Paper Mario: Color Splash Sheds Its RPG Roots
When Paper Mario fans describe their love for the series, it is often colored in RPG mechanics and partner systems that were praised in the first titles in the series. Paper Mario: Color Splash distances itself from the RPG genre and enters another more closely resembling an Adventure title. They have changed Paper Mario and decided to experiment with different ideas to create something new, quirky, and adorable. Does the new game show potential for the series in the future? Or could it possibly lead to a boatload of gimmicks that don’t quite stick?
Paper Mario: Color Splash throws you into the world of Prism Island where the poor Toad inhabitants are looking a little pale. Their color is being taken right out of them by straw-wielding Shy Guys. Their world has changed since the loss of their Big Paint Stars and it is up to Mario and his trusty hammer to splash some color back into their lives. The games main focus is on color and restoring Prism Island back to its former glory.
The games over-world is quite enjoyable with plenty of adorable paper-made objects and tons of clever dialogue to keep you entertained. The character’s are full of charm and the localization team did a great job giving unique characteristics to an ocean of toads. The game doesn’t make much of an effort to give any Toads unique physical characteristics, but it is never disappointing talking to one of the many Toads on Prism Island.
In the stages of the game, it is great to interact with the levels and see how the artwork affects the world you are in. Using your hammer, you are able to fill in gaps in the colorless spots the Shy Guys have attacked. The moments exploring each stage and discovering how closely ingrained paper and color are to your world are incredibly fun and interactive. Each stage brings a unique theme to the game and keeps the game moving until you have to battle.
The battle system has remnants of an RPG, but they have been stripped down and simplified to a bare-bones mechanic that isn’t too thrilling. To battle, you collect cards that give you different abilities. You can then choose to paint them a bit to give them more power against the enemies. Enemies don’t have hit points, but they do gradually lose their color as you defeat them. While it’s a cute aspect to the game, it feels empty compared to the battle system of before.
The battles really miss out on making anything interesting beyond the Thing Cards. The Thing Cards perform special attacks that bring a real life object into the game and then discolors your enemies. While those are fun to play and are often needed to defeat bosses, you don’t often need cards beyond the jump and hammer. Your cards are also a limited resource. Once you use them, they are gone. However, that doesn’t necessarily add any challenging aspect to the game because cards are easy to replenish.
There is a real lack in the battle system and no clear way to fix it if Nintendo is looking to get away from the RPG genre with the title. They do have an opportunity using cards for the battles. There are so many trading card games out there, it would be interesting to see that mechanic play out in the game and allow players to build and design strategic decks for battles. Not sure, if that would be the right fit for Paper Mario, but something definitely has to be done to improve on the action of the game.
Immediately when I saw the first cut scene, I was stunned by the detail of the paper Mario cutout. You can easily make out the paper texture underneath the classic red and blue outfit. Their flat movements in a 3-dimensional world moved like authentic paper people. The layers of paper create wonderful worlds that make you excited to explore and interact with on your journey.
This game is beautiful. From the moment you turn it on, it is easy to get sucked into the games bright world and it leaves you longing to fill every colorless gap in each map. Each level comes with its own theme and is beautifully coordinated with the paper style. You see clouds hanging from strings, large pieces of cardboard creating the floor you walk on and paper toads walking around living their paper lives. They went above and beyond designing a world of paper and it was always exciting to see how they would manipulate their crafts to do something clever with the world.
The music in the game is fun. Though the battles may lack in actual battling, the music played during those sequences always sticks in my head. They opt for big brass sections and a roaring saxophone to keep the energy high. Each level also has a great soundtrack of new songs, old songs remixed, and paper sound effects that keep us believing in everything the Paper Mario world has to offer.
The moments in the game that are full of exploration are a high point. The beautifully designed world definitely inspired me to find every colorless spot and fill it in. Each stage also had a lot of fun little secrets to look out for and the level designs were great. The battles are really lacking and often, you don’t need to do much more than jump or hammer. Luckily, the baddies you run into are cute, colorful, and quirky. The game is chalk full of comedic moments and the writing is truly special. While it is easy to skip through dialogue in games, Paper Mario: Color Splash keeps every word fresh and interesting.