Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U) Review

By Adam Riley 10.10.2016 13

Review for Paper Mario: Color Splash on Wii U

Paper Mario managed to carve out a niche for itself after the excellent Nintendo 64 original, and equally sublime GameCube successor, The Thousand Year Door. After that, for some reason Nintendo decided to water the Mario sub-series down, first of all reducing it to a mere gimmicky platform romp in Super Paper Mario for Wii, and then rubbing salt in the wounds of fans by giving a watered down, and rather frustrating, RPG-platform amalgamation in the form of Sticker Star on 3DS, all thanks to Shigeru Miyamoto's influence, suggesting the story side be scaled back. Have fans, though, finally got the true follow-up to the N64 and GameCube classics with the release of Paper Mario: Color Splash? Well…the short answer is 'no.' Welcome to Sticker Star: Take Two

Okay, time to start with some positives. Paper Mario: Color Splash - would it have been so hard to spell 'colour' correctly for the European market? Right, sorry. Starting again - positives! This latest Paper Mario is a sight to behold. Right from the off, players are greeted by the most beautiful 2D artwork on the Wii U to date, complete with a gorgeous soundtrack that deserves the sort of attention where the controller is left alone, volume is cranked up, and the music is left playing in the background. Be it new tunes or re-worked versions of classic Koji Kondo works, the audio is sublime… as is the writing style, with humour levels riding high, making for a very quaint and comical adventure. There are plenty of bright points, and yet there is no hiding from the truth that this is not the Paper Mario long-term fans were hoping for. This is definitely more Sticker Star than The Thousand Year Door, and that alone will put many off.

Screenshot for Paper Mario: Color Splash on Wii U

There are turn-based battles - thankfully not randomised, with enemies easily dodged for the most part - but it relies firstly on a deck of cards being held, meaning when running low on relevant ones for the enemies faced, there will be many times where fleeing is the only option. Secondly, it is too reliant on the GamePad. To expand on this - at least slightly - some of the game's background needs to be discussed.

Colour…sorry, Color Splash…is all about filling in areas of the land where colour has been sucked away as part of Bowser's latest nefarious plan. This is done via a special hammer that Mario handily acquires at the start of this latest escapade. Regular slams of the hammer can be used for hitting objects (or enemies for pre-emptive strikes, same as jumping on non-spikey-backed foes), yet a tap of the 'X' button, rather than 'B,' results in various hues splashing forth (that are replenished via hitting plant life in the vicinity, grabbing post-battle goodies, and more).

Screenshot for Paper Mario: Color Splash on Wii U

Levels visited have a percentage marker next to their name, indicating how much of the level still needs to be coloured in (the reward is the opening up of that stage's music when hitting 100%, so the incentive is not that high to reach total completion), battle cards sometimes come completely drained of power because of their whiteness, and even some of the plethora of Toad characters featured have some, if not all, of their colour removed, rendering them completely inanimate or partially restricted in what they can do (unable to walk, suffering from memory loss, to give just two examples).

Right, so back to the batting element that requires focus to be shifted from the main TV to the Wii U GamePad. Cards must be shuffled from the in-hand deck to choose one or more (dependent on what stage of the game you are currently at - with a greater selection of cards allowed as deeper progress is made), with some cards already coloured and others not, and the latter needing Mario's supply of blue, yellow, and red to paint them partially or fully (the choice is yours, since managing paint supplies is imperative throughout), strengthening them according to how much of their surface is filled in. Once coloured, it is time to confirm and then flick on the touch screen to send the cards - finally - onto the TV, ready to automatically kick into action.

Screenshot for Paper Mario: Color Splash on Wii U

To start with it feels very convoluted and frustrating, becoming easier as time passes, but in the same breath it becomes highly mundane as the adventure wears on, just like it did with Sticker Star.

The platforming elements are tight, and the overall feel of Paper Mario: Color Splash is fabulous, but the battling grows wearisome too quickly (despite being able to clear some weaker enemies with a mere slam of the hammer later on…as by then the tedium has already set in). The saving grace is the remnants of an RPG experience, despite everything taking place on a top-down map akin to Super Mario World, rather than completely open world. New quests opening up between stages, re-visiting areas and towns to unlock new elements and meet new characters - there is a lot of effort put in, yet ultimately the whole package grows repetitive after a few hours, and fails to improve further in because of the battle system.

Screenshot for Paper Mario: Color Splash on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Paper Mario: Color Splash is a complete joy aesthetically, looking and sounding fantastic, complemented by some very amusing script work. At its core, though, whilst attempting to mix things up as much as it can in order to keep the action fresh, its battle system grows tiresome very quickly, dragging the enjoyment factor down several notches. When tied in with its unnecessary - and awkward - reliance on the GamePad, it makes for somewhat of a rollercoaster ride, with fun elements followed by lots of frustrating experiences during the battling sections. Nintendo and Intelligent Systems should pick one route and stick with it: either go for straight-up platform action or make it the true RPG successor to the original Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door that fans keep asking for. This current mish-mash of styles just drags down the series' reputation. For now, stick with the Mario & Luigi titles…

Developer

Intelligent Systems

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

The battle system in this game is literally the only thing keeping me away from it. The rest of it looks amazing.

