For years, Paper Mario had been one of those unique Mario spin-off games. It turned a typical platformer game into a story driven, character building RPG experience. Nintendo fans loved sitting down for hours exploring the paper Mushroom Kingdom on their N64 or GameCube. Even the Wii’s Super Paper Mario provided an engaging story and interesting villains. Yes, sir; things were looking good for the Paper Mario series back in the day. Then, tragedy struck. Out of the darkest voids of Miyamoto’s mind came the mistake no one asked for: Sticker Star.
Most Paper Mario fans could write pages upon pages about how bad the 3DS game was. Fortunately, this is not a Sticker Star review. Four years after Sticker Star’s release, Nintendo casually announced the next Paper Mario game: Sticker Star 2. At least, that was the initial reaction. While the trailer looked good in HD, the gameplay looked nothing like the original two games. Fans complained, pressed dislike buttons repeatedly, commented harshly on forums, and signed petitions; it was quite the mess.
Now that Color Splash is out, I can honestly say it is not Sticker Star 2. Color Splash is a good game.
Paint the Town Red… and Blue, Yellow, Green, Orange, Purple
Paper Mario Color Splash starts with Peach and Toad (no, not that Toad; the other Toad) visiting Mario’s home. They give Mario a disturbing letter: a Toad (no, not that Toad) with no color! The horror! Mario, Peach, and Toad (the other Toad) set off for Prism Island to find out what happened to the colorless Toad (Yes, that Toad).
On the island, Mario meets Dewey, a paint can with attitude… or at least a semi-unique personality. They team up to stop Bowser’s minions from sucking all the paint and bring back the missing paint stars. It’s a typical Paper Mario story with a few unique twists. Now, the creators did say the ending would make you cry; unfortunately, the story wasn’t near as investing or heartbreaking as they had probably hoped.
HOWEVER, they nailed the dialogue of most of the characters. Toads in this game are witty, funny, and charismatic. You may have a hard time telling them apart, but they will more often than not make you laugh. If only they would design more characters besides Toads. In the risk of beating a dead Toad, I’ll move on.
Everything Can Be Bought and Sold with the Right Amount of Paint
Color Splash is like taking the basic idea of the series and mashing it with Splatoon. While nowhere near as innovative, splashing everything with paint is strangely hypnotic. It’s satisfying to finally fill in the black spaces spread across the levels, as well as beneficial. Coloring in the spaces gives you needed coins and cards so you rarely run out of cards to paint and flick.
There is a limit to how much paint you can hold at a time. However, that limit doesn’t present a problem until the ending of the game. It’s not so much that paint is hard to find, but more like you use a lot of paint in a short amount of time. You can increase your paint gauge by battling enemies and then collecting hammer scraps from their remains. Unfortunately, I still found myself running out of precious paint, particularly blue.
Grinding for hammer scraps will also give you a fair amount of coins. In fact, the amount of coins you have may seem too much at first, but trust me, you’ll need every last one. Not to say I struggled with not having enough money; more like, my play style had me spending a lot of money, buying cards for various reasons.
Epic Paint Battles of History
And now, for Paper Mario Color Spalsh’s most controversial part: the Battle System. Starting with Super Paper Mario, the battle system or lack thereof seems to always irk fans the most. However, Paper Mario fans will be happy to know that Color Splash’s battles are not terrible; they are okay. Not good, just okay.
Paper Mario fans will be happy to know that Color Splash’s battles are not terrible; they are okay. Not good, just okay.
In battle, Mario can paint cards that perform different actions like jump or hammer attacks. The damage depends on how much paint you use and how well you input the action commands. This mechanic is similar to Sticker Star, except you use cards instead of stickers.
So, what makes Color Splash’s system better? Well, there are a few reasons. One reason is enemies carry a lot of personality with them. Sure, there isn’t a ton of variety in characters like in Thousand Year Door, but it’s more than the last game. Shy Guys slurping paint with bendy straws already doubles creativity seen in the last game. Plus, while you choose which cards to paint, the enemies usually blurt out some trash talk, and I loved it.
Another reason would be the importance of battling itself. Fighting actually gives you something of worth with the Hammer Scraps. Maybe it’s not experience points like in previous games, but at least I didn’t feel like I was wasting my cards. In fact, instead of dreading the upcoming battle, I actually enjoyed using my cards to destroy Bowser’s minions.
One last reason is the Thing Cards. While not new to the series, the cinematic attacks were exciting to use and extremely helpful when there are a ton of enemies on the screen. It brought a nice break from repeatedly jumping. My favorite has to be the bottle cap opener. (Hey, don’t down it until you kill your enemies with it.) There are moments where you need certain Thing Cards to put a boss, but the game gives you good enough hints so you are not completely lost. (Hint: Garbage Can Toad).
That being said, the fighting does get boring at times. The system suffers from the same repetitiveness as the previous game. While it is an improvement, it still could use some work.
Jamming Music and Beautiful Landscapes
Color Splash is by far the best aesthetically looking Paper Mario game to date. The paper theme shines on the Wii U in beautiful HD. Each area amazed me in how the developers used paper and cardboard to create the world. I could recommend the game on looks alone, but of course, looks aren’t everything.
Luckily, Color Splash offers some of the best music in any Paper Mario game. From the main theme to the battle theme, the music pumped me up to paint every blank space in sight. A mix of old western style music and jazz, the game’s music never got old or repetitive, which is a huge plus for a turn based RPG like game.
Color Splash Verdict
Color Splash is a fun, good last hoorah for the dying Wii U. The game overcomes its mediocre story with charm, wit, and a better than Sticker Star battle system. While it may not be the Paper Mario game lifelong fans were hoping for, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.