The latest installment in the Paper Mario series is out now on Wii U and I just finished playing it, so let's dive right in. Released on October 7th 2016, this game appeared in my mailbox at just the right time. I had no long games on the go and I was feeling ready to jump into something completely new, and this game is certainly completely new. It takes the Paper Mario series in a new direction, different than anything I have played before.
A HILARIOUS EXPERIENCE
What Paper Mario: Color Splash lacks in plot, it makes up for in excellent writing. That seems like a counter intuitive statement but let me explain. This is one of the funniest games I have ever played, but the story is very basic. After Mario and Peach receive a letter from Prism Island they discover that Bowser and his army of Shy Guys have sucked the colour out of the world and stolen the Big Paint Stars of Port Prisma. The Big Paint Stars power a fountain that supplies the world with colour through paint. In order to save Port Prisma and all of Prism Island Mario joins forces with a paint can named Huey who gives Mario's hammer the power to repaint colourless objects. Huey explains that if they manage to find some Mini Paint Stars they will lead the way to one of the missing Big Paint Stars. After they set off on their journey, Princess Peach is quickly captured by Bowser and rescuing her is added to the to-do list.
The story seems predictable, find stars and save the princess from Bowser, but I instantly disregarded that fact because of all the humour that peppers this game. The dialog of Huey and the Toads had me laughing hard all throughout the game. If you don't want any of the jokes spoiled for you, don't watch the video to the left, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are also funny references throughout the dialog, some of which only the most dedicated of Nintendo fans will get, which for me was rewarding. The humorous writing was my favourite part of Color Splash.
COLOURFUL RPG WITH A TWIST
Paper Mario: Color Splash falls more in the Action/Adventure genre but still has some RPG elements. The attacks are turn based and your player's stats improve throughout the game but there is no XP system unlike most RPGs. Color Splash follows in the footsteps of the previous titles, incorporating rhythm into Mario's many attacks while changing it up by adding cards into the mix. The cards are like attack points. Mario can hold up to 99 cards in his deck, most of which are "Battle Cards" that allow Mario to attack with his hammer or by jumping on an enemy, etcetera. As the game progresses you find new battle cards that give you different attacks or let you attack more than once in a single turn and before you play a card you can paint it to give it more power. There are also "Thing Cards" and "Enemy Cards" that have their own specific functions as well.
Having to look down at the Game Pad, select a card, paint it and use it seems slow and tedious at first. However, you can change the control scheme in the settings to reduce the number of necessary touches for each turn and it honestly didn't really bother me as I got deeper into the game. The game also looks fantastic. I really like the paper characters and how the world is cleverly constructed with cardboard. The developers at Intelligent Systems did a great job on the graphics. When playing the game on my TV the edges looked really crisp and the colours are super vibrant. It is truly a visually satisfying experience.
A COMPLETIONIST'S DREAM... OR NIGHTMARE
There is tons of stuff to do in this game if you are the completionist type, like myself. Every stage has loads of colourless spots to fill in with your paint hammer and a couple Mini Paint Stars to find. There are loads of unique cards to find as you progress and they implemented a Card Museum started by some Toads in Port Prisma to help you keep track. Whenever you find a new card you can donate it to the museum and cross that one off of your list. This sort of thing can be fun, but if you want to 100% the game and find all the cards then you need to beat the Rock Paper Wizards... For some reason, there is a rock paper scissors mini game thrown into Color Splash that they call Super Roshambo! Roshambo temples pop up around the world and if you enter the contest you will face three opponents in a game of rock paper scissors. These act as a quick money maker and the first two opponents are generally easy. There are Toads lingering around outside the temples with insider info on what card the first two opponents might play against you. The third opponent is complete luck and if you obtain one Big Paint Star somewhere in Prism Island then the third opponent at the corresponding Roshambo Temple will be replaced by a Rock Paper Wizard.
These Toads are true wizards. They seem to know what you are going to pick every time until you just get lucky and manage to beat him. Sometimes you tie them and get your hopes up but then they just smash you in the next round. Things like this are a nightmare for completionists because defeating the Rock Paper Wizard is the only way to get a specific card, and there are eight of them! I played the game to nearly 100% completion. The only thing I haven't done yet is beat the last Rock Paper Wizard. He just keeps crushing me, and the first two rounds in the last temple are no easier. Maybe I will go back and beat him later after a much needed Roshambo break. Super Roshambo is the one part of the game that I genuinely disliked.
This is a great game for the Wii U library and a worthy addition to the Paper Mario series. The new card based battle system is a neat new way to change up the usual RPG attack style and this game has some of the nicest looking graphics on the system. No two stages are alike either which adds loads of variety to the gameplay as you progress. I also haven't mentioned the music yet. The original music is phenomenal and the game also contains some excellent versions of past Super Mario tunes. Color Splash has some flaws, such as when you die you have to go all the way back to the title screen to reload your save. There is also only one save slot, so if multiple people want to have their own games, they better have their own profile on the Wii U as well. Then there are the Roshambo temples which are a huge pain, but you don't even need to set foot in them to beat the game. After playing to nearly 100% completion I spent just over 36 hours playing and it was a great experience. The funny writing alone makes playing this game worth your time.
It may be different than the classic Paper Mario games we all know and love, but that doesn't make it any less fun to play.