The colorful world of Paper Mario is back and this time, it’s on Wii U. Welcome to Paper Mario Color Splash!
Paper Mario has always offered an immersive and artistic world. Although the “paper” aspect only stuck once the name was localized here in the West, it became integral to the growth of the franchise and has seen a lot of focus on this concept. Paper Mario Color Splash continues on this application and adds in the artist’s spirit with the use of colors and paint.
Color Splash starts well in introducing a movie-like experience during the early introduction. As all Mario games, the setting and plot are defined fairly quickly and it won’t take long before the paper plumber goes on his adventure to save something and/or someone.
This time around, we find ourselves on Prisma Island, where Mario Peach and Toad have come to solve the mystery behind colors disappearing completely off objects and even people. This is where the colorful and charming Huey the magic paint bucket comes in. Many of the recent Paper Mario games had given Mario a sidekick that mostly serves as a guide and a pivotal character in the current crisis.
Prisma Island has lost the power of its Paint Stars that offer unlimited amount of colorful paint, literally giving life to all things. So it is up to Mario to bring color back to Prisma Island and its citizens and return the Paint Stars back to where they belong. Along the way, you will use a multitude of abilities and techniques to solve puzzles, win battles and more.
Of course, one of the high points of Color Splash is its art style. On Wii U, Paper Mario has been able to see some HD action and the textures and effects have only seen an upgrade which only accentuates the theme. Right down to the quality of paper seen on the textures, one can tell apart two otherwise identical Toads apart. The color splashing effect is also pretty cool; even the paint Mario splashes around will actually stay on objects so it can be used in a multitude of ways besides coloring empty spots in the landscape.
The score is also pretty impressive. Although some songs can become overplayed (i.e.: the battle music as it hardly ever changes), the overall experience is still quite soothing. Exploring new areas always a nice orchestral or groovy tune to it and it all fits in the lighthearted world of Paper Mario.
In the past, Mario was seen using a lot of paper-related techniques, changing dimensions and more. In Color Splash, the heroic plumber will use the power of color that Huey offers to fight evil. When exploring, Mario is able to paint whatever is in front of him using his paint-infused hammer. This can fill up empty spots that can give him bonuses or it can unlock a new path. For example, a waterfall that had the colors of its base stolen will stop flowing. Once Mario paints the water again, the flow will resume and you can see how puzzles can be interesting when it comes to life-giving paint.
Another technique introduced pretty early on in the game is the Cutout Technique. In the right place, Mario can cut pieces of the landscapes to unlock secret and traverse to areas that he could not reach otherwise. The effects of this technique only adds on the artsy style of Paper Mario.
Mario can also color people back to life, mostly Toads mind you. They can give useful tips and funny comments all at the same time. In fact, a lot of the dialogues are pretty hilarious and “punny”. Some comments can be pretty cringy while others make references veteran players will be more likely to recognize. It’s a nice touch by the localization team!
Now, in all role-playing games, there should a solid battle system that will introduce you to the hardships that your character will have to go through from the beginning to end. Of all things, the battle system is one repetitive aspect that must be engaging in order for players to feel a sense of accomplishment and growth. After all, that is why the genre is named “role-playing”.
The combat functions on cards mixed in a turn-based system. Mario can only attack using Battle Cards he currently has. There are a variety of cards in the game including Jump, Hammer, Koopa Troopa and items such as Mushrooms. There is also a type of card made from actual objects such as fans that are called “Things”. All cards have a single use limit, meaning they disappear as soon as they are used. This limits a lot of choices in certain situations.
There is a back-up plan called the Battle Roulette. The player can click on that once per turn and pay a minimum of 10 Coins for the chance to receive an extra card. Once again, it leaves a lot that up to chance as well. Enemies may also sometime sneak up on Mario while the player is selecting a card and steal one from him.
Admittedly, the battle system put in place in Color Splash leaves a lot to be desired. There are not many strategic decisions to be made besides choosing the most appropriate cards to fight. The player cannot even select which enemy they wish to attack first so they must strike the first one in line at all times. Sometimes you may not have the right card on you and a simple battle can become a bigger bother than it supposed to be. There is a development oversight on this aspect of the game.
The game does have a lot to cover and there are a great number of stages to go through. It has a decent length and fans do have a great amount of content to go through. Plus, they will find themselves returning to past stages for more secrets and things that were not accessible before. There is an incentive to collect all Paint Stars for that 100% completion.
All in all, Paper Mario Color Splash does an incredible job in entertaining its player with charming characters and funny dialogues. The unique artistic look coupled with a great score only make the experience all the more worth it. Unfortunately, a role playing game needs to create challenges where players feel they are actually contributing more than simply throwing a command every now and then.
Paper Mario was known for its great and deep battle and customization system. It is a shame that this series feels like its only losing this great aspect. Focusing on the visual is a great upgrade, but not when the fundamentals of the genre begin to lack. It’s still an enjoyable experience for those looking for someone looking for very lighthearted fun.