After a month absence of gruelling away at university and other personal troubles, I’m back. Rather than give you all some paper thin excuses, I have a new review. While we have the constant debate on which spelling of colour is correct, Mario is back in an anything but flat adventure for Nintendo Wii U, Paper Mario: Color Splash!
Will Color Splash be a tear-rific new adventure for our two dimensional pal, or is it to be crumpled up and thrown into the nearest waste basket? Also, how many lame-nated puns could I possibly make… alright, I’ll stop now!
Check out the full review after the break!
Paper Mario: Color Splash
Nintendo Wii U
Developed by Intelligent Systems
Published by Nintendo
Released: 7th October 2016 (NA and Europe)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
Screenshots/Art Courtesy of Nintendo
On a dark and stormy night, Paper Mario was relaxing in his own home, that’s until a hooded figure, who happens to be Peach arrives at your door with a letter. Oh no! It’s a folded up Toad with his/her colour removed. The only clue to what could’ve happened is a stamp with a Shine Sprite looking insignia, it came from Port Prisma. When you arrive to Port Prisma, you arrive, shocked to see there are colourless spots spread across the entire area. You soon meet up with a strange looking talking paint can, appropriately named Huey, in a rather empty looking fountain. He tells you that he is the guardian of the Big Paint Stars, all of whom have mysteriously vanished from their posts.
After being ambushed by some Slurp Guys (shy guys equipped with colour slurping straws), Huey recommends that you squeeze him as hard as you can… yup, you heard right. After doing so, in an almost seemingly inappropriate manner, you are provided with the brand new paint meter, which you can use to paint some battle cards to use against the Slurp Guys. After the battle, he also infuses your hammer with the power of paint so you can recolour those colourless spots and Toads. Your new adventure has begun, you must find the missing Paint Stars, find out why they vanished, and rescue Princess Peach, after she predictably gets kidnapped, before the whole island of Prisma becomes completely colourless… or worse!
Color Splash uses a very similar, turn-based battle system to that of Sticker Star, but this time you will be using Battle Cards instead of stickers. You can find Battle Cards by painting colourless spots, hitting item blocks, or purchasing them from the Card Shop in Port Prisma. When you start a battle, you will be directed to the GamePad screen to choose which cards to play. You have your regular actions, such as the Boot, Hammer, and Super Mushroom, but later on you will also get other actions such as the Frog Suit, or the Drill Boot. Once you have chosen your attacks, drag the card to the playing field, paint them, then flick them to the TV screen. The process mainly feels fairly tedious as, instead of just having to select from a list of moves, you have quite a few different things to do before you are able to make your attack; quite often I have even forgotten to flick my cards to the TV. The UI can also become a bit fiddly when you start to own a lot of battle cards as there is no way to easily jump to a specific type of action, you’ll just have to flick through your deck until you find them. It’s all a neat concept, but it just feels like it can become too tedious.
The paint system is actually a fairly clever feature of Color Splash. You get a separate meter for Blue, Yellow, and Red paint, but these can be merged to make up colours like orange or purple. Paint can also be refilled by collecting paint drops, which are dropped by enemies or when you hit certain objects in the environment. Battle Cards that are unpainted will do a ridiculously low amount of damage, whereas a fully painted card will do a whole lot more. In the tougher battles, it can be easy to use up your supply of paint, especially for the more powerful attacks, so it is essential to plan your attacks wisely so you don’t have to resort to weak attacks.
Unfortunately, it seems that Color Splash has done away with the Experience system, or at least in the conventional sense. Instead of earning EXP after battles, enemies will drop pickups that look like mini hammers called Scraps. Collecting scraps will fill up your hammer meter. Once that meter fills up, the maximum amount of paint you can carry, and the power of your first strike (when you successfully attack an enemy before battle ensues) will both permanently increase. Not only that, but after each Big Paint Star you obtain, your first strike strength and maximum health also increase. You will also be able to increase the amount of actions you can perform per turn up to four as you follow the story. Though I have very much missed the traditional experience system, this new system is definitely a welcome feature. It would still be nice to be able to raise other stats though.
