Paper Mario: Color Splash
Reviewed on Wii U
Kris Godwin / Thu 27th Oct 2016
143 views / 4 bites
The latest installment in Nintendo's beloved, wafer-thin RPG series is here, and in HD for the first time ever!
Does it steamroll the competition? Or is simply a flat experience?
The games begins in a decidedly darker fashion than in previous entries - quite literally! Caught in the midst of a thunderstorm, Princess Peach and Toad arrive at Mario's home in the dead of night, carrying a foreboding message.
However, this is no ordinary message. As he unfolds the seemingly-normal piece of paper, Mario discovers to his horror that what he holds in his gloved hands is a toad, completely drained of its colour!
After a hilarious reaction, the trio discover that the dessicated fungi possesses the delivery stamp of Prism Island, and as such decide to journey to the mysterious land in order to find some answers.
Arriving at the dock of Port Pisma, Mario finds the entire town deserted, before coming across the disturbing scene of Toad being sucked of his colour by a straw-wielding Shy Guy. After belting the red fiend and his pals, the portly plumber then befriends Huey (get it?), a floating, talking paint can who tells him that Prism Island is having its beautiful shades erased by a nefarious force. As such, the sarcastic tin travels with Mario across the island in order to find some answers, as well as reviving the world's Big Paint Stars.
In true Paper Mario fashion, the story is simply excellent. With a wide variety of locales and amusing scenarios, I truly had a righteous time going through the campaign. Whether it's coffee shops full of hipster Shy Guys, the Power Rangers-esque Toad Rescue Squad, or that ever pesky green mustache guy, the characters are hilariously written, with lines that made me legitimately laugh out loud. I give major kudos to the Treehouse Localisation team for conveying the wit and sharp dialogue of the original Japanese script.
The gameplay of Color Splash emulates that of Paper Mario: Sticker Star, rather than the RPG leanings of earlier titles.
A point of contention during the pre-release build-up, I myself was skeptical, as I wasn't a fan of the 3DS entry. However, I'm happy to report that the paint-based mechanics work very well.
Set on a 2.5D plane, Color Splash combines platforming with turn-based combat, as is tradition. What differs in this installment is Mario's power to colour in his surroundings. Collecting globules of primary hues from his environment, he can fill in empty spaces with whacks of his hammer, as well as bring certain objects back to life.
Battles also use this mechanic. In order to fight, Mario needs to amass battle cards (which are thankfully plentiful), with each card allowing him to perform offensive moves and use temporary allies. Using the GamePad, you can use your paint supply to fill in these cards, which give them more potency, and this brings a nice layer of strategy.
Unlike Sticker Star, I felt like this was handled much better. In the handheld title, I grew frustrated with wasting stickers, and having to constantly go back and get more. However, the paint system in this game allows for more freedom of experimentation, whilst still making players think critically about how the limited supply is used (particularly in the later stages of the story). Additionally, the amusing 'Thing' stickers (well, cards now) return, which are giant, random objects that are used in certain locations, as well as powerful battle summons.
On top of all of this, Color Splash introduces the scissors feature, allowing you to cut out certain pieces of the scenery (via the touch screen), and then pasting Mario onto a new plane of the level. I really dug this, which really added to the illusion that the entire world was one big craft project!
In typical Nintendo fashion, the graphics for Paper Mario: Colour Splash are bright, bold and beautiful.
Initially, I didn't think HD would add very much to the handcrafted aesthetic, but boy, was I wrong! Immediately, the power of the Wii U is used with maximum effectiveness, with crinkled cardboard scenery mixing with objects that look as though they were put together with scissors and glue. Combine this with liberal use of bloom (a holdover from the similarly stunning Super Mario 3D World), and Color Splash is truly a feast for the eyes! Small presentation touches like enemy health being represented by their colour richness, and witty dialogue mocking the player as they pick their battle cards really adds personality to the whole thing.
If I had any qualms, I would say that it was slightly disappointing seeing a relatively small amount of unique character models, with Toads and Shy Guys being the main culprits. Also, Koopa Kids? Again? Come on, Nintendo...
I was pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack, which incorporates lively fiddles and violins in conjunction with the typically upbeat Mario music. It's a real aural pleasure, and it's rare to see a non-voice acted major release in this day and age. That's not necessarily a bad thing; as an old school gamer, I love reading dialogue, and using my imagination to fill in the gaps!
Overall, Paper Mario: Color Splash is another quality notch in the Wii U's belt. I greatly enjoyed my time spent with the game, and though some may miss the series' RPG leanings, I still have to applaud Intelligent Systems for daring to do something fresh and new.
Give it a go!
Review Copy supplied by Nintendo Australia