Paper Mario Color Splash Review-Splash Hit or Dud?
Paper Mario Color Splash
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo of America
ESRB Rating: E
Release Date: October 7th, 2016
Paper Mario: Color Splash has to be one of the most controversial games releasing this year due to the continuation of the formula its predecessor, “Paper Mario: Sticker Star” started. Did this game do enough to improve upon what Sticker Star did?
On a dark and stormy night, Princess Peach and a Toad visit Mario with a mysterious envelope. Mario unfolds the envelope to find out that another Toad had its color drained, leaving nothing but a lifeless sheet of paper. Mario recognizes the postage stamp on the letter and heads toward the island where it was sent from: Prism Island. Upon arriving on Prism Island, Mario notices there is a lot of color splotches on the ground and soon finds out the cause: Bowser’s minions are sucking the world dry through straws. Mario takes it upon himself to stop this horrible scheme and return color to the island.
Color Splash’s plot is very straightforward, but is very entertaining as the game heavily relies on comedy for its writing style and its set pieces. One example that comes to mind is a scene where Mario’s new partner Huey is giving a heartfelt speech on how he’ll see this situation through with Mario and will never leave his side. Then immediately after, he runs away because a giant Chain Chomp chases after them. These kind of events throughout the game really flesh out the characters of this world and make it feel like a real living place, rather than just a world to travel in to reach the end of the game. While the game heavily relies on Bowser’s minions, as well as the Toads as the main NPCs of the game, their dialogue is chock-full of self-aware humor and references to pop culture. The game almost feels like a parody of the traditional Mario formula due to the amount of jokes they make about it. This story is engaging for the writing alone and definitely worth the time it takes to play the game.
Speaking of playing the game, the gameplay is where the game falters a bit as the battle system it offers is very dull. Plus, it has a horrible inventory system. Mario has no skills of his own so he must use items for his attacks and health restores. These items consist of playing cards that allow Mario to use various hammer and jump attacks. He even has access to a Fire Flower attack based on the power up from the main series. When executing the attacks, pressing the A button at the right time will make you do additional damage. However, if you want even more power, you can fill in the cards with paint from Mario’s paint meter to really dish out the pain. This is where things start to fall through. From the start, you have enough space for only ninety-nine cards- and that space fills up fast despite each card disappearing after a single use.
The real problem lies on managing those cards because you have to constantly scroll through your menu to select an attack, then choose to paint the card, select it, then use the stylus to flick the card upwards. This makes battling very slow paced and often mind-numbing depending on how many enemies there are. The only worthwhile reward you get from battling is receiving hammer scraps, which fill up a meter that, when full, increases the amount of paint you can hold. This is the only way to upgrade Mario throughout his adventure, as health increases are only available by beating a world’s boss. Bosses in Color Splash can pose a threat and are impossible unless you exploit their weakness. Scattered throughout the world are “Thing” items that Huey will turn into powerful cards. Many of them are required for boss fights as they will exploit the weakness of that boss and make them vulnerable. The game also does a good job of hinting at which Thing items are necessary if you talk to NPCs.
If you run out of cards in battle, you can spend ten coins to spin a roulette wheel that gives you a random card you already collected. Money isn’t an issue in the game thanks to a minigame called “Roshambo,” where you play “rock, paper, scissors” with Bowser’s minions. It can potentially reward you hundreds of coins for being lucky with one and three odds.
The world of Color Splash is divided into over thirty levels ranging from forty-five to over an hour long. You select where you want to go in a world map in the style of the classic Super Mario World, and try to complete that level’s objectives. I say objectives because each level has multiple goals to reach, leading to different levels to unlock.
There is also a reward for filling in every colorless spot by hitting it with your hammer in the form of an in-game soundtrack. Though hunting every spot down can be very tedious and use a lot of paint, so try to increase your paint meter as much as possible. Color Splash has interesting gameplay elements that struggle to stand on their own, due to poor design choices. It’s quite unfortunate due to the overworld gameplay being very enjoyable with its level design and beautiful visual style.
The paper aesthetic drives home how absolutely magnificent this game looks. All objects and landscapes are made of paper and it looks so natural given the context of the world. The Thing card battle animations are quite amusing with some amazing visuals. An example of this is the fan card that that brings everything to space, and then you suddenly see a giant fan blow everything towards the screen for massive damage.
The visual presentation as a whole is top notch, but it doesn’t stop there, as the sound presentation is remarkable. The soundtrack ranges from new themes and remixes of music found in other Mario games, such as “Rainbow Road 64,” and “The Super Mario Bros. USA Main Theme.” The big band theme that you hear throughout the soundtrack gives the game an energetic feel and can even be relaxing at times. The presentation as a whole is the best aspect of this game and oozes polish.
Overall, Paper Mario: Color Splash is quite a remarkable experience despite some ideas falling flat. The sluggish battle system hinders the gameplay as a whole, despite the amount of fun I had exploring each level. It may not be the sequel to the ever beloved Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, but I’m glad I played it.
+Exploring levels are fun
-Battle System Kills Pacing