The way you progress through the story is pretty simple. From the world map you enter a new level, where you explore the area for a Mini Paint Star (some levels have up to three), which will open up the next level, or a shortcut path to a previous one. Each level will usually require some sort of simple problem to solve and a fair amount of battles, however the gameplay does begin to get a bit deeper when you get close to the first Big Paint Star. You will find that you will have to solve larger problems, some of which will require you to visit other levels. One task which I thought was a very nice breath of fresh air, was in the Dark Bloo Inn. Here you have to find all the disgruntled Toad ghost guests, once you do, you then have to figure out what they want and try to find the best way they can get what they want by exploring the Inn. It kinda reminds me of the sort of tasks you would have to do in Super Mario Galaxy to receive the Shine Sprite (c’mon Nintendo, we need a sequel!). This is just one example, you will also have to guide a ship through mysterious waters, travel between parallel universes to stop a vortex, you will even be tasked with preparing a steak for a rather picky restaurant goer… you literally have to fight a piece of beef and season it properly!
Things make a return. These are real life objects, scattered across which you can squeeze to turn into battle cards. These can be used in battle to cause serious damage on all enemies, along with a cheesy, yet entertaining, little cutscene. There are also times where you can transform the cards back into the thing to solve a puzzle. For example, placing a fan in the ocean to blow the sails of a ship. All boss battles require the use of a Thing Card or two at a specific moment of the battle. To know what thing you need, you’ll have to pay close attention to what they say and do during battle, sometimes it can be fairly difficult to know when exactly you need to use a thing. Though this is a nice way to add strategy to battles, it can become frustrating if you have not been able to collect the thing or if you have used it too early. If you use it to early, you have to travel all the way to Port Prisma to purchase the thing from a Toad, come back, then start the battle right from the very beginning.
A new feature introduce in Color Splash is called Cutout, this is when you can literally cutout a part of the environment to make a new pathway to 2D space. You may also be able to cutout a card-shaped hole where you can insert a thing card and transform it into a thing. There is another new feature called Unfurl. When hitting an unfurl block, you will temporarily be able to unfurl certain objects with the hammer to help progress through the level. Though both features are fun and unique, it doesn’t feel like Color Splash uses them to their full potential.
There are a bunch of other things to do if you want a little break from your quest. Luigi felt a little bummed that you abandoned him for your new adventure, so to feel included, he has hidden himself in various locations of Prism Island. If you are skilled enough to find him, just use the uncut feature to set him free, and you’ll earn a bag-full of coins. If you want to dump some cards you do not need anymore, you can choose to donate them to the museum instead of selling them. Doing so will give each card a description, and donating enough will unlock some neat concept art. There are many colourless spots across Prism Island, colouring all spots on each level will unlock music respective to that course. Finally, there are eight Ramshambo temples you can unlock to compete in games of Rock Paper Scissors with familiar characters from the game. This side-quest is particularly tedious as it is essentially the same thing over and over again, it is especially annoying in the rounds where the result will be almost completely random. It does make me feel bad for the Toads though, you must live a pretty poor life if you think Rock Paper Scissor tournaments are a form of world class entertainment! As you can see, there is plenty to do for all those completionists out there.
Without a doubt, Color Splash is the most beautiful Paper Mario game to date. The environments look so crisp and realistic, it almost feels like I could stick my hand into the TV screen and manipulate the environment myself… you know what would be a fantastic idea? Paper Mario Amiibo cards that are shaped like characters and enemies from the game! The music is also incredibly varied and an absolute joy to listen to, the music when fighting against Wendy was particularly epic, it really make me wish I could refight the bosses! The charm, quirkiness, and wit you’d expect from any Paper Mario game is there in full force, whether it’s the folk dancing of the Toads, or making innuendos subtle enough to pass a 3+ rating, you’ll likely be playing through the majority of the game with a huge grin on your face.
Paper Mario: Color Splash is a good game, but it is one that I truly wish I could love even more. The paint system adds new depth to gameplay and battles, the levels get creative with varied objectives, and it’s just an overall fun game to play. What lets it down is that I still miss the old experience system, the UI is fiddly, and some features and systems just feel a bit too tedious. Either way, I would still recommend Color Splash (though only just) as, like I said before, it is still a fun game despite its few shortcomings.
Final Rating – 3.5 out of 5
Paper Mario: Color Splash is out now for Nintendo Wii U!