I'd really just love another Paper Mario like Super Paper Mario and get rid of turned-based battle system all together. That one is by far the most enjoyable for me, because of that.

( Edited 10.10.2016 10:54 by Marzy )

Exactly - without the battle system, it would have been so good. But since the battles/card collection/annoying GamePad swiping are so fundamental to the whole adventure, it kills any enthusiasm for working through the creative levels. And since there's no player experience gained from fights, it's just annoying.

Oh, and I didn't mention the part about how boss battles are pretty much reliant on special cards. Don't have the specific card? Prepare to die and then head off trying to find the required card before returning. It removes any real tactical element to boss fights.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Utter laziness to not put "Colour" on the UK cover. Sonic Colours did it, no reason Nintendo couldn't.

The script looked quite amusing from the brief vids I've seen of this, but didn't give any real incentive for me to check it out, and now more so after hearing the battle complaints and the level-select style map.

Just what is it with Nintendo? I know Miyamoto ruined the series with his "no story" meddling, but they are really blind if they can't see that we just want Paper Mario 3. I didn't mind Super Paper Mario, but really, PM1 and 2 are what this series is about. It's baffling.

Oh, and I didn't mention the part about how boss battles are pretty much reliant on special cards. Don't have the specific card? Prepare to die and then head off trying to find the required card before returning. It removes any real tactical element to boss fights.

This is what bugged me about Sticker Star mostly. Having to constantly find stickers and making sure you have the right ones, etc. Mario has always been fine when it comes to combat and now suddenly he needs to get cards and stickers to attack... It's just stupid and takes out the fun for me. Obviously I'd prefer no turned-based combat at all, but I still would have been more interested even if it just went back to TTYD style system.
now more so after hearing the battle complaints and the level-select style map.

Yeah I don't like the level select map either. Wasn't a fan of it in Sticker Star.

As an aside, some of the random special attacks show scenes where the paper characters are placed against normal, real world settings:

Image for

I REALLY want a game like that Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Yeah those special attacks are great! Would be really interesting to see a 2D Mario platformer set in the real world. Sort of like in the Spongebob Movie, Sponge Out of Water or something like Toy Story. It could offer some really interesting opportunities for story and gameplay mechanics.

I second those real-world shots. Looks great with the Paper Mario designs, making for some of the loveliest looking graphics on the system next to Woolly World.

Just wanted to do a quick comment on the tagline. I'm pretty sure the reason they use the American English version of the word 'color' even for a game released in Europe, is because American English is the standard English written across the world. I suppose that's because of the fact that it's considered easier to pick up. Words like Game Boy Color, for example, were always written as such too, not with the extra 'u'. To my knowledge, British English has never been the standard.

( Edited 10.10.2016 21:34 by Leo Epema )

The thing that gets me is that Nintendo normally localises game titles across Europe, specifically giving German, French, Spanish and Italian translations, as well as fixing any US spellings for the UK...yet this time it didn't bother. Grates just a bit and smacks of laziness.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

AmEnglish isn't a worldwide standard. Never heard that before. Honestly, it's just laziness. It is genuinely refreshing when I play a game that uses and took the time to edit BrEnglish into it. Final Fantasy 9 even went so far as to change things like "mommy" to "mummy" etc. Always nice to see.

There's a quote from someone on Twitter that I cannot find for the life of me now... (thought it was Ross @ Ghostlight, but can't find it), about him going through the game script prior to release of a game and editing all Americanisations he saw to British. We need more people like him. In fact, that should be a standard job for all UK publishers! I would gladly sign up!

It's really just insane how much the battle system slows the game down. I picked it up and played for around five or six hours, and it's genuinely a lot of fun, aside from the combat. Animation is spectacular and the writing has massively improved from Sticker Star.

I did find the paint levels extremely annoying early on. They become so easy to manage after that, but the battle card coloring step felt so unnecessary and annoying to use.

Yes, spot on - there's so much to love (there are some hilarious parts thanks to the great script!), and yet it is dragged down by the battle system. I also have to admit that I got a bit tired of colouring in levels, though. It was a novelty at first, but after a while I thought the gain from reaching 100% on a stage just wasn't worth it.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Ruan (guest) 13.10.2016#13

I picked this up but haven't played it yet.  I went with the physical copy though in case the game play isn't deep enough to hook me into it.  At least that way I could put the trade in credit toward a the next Zelda game or the NX

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