Paper Mario is back, and it is continuing the move from RPG to turn based combat, in the form of throwing paint around the virtual world in the newest addition to the series, Paper Mario: Color Splash.
The main story brings Mario, Peach (and of course the tag along third wheel Toad), to the mysterious Prism Island, starting at Port Prism, where they have come to discover the mystery of the disappearing paint. It is there that they meet an enthusiastic paint can named Huey, who is the caretaker of the paint fountain inhabited by the six Big Paint Stars.
In typical Mario game fashion, Bowser has swiped the Big Paint Stars, and now it’s up to Mario to retrieve them and restore color back to the island.
Beyond saving the Big Paint Stars, there is extra in-game activities to complete, such as fixing broken mechanisms, shopping at various stores and interfacing with unique NPCs.
There is even a Ro-Sham-Bo temple in various sections of the island, where Mario can compete for coins, and to have some general in game fun.
The use of the paint mechanics is fluid throughout the game.
There is a paint level meter on the screen that indicates how much of each primary color of paint Mario has in his hammer to use, and as he bonks colors onto various colorless spots (color dry NPCs or environmental for example), the level will deplete. It is critical to always be searching for items to smack to have color droplets fall to restore the meter levels. If Mario doesn’t have enough of a specific color needed, the wrong colors will be used and the colorless spot will not fill.
A true completionist will feel the need to fill every colorless spot they find! It can become quite a time consuming challenge all in itself.
There is no traditional XP level system in the game, but has an internal experience system that technically levels you up periodically based on how much you battle. This encourages players to not just run every time an enemy attacks. Plus the more you battle, the more paint you will retain, making further game progression easier.
As Mario’s level increases, his hammer will in essence grow, and the paint meter will get larger.
To successfully battle in the game, you must utilize Battle Cards, which require paint to power up. These vary but include basic moves such as Stomp, Ice Flower, and Spiky Hat. You can choose to not paint a card, or you can choose how much paint to apply to a card. This requires strategy, as more paint application means more power behind it. But you also don’t want to deplete colors fully in Mario’s hammer. Purchasing or finding colored cards is very helpful in saving paint.
The Battle Card system is not very user friendly as it tries to utilize the gamepad of the Wii U, while the rest of the game is played via the TV. Once a battle starts, you have to view your gamepad to pick your attack cards, fill them with paint and queue them for the attack and then quickly re-focus on the TV to see the resulting action. It takes quite awhile to get used to this process, as it is not very fluid at first try.
When enemies are defeated, they will most of the time drop coins, color droplets and battle cards, unless they are a main boss that helps progress the story line.
Most of the Boss battles require that Mario utilizes special cards known as Thing Cards. These are real life 3D objects that are found around the island that can be “squeezed” into Battle Cards, which are fun to use as they playout the battle in a humorous in game video sequence. Such as the Fan Card… it causes the enemy to fall into outer space and then be blown fast against the TV screen and causing extreme health damage to them. Or the Plunger card, that takes the enemy to a Red Light district alley and “plunger sucks” them. These cards make no sense in the overall game or storyline, but they are fun to watch anyways.
The issue with the Thing Cards, is that until you face a Boss, you have no idea if you have the right Thing Card needed…..or if you do have the right card….when is the correct time to use it in the battle??
While the overall graphics of the game are beautiful…gorgeous textures, rich detail and unique 2D applications…the game environment is designed in a bit of a too simple type of way, in essence to ensure that a player has all the resources they need readily available. Practically everything, from boxes to trees contains color droplets to help fill the paint meter. If your health is getting low, hearts are likely to spawn when an enemy is defeated. And there is a Save Block at every turn it seems.
The other issue of the environment, while it is a unique addition to the game, the “cut out tool” mechanic creates the issue of again having to utilize the gamepad to complete the action and also leaves nothing to the imagination in the way of figuring out how to get from point A to point B. Even more frustrating, is that it seems like you could spend a long time trying to see if a secret path exists, and even if you are in the right place, the screen alignment has to be absolutely perfect or the cut out mechanism will not activate. This almost made me want to throw my controller…
Color Splash, while it appears to be a fantastic game on the surface, sadly offers a very similar story to the well known brand. While the game isn’t about saving the Princess directly… it truly follows the same path of most of the Mario games….. save the stolen item/person, capture the castle/island and defeat the turtle shelled bad guy.
Even in level progression, it involves many playthroughs of levels to find several hidden Mini Paint Stars, which are needed to unlock specific areas that hide the Big Paint Stars. And it’s not just finding a few of the Mini Paint Stars in the section of the island…. the game wants you to find all of them before you can access the Big Paint Star in that section.
This is a true letdown for anyone looking for a game with a unique and intriguing storyline. While the concept of paint splashing is new and refreshing to the brand, the general story stay the same 2D self.
Paper Mario: Color Splash is a good addition to the gaming collection for any Mario fan, and for one who is interested in more of the couch gaming style versus the intense action style. It definitely shows a successful move in the right direction as Nintendo tries to take the series from an RPG to an action adventure style game, but falls short with its storyline and repetitive gameplay tactics that have been overused in the last few games of the Paper Mario series.