Paper Mario: Color Splash, like Metroid Prime: Federation Force, didn’t get off to the best of starts. Nintendo showed the game off on a Nintendo Direct presentation and instantaneously fans were not happy, without giving the any chance at all. The game received tons of hate comments and within 30 minutes of its trailer debuting, already had a petition set up calling for the game to be cancelled. The reason behind this ridiculous response from fans was that it looked like it was a direct follow on to Paper Mario: Sticker Star, the 3DS title that didn’t review impressively and wasn’t a ‘proper’ RPG like the first 2 Paper Mario games were. I understand the displeasure but we should always give games a chance to show their worth. So were these people right and should we have seen Paper Mario: Color Splash dead and buried within the same hour of its reveal? The short answer is no.
Paper Mario: Color Splash has a simple story much like a lot of Mario games, but it keeps the game going and it’s adequate enough, although it would have been nice for a slightly deeper story. Mario and Peach decide to visit Prism Island, a town known for its paint fountain and crazily enough, problems are afoot. Upon arrival they discover that someone is pilfering colour from the world, and our hero Mario must bring the colour back. A paint bucket named Huey is Mario’s sidekick in the game much like Tippi was in Super Paper Mario and, dare I say, Kersti from Sicker Star, Huey helps guide Mario along, offering tips at a buttons press and often saying some brilliant lines along the way. Mario and Huey set out from Prism Island in search of Paint Stars in order to bring the colour back to the world.
Of course Bowser plays a part in the mayhem as he always does and even manages to catch us off guard in a completely unforeseeable plot twist. You will come across a lot of the staple enemy types you would expect to find in a Mario game such as Koopas, Goombas, Shy Guys and Cheep Cheeps. There are also tons and tons of Toads scattered just about everywhere, along with appearances from Luigi and few others. It just wouldn’t be a Mario game without these guys.
While the story on offer does its job but isn’t really all that, the main charm of the game is unquestionably the writing. It’s quite a rare thing for a game to be genuinely funny and clever, and whilst other games try, it always feels forced. I never felt that with Color Splash, the writing is some of the best I have seen in a long, long while, maybe even ever, it’s that good. You will definitely be sniggering to yourself often and it’s something which does keep you wanting to play more. Characters in the world regularly make references to Nintendo itself, the entire gaming industry and pop culture and its always very funny stuff.
So from the strongest aspect of the game to quite a lacklustre one, the battle system. It certainly isn’t dreadful or horrible by any means, it’s just a bit wearisome at times. Simple enemy battles against the weaker variety that should be over in an instant are unnecessarily dragged out a little bit too long by the way the battle system has been made. Battles are again fought using cards which has been brought back from Sticker Star (I personally wasn’t completely against the whole card system). You choose the card you want to use, usually based on the enemy you’re fighting, we’ll go into more detail later. Then on the GamePad, you choose whether or not to paint the card, the more paint, the more powerful it will be (Some cards you pick up will already be fully painted). You then flick the card up with your finger to start the actual attack. You can change the control options so you can just use the buttons rather than touchscreen but even then it’s still painfully slow. Because of this and the fact it makes the battles go on for too long it sometimes it makes you not want to go into battles at all so you will start trying to avoid enemies rather than wanting to fight and it will be super frustrating when you accidentally run into a Goomba for the tenth time in a few minutes.
The way the cards work is straightforward and if you have played Sticker Star then it’s exactly the same here. There are a few different types of card you can pick up, Attack cards which consist of Boot cards that stomp on enemies and Hammer cards which lets you attack enemies, which for one reason or another, cannot be stomped on. Then there are Health cards such as 1-Ups and Mushrooms. Thing cards, which are 3D objects such as a fan, allow you to use them in the overworld and have varying effects but as you can imagine, a fan could be used to blow something in the opposite direction. Depending on the enemy you are fighting ought to determine the card you use, so normal Goombas only really require Boot cards, because a simple stomp defeats them. Whereas Spiny’s and others similar require Hammer cards. There are many different types of cards ranging from Boots that let you stomp more times than usual to having your very own Koopa. It does give you quite a lot of possibilities which does lend to a bit more strategy than immediately present.
An issue I had with Colour Splash, which others may or may not, was the fact that it was slightly too easy. I only ever died once throughout the entire game and rarely was I ever in massive danger from dying more. You always have an excessive amount of cards at your disposal because you collect them from defeating enemies, through coin blocks and regular blocks. You also always have a irrational amount of coins which you will never use, so you will always be able to buy the top cards at shops, meaning when you go into battles against the tougher enemies in the game, you have really powerful cards at your disposal, which then leads to the harder battles being won easier.
Color Splash also doesn’t have an XP system again which is disappointing, although battles this time net you Hammer Scraps which drop on the floor after winning the scuffle along with the usual cards, coins and paint. Once you collect a lot of these, it increases the maximum amount of paint you can hold. The more paint you can hold means more painting you can do without having to collect more paint. While it is more beneficial to have a higher maximum paint gauge, I never felt like I ever ran out anyway, because paint is given to you all over the place so it does sort of negate needing more paint to begin with. Because of this, it is never that big of an issue if you don’t attack every enemy you see, something which most RPG’s want and require you to do. Your strength and HP can increase by defeating bosses, but because defeating them is a requirement anyway, you can never get more strength or HP than you are supposed to get at any given stage.
A big aspect of Color Splash is the ability to paint colourless patches in the world. Whenever you see one of these white areas, a quick press of the ‘Y’ button allows you to swing your hammer which releases paint and colours in the patch. Upon doing so you will be granted coins and cards with other patches being required to colour in if it’s an integral part of progressing, such as painting a specific Toad in, for example. Each level has a percentage meter indicating how much of the area you have painted and for the completionist out there it’s a great little extra to go for to get that 100%. I really enjoyed this aspect, it was done very well and it brought something original to the fold.
Color Splash looks remarkable, the visuals truly sparkle on the Wii U. It is a very simplistic style with it being a Paper Mario game but it is so vivid, colourful and charming to look at. Nintendo have made a few games in this sort of craft style lately (Kirby, Yoshi, etc.) and of course they’ve all looked fantastic, but Paper Mario: Color Splash ranks at the top for me. You’d think that flat characters and environments would get dreary after a while, but it never does, it really is a massive improvement on what’s come before. It’s just a shame that the gameplay has gone back slightly.
The audio in Color Splash is also great as you come to assume with Nintendo games. Classic Mario inspired tracks accompany brand new arrangements in what comes together in a very catchy package. Of course you would also expect the usual classic Mario sound effects to be there which they are, from the jumping sound to the coin block sound, they are all in there.
All in all, it’s a decent game, it’s not going to be winning any game of the year awards or even best Wii U game of the year but it’s certainly not a bad game. Yes we all want another ‘proper’ Paper Mario game like the first two but it would be unfair to brand Color Splash a bad game just because of that. Sure the battle system has its good points and bad, the story is lacking slightly and the difficulty is somewhat too easy, but what you will find is a game with plenty of charm, astonishingly good and funny writing that will have you amused from start to finish, culminating in a solid adventure-platformer game. One thing is for sure, this Paper Mario is a cut above the previous one.
+ Jamie Ward
7/10 – Paper Mario Color Splash is a funny, beautiful and entertaining game with a pretty dodgy battle system and a real lack of RPG elements. Nintendo has certainly changed a lot of things with this franchise over the years and it will continue to split fans.
Paper Mario: Color Splash , like Metroid Prime: Federation Force , didn’t get off to the best...