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Mace & Crown | August 22, 2017

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"Paper Mario: Color Splash" Is A Step in the Right Direction

“Paper Mario: Color Splash” Is A Step in the Right Direction
Robert Younger
Contributing Writer

Mario is widely considered by many to be the quintessential video game character. Whether it’s in his traditional platformers or the myriad of spin-offs under his belt, Mario’s games have been played and loved by many. One of his most popular spin-offs is the Paper Mario series. The last few entries in the franchise had a lackluster presence, but with the recent release of “Paper Mario: Color Splash,” Nintendo has taken a step back towards the series’ glory days.

Paper Mario games are typically RPGs that blend Mario’s platforming roots with some clever writing to create quirky and memorable experiences. “Color Splash” is no exception to this, although unfortunately the game it resembles the most is the least beloved installment in the franchise: “Paper Mario: Sticker Star.”

The story may sound familiar to anyone who has played a Mario game before. Franchise antagonist Bowser strikes again, inflicting terror on a foreign land and kidnapping Princess Peach in the process. In this case the land is Prism Island, a colorful land with a culture built entirely around paint. Bowser has taken the paint and color from the island so it now falls on Mario to set things right and save the princess.

Same story different game, more or less. While other Paper Mario games have been more creative with their approaches, “Color Splash” sticks with tradition. While the setup is nothing extraordinary, the delivery is something truly inspired. “Color Splash’s” writing is among the best in the series, filled to the brim with jokes, nods, wit and ample charm.

However, while “Color Splash” is not without problems. As mentioned earlier, the game most resembles “Sticker Star” and that is not a compliment.

“Color Splash” is a pseudo-RPG. Combat is turn-based and it is dictated entirely by a card system. All actions are represented by cards, which you use to attack, heal, defend and so on. The downside is that these cards are disposable, meaning that once they are used they are gone. This results in many times where the player will be forced to halt their progress to restock their card deck. The game mitigates this somewhat with card drops, but towards the end of the game you can expect to be restocking your deck after every level.

This leads into “Color Splash’s” other major problem: Boss Battles. Each boss features a gimmick in which you are required to use a specific card to beat them. Otherwise it is impossible and you will lose. However, you do not know what these cards are, where you will find them or when they will be useful. So you can expect to be repeating a number of boss fights not because of your lack of skill or preparation, but because you failed to bring a single item the game never informed you about.

All this said, “Color Splash” is thoroughly enjoyable for its humor alone. It cannot emphasized enough how charming this game is, and on a technical level it looks and sounds wonderful. However, the combat has the potential to be a major deal breaker. For most people, this is the sort of game you may wish to wait for a price drop for, if not avoid entirely.