Mario Paint Redux.
Back in 2012, I reviewed Paper Mario: Sticker Star. While it was an enjoyable experience, I didn’t like the fact that they stripped the RPG elements out of the original Paper Mario games, but then I realized that the RPG Mario games were now left up to the Mario and Luigi series. Cut to four years later and Paper Mario makes its way back to consoles in the form of Paper Mario: Color Splash. While still keeping the RPG out of the series, I found myself compelled to keep playing for many reasons.
Color Splash begins with Mario and Peach receiving a mysterious letter from Port Prisma. Not knowing much, Mario, Toad, and Peach set out for Port Prisma only to find it almost completely deserted along with most of the color being drained from everything. Being the source of life in the world of Paper Mario, restoring the world and its inhabitants with color will bring things back to life and with the help of a talking paint can, Mario sets out to do just that. He’ll have to obtain the paint stars that have been taken and scattered throughout the land. It will be a long journey, but they’ll eventually restore everything and figure out who is behind all this.
Platforms: Wii U
Price I’d pay: $59.99
Color Splash feels more like an adventure game mixed with a simplistic version of RPG combat. Mario travels to different areas looking for paint stars. Many of which will take a little bit of puzzle solving to obtain. Usually something in the environment will require moving or activating or helping out random toads that may have had their color drained from them. Mario has a special hammer he can use to splat paint over a surface. Painting colorless things in the environment can reactivate them or bring a character back to life.
The combat is very reminiscent of Sticker Star. Mario uses battle cards to attack in the turn-based combat. These cards represent different types of attacks like the jump move and the hammer smash. Each card has the classic timing-based power-up ability where the player can hit the activate button at the correct timing to make the attacks stronger. On top of that, Mario can use the color in his reserves to paint the cards to make them even more powerful. In fact, a painted card will usually take out an enemy in one hit.
Now, as I said before, many of the classic RPG elements of the original two Paper Mario games have been removed in Color Splash. There is no experience points, no leveling up, no equipment, etc. The only thing Mario has is his color reserves and hit points. This makes the combat feel like a progression annoyance more than something I was working towards improving Mario. Since I was getting nothing out of participating in combat, I felt like I should try to avoid them at all costs. Defeating enemies will offer up color hammer upgrades that allow Mario to hold more paint in his hammer, but after the first two upgrades, I found myself never really running out of paint after that since I could just whack something in the environment for some quick paint to use.
There is a feature called “cut-out” where Mario can use scissors to cut out parts of the background of an area that he can then use to traverse to a part of the screen he normally couldn’t reach. The issue here is that there is no hint or visual trigger to show where this can be done, and this is needed sometimes to progress in the game. Since I can’t find it easily, I end up hitting Y until it finally activates. This really became tedious in some instances.
The game is divided into multiple areas each revolving around a big paint star. In each area, there are multiple levels. While exploring and solving puzzles, players will find themselves travelling back to previously travelled levels in order to get more information, or obtain something they need to progress. It’s a game full of prerequisites, but it is paced so well. That is the biggest praise I can give it. Seeing the RPG elements taken away once again, I was a bit disappointed, but after exploring the world more and seeing just how well this game is paced, it kept me playing, and after a while, I really enjoyed what was there.
The visuals are absolutely beautiful. Everything on screen has a paper or cardboard look to it. Almost like I was watching a play created by an artist using paper mache characters and cardboard cutout backgrounds. It really is something special on the Wii U and really shows what that system is capable of. The soundtrack, being remixed Mario songs as well as original tracks is fantastic and still has me humming them as I’m writing this review, and while there is no spoken dialog, the written dialog is cute and genuinely funny more times than not. Presentation here is top notch.
While I’m still wishing the RPG elements of Thousand Year Door were back here, I still had a pretty great time with Color Splash. It looks amazing, plays great, and has some really great pacing that kept me coming back knowing I was just one more step away from another paint star. Wii U owners have been looking for a new game for a while now, well you just found a great one here and I highly suggest picking it up.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.