Despite their kid-friendly appearance, Paper Mario games have always been geared squarely at adults. Witty writers crammed countless inside jokes and pop culture references into the dialogue, and their demanding, often obtuse puzzles rivaled those of Zelda. Satisfying turn-based battles and open-ended levels ripe for exploration and hidden secrets built the series into one of the most popular RPG-lites on any system. Developer Intelligent Systems didn’t mess with the proven formula with Paper Mario: Color Splash, creating a game that feels like you’ve played it a dozen times before. The trick is that it’s good enough to get you to keep you excited about playing it once again.
Game: Paper Mario: Color Splash
Console: Wii U (reviewed)
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: October 7
The writing is the high point of the game, which has you maneuvering paper cutouts of Mario and his posse through a hyper-cute panoramic world of Prism Island, which has been drained of color, Pleasantville-style. It’s on you to scour the environment for clues, talk to a parade of sarcastic characters, bop the heads of a few hundred Goombas, and bring back the rainbow. There are always hints as to what you’re supposed to do, but the challenge lies in finding out how to execute the vague instructions. If point-and-click adventures such as Myst pulled you in back in the day, you know what to expect here.
Series obsessives will be most at home. Battles are an engaging treat, thanks to the ability to time button presses to block enemies’ attacks and enhance your own offensives. Special moves require precise timing to pull off the biggest damage bonuses. You pull them up via a playing card system that has a hint of Hearthstone. To succeed, you have to stack your deck with a series of varied moves, boosts and condition neutralizers that prepare you for any of the variants you face. Fail to manage your inventory and you’ll find yourself getting jumped by powerful enemies you aren’t prepared for, ending your journey with cruel decisiveness. The way to succeed is to search out every corner for the rarest cards, then put together a cohesive strategy of how you’ll use them.
Past games in the series have fallen victim to frustrating bottlenecks that cut your progress short, forcing you to retreat and grind until you reach recommended levels. There’s none of that in Color Splash, due to the controversial but effective choice to do away with experience points and leveling. The move may rob the game of many of its RPG elements, but ups the pace and keeps you engaged in the story’s forward momentum rather than feeling as though you’re stuck in an unforgiving chore loop. While you may find the urge to grind in order to score better cards, you’ll usually find your inventory full, with enough solid choices to help you through most dangers you encounter.
The Wii U is fading fast, with few big-hitter games coming out on the console as Nintendo prepares to launch its successor, the NX, in March. There isn’t much for owners of the system to look forward to, and that makes the release of Paper Mario: Color Splash, all he more exciting to those who have stayed committed to the console. This is exactly the type of game Nintendo loyalists have in mind when they go all in on the publisher’s systems, and a welcome reward for those who have stuck it out. Fun, humorous, and exciting throughout, this is the type of game that makes Xbox One and PS4 owners — if not jealous — definitely nostalgic for the time they ate up previous Paper Mario games on past Nintendo consoles. It’s not often that Wii U players have the privilege of playing such a game, so they should enjoy it while they can.
Paper Mario: Color Splash Reviews Around The Web:
“Paper Mario: Color Splash, with its silly demeanor and flashy world with witty inhabitants and arcade button presses, is a game for somebody.” –Nintendo Life
“The regular gameplay is what you expect from a Sticker Star follow-up, though many of the elements have been improved.” –Nintendo World Report
“If what I played of Paper Mario: Color Splash is any indication, Nintendo’s current console may still have a little gas left in the tank.” –Game Informer
Paper Mario: Color Splash Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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