NS Preview – Unfurling Paper Mario: Colour Splash


Trying times indeed for Nintendo, as if it needed to be said. A year after Metroid Prime: Federation Force was obliterated by the internet upon its announcement, Paper Mario: Colour Splash has ended up suffering from similar treatment. There was even another petition created for its cancellation, although thankfully the most entitled section of the crowd was a lot quieter this time around.

Once again Intelligent Systems has developed the latest adventure of our recyclable friend, which is likely to be one of the final big triple-A hurrahs for the Wii U. Colour Splash seems to have taken a lot of its mechanics from its immediate predecessor Sticker Star. Throughout the game, Mario collects cards that act as attacks, and he can ‘play’ the cards in battle. The standard timed bonus damage returns, along with less damage received for a well-timed block.

paper-mario-screen-shot-12092016-19-14

Welcome to Port Prisma!

Just incase you’re not caught up on everything, the revised battle system is a prime source of contention among fans. The original N64 game and its follow-up GameCube darling The Thousand Year Door used a more traditional RPG fighting system. Mario travelled with a companion, and each fighter had a pre-set selection of attacks. It was a charmingly simplified take on the more complex RPG’s, but maintained enough depth to work perfectly.

Colour Splash does add an extra layer with its new paint mechanic. Using his trusty hammer, Mario restores the world’s colour that’s being taken by Shy Guys everywhere. Via the use of straws. There are plenty of colourless splotches scattered across the maps, and it’s easy to get obsessed with restoring every single area on a level. Shy Guys can apparently drain the colour out of characters too – Toads being the most common victim – using their trusty straws to suck ’em dry.

Sorry.

There's a rock-paper-scissors sidegame for those with an affinity for complex strategy

There’s a rock-paper-scissors sidegame for those with an affinity for intricate strategising

When it comes to the battle system, Mario can colour the cards he plays to make them more powerful. So far, there hasn’t been any indication that the paint mechanics are utilised in other ways. The battles still rotate around the use of cards, and colouring those cards in is an option.

It’s advisable to turn on ‘advanced controls’ as soon as they become available, as it streamlines the attack process. Once again Mario doesn’t have a battle partner, but generic characters such as Koopa and Shy Guy can be called upon by using their card

Mario’s supply of paint comes in the three primary colours: red, blue, and yellow. Many of the world’s objects and much of the scenery can be bashed with Mario’s hammer, to release blobs of paint for re-stocking. It’s a nice touch to see blobs coming in the secondary colours – green, purple, and orange – and collecting these will restore two tanks at once.

Naturally, this mechanic is the basis for the story of Colour Splash. Mario and Princess Peach travel to Prism Island to investigate a disturbance. They’re accompanied by Toad… who is barely distinguishable from the many, many other Toads on Prism Island.

Expect to be looking between the screen and Gamepad often in battles

There can be no criticising of Mario’s pokerface

Upon arrival, they wonder around a barren Port Prisma, eventually setting the plot in motion by releasing Huey the talking paint bucket. They discover that the port’s fountain – responsible for bringing colour to the world – is missing its six Big Paint Stars. Mario must travel the lands to recover them, but must do so via the less powerful, regular old Paint Stars.

The game is split into levels entered from a world map, but most of them must be revisited as the plot unfurls and characters move around. Commonly, there are two Paint Stars to be found on one level. Retrieving a single Paint Star ends the stage and boots Mario back to the world map. There’s usually nothing to stop the player from immediately going back into the same stage to retrieve the other one.

There’s a relaxed vibe about the game, and it has a wonderful aesthetic of paper craft that reminds one slightly of Yoshi’s Woolly World. Different material, same concept. It’s complemented by quirky, pleasant music, though the battle music can get quite repetitive. Each level has its own unique atmosphere, though it may take a while for the challenge to grow for a lot of players.

One new mechanic is Mario’s “cutout power”. In certain areas of a level, Mario can activate this power to cut out part of the level and create a portal to another area, such as a ledge that would otherwise be too high to reach. So far, the puzzles involving this are so elementary that it’s a stretch just to call them puzzles. One expects these to develop later in the game, but the bigger task is finding the cuttable spots in the first place. This becomes a bit of a guessing game as you walk around the map tapping the Y-button in random places to find cutting lines.

Beg pardon?

Beg pardon?

Paper Mario: Colour Splash seems to take a lot of cues from Sticker Star, with the paper craft and battle system in particular. The visuals look lovely on the Wii U system, and anyone keen on a light-hearted, relaxed adventure is likely to enjoy something in Colour Splash. The sharp writing by the development team boosts the game’s charm, which is par for the course in this series.

It’s certainly one for Wii U owners to keep an eye on as release day approaches, and as one of the console’s big-name sunset releases, it will be interesting to see how it performs.

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