Game – Paper Mario: Color Splash
Platform – Wii U
Developer/Publisher – Nintendo
Release date – October 7th 2016
Price – $59.99/69.99€/£49.99
Paper Mario is back again, and this time he’s got a color splashing paint hammer. Paper Mario: Color Splash begins with Mario, Peach and Toad travelling to the mysterious Prism Island upon receiving an invitation of sorts. When they arrive, however, they quickly discover that things are amiss. It turns out that the island is having its color drained from it, and it’s up to you and a new sidekick you quickly meet named Huey(who is a paint can) to restore color back to the once vibrant land by collecting Paint Stars that have gone missing spread across a variety of courses.
Paper Mario has always been known for its fantastic art style, humorous characters, and great RPG elements. Color Splash delivers many of the things that people want and expect from the series, while unfortunately bringing along a bunch of baggage from its predecessor. For those unaware, Paper Mario: Sticker Star was the previous entry in the series, and also the most controversial. It replaced the beloved turn based combat with RPG elements into a sticker collection hunt, forcing you to find stickers to perform moves while in combat. Color Splash continues this, but instead relies on cards that allow you to perform specific moves while in combat. This turns into a chore, forcing you to once again search for cards which can be obtained from shops, defeating enemies in combat (which requires cards!) or through a card roulette machine that you can use while in battle for a cost of 10 coins per spin. Some of the cards include fire flowers, boots, hammers, and mushrooms. Cards are either fully painted to do the most damage output or healing power, or you can paint them while playing them on the gamepad.
There are also “Thing” cards, special 3D objects that can be found in the game world, sucked of paint and turned into a weapon to be used in combat such as a giant fan that blows enemies away. The most exciting combat sequences were the ones that made use of these “Things”. Unfortunately the combat is nowhere near as exciting or strategic as it was in former titles. Gone are the days of having partners that allowed you to create new strategies to defeat your enemies. The combat is such a shame in this game and really holds it back from its full potential. It’s slow, requires too much back and forth from the gamepad and the television, and ultimately ended in me running from most battles as I found no real point to continue doing them unless they were required to progress.
One of the highlights of this title is the fantastic art style and great characters. The game is colorful and alive, and every detail in making it truly feel like it is a paper crafted world is fantastic. It is refreshing to see such a colorful title in a sea of games that look so similar. It is definitely one of the best looking Wii U titles out there, although the same thing could be said for most of Nintendo’s first party offerings for the console. The attention to detail in the title is great and is something Nintendo has always excelled at. The writing is also humorous and actually had me chuckling quite a bit, with quite a few references to past Mario titles. Huey is a great sidekick, and his banter throughout the game will be one of the key factors in you actually wanting to continue through the story.
Color Splash is a great entry in the series no doubt, but it feeling like a continuation of Sticker Star is what is concerning to both me and many other longtime fans of the series. Instead of removing what most felt was a hindrance, they continued to build on the concept introduced in the predecessor with Cards, and it ultimately ended up in the late game becoming a chore that was becoming a struggle to finish (which by the way was 20-30 hours to complete, although this depends on how quickly you can clear each course and if you flee from battles or not.) If we are to see another Paper Mario entry on the Nintendo Switch, I would hope that they would take the elements people loved from the originals, while using the gorgeous art style and hilarious dialogue found throughout Color Splash. Being one of the final first party Wii U titles, it does its job of delivering a good experience, it’s just unfortunate that it is held back by its glaring flaws. It is a colorful experience held back by a few paper cuts.