, gaining the power to climb walls and scratch enemies. But, while Super Mario 3D World still supports four-player co-op, Bowser's Fury is more targeted to solo play, or two-player co-op, a la Super Mario Odyssey.
Mario's pals are nowhere to be found in Bowser's Fury, with the new adventure instead continuing Paper Mario: The Origami King's theme of unlikely team-ups, with Mario and Bowser Jr. working together to save Bowser from his gigantic Fury Bower state. Despite previous grievances, Mario and Bowser Jr. work surprisingly well together, with the little Koopa prince floating around in his Junior Clown Car wielding a magic paintbrush that can reveal hidden items in the world, or be used to attack enemies (which feels quite traitorous really). If you're playing with a friend, they can take control of Bowser Jr. and his abilities. It's definitely my preferred co-op experience over Odyssey, as playing as Cappy just never felt like it actually added all that much to play.
Regardless of whether you're enjoying Bowser's Fury in co-op or solo, your goal is to calm down the furious Bowser by battling him, but you'll only be able to do so by using the mighty Gigabell to turn Mario into Giga Cat Mario. But, in order to even gain access to the Gigabell, you'll need to collect Cat Shines that are hidden around Lake Lapcat. Like Super Mario Odyssey's Power Moons, Cat Shrines can only be obtained by either discovering their location, beating specific enemies, or solving a little riddle. Handily, Bowser's Fury also adopts the open-world structure of Odyssey, with fully controllable camera angles and enhanced graphics. It feels very much like a delightful stop-gap between 2017's Odyssey and whatever's next for Super Mario in terms of gameplay and presentation, but with the added zaniness of Super Mario 3D World's themes and enemies.
What is also rather unique about Bowser's Fury though is Bowser's literal fury, which spreads across Lake Lapcat like a world event as you play. The usually paradisiacal locale is drenched in darkness and storms, with Bowser capable of unleashing spikes that change the landscape, and other formidable attacks. Without the Gigabell to transform Mario, there's little you can do than ride out Bowser's tantrum, using the spikes to access new areas of Lake Lapcat, or even carefully guiding Bowser's attacks to open up new paths. It keeps you on your toes, as you know that the intermittent reappearances of Bowser really disrupts the world, thus encouraging you to collect as many Cat Shines as you can before he returns again.
From what I've played so far, Bowser's Fury is an unexpected delight. It's far more of a story campaign than I imagined it would be, and offers something more akin to a spin-off of Super Mario Odyssey. Combined with the classic platforming and leveled overworld format of Super Mario 3D World, this Switch release offers a whole spectrum of Super Mario gaming in one package.