Fans of the Paper Mario series tend to compare every new entry to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Yes, the Gamecube classic was amazing and without a doubt put the series on the map. Every thereafter has brought a new aspect to the role-playing franchise but have, in many instances, fallen flat in one aspect or another. If anything, due to the high expectation that The Thousand-Year Door set all those years ago. Paper Mario: Color Splash doesn’t break the trend of introducing a fresh, new mechanic. In fact, this time around it delivers a consolidation of aspects introduced from previous entries while painting the town red (and blue… and green… BAH! You get the point).
On a stormy night, Princess Peach and toad approach Mario’s house with a startling discovery in the way of a mysterious, seemingly blank, piece of paper. Following up on a clue the trio make their way to the popular tourist destination, Prism Island. Things don’t seem as they should and Mario quickly gets acquainted with a very verbal can of paint named Huey.
I see a grey door and I want to paint it red…
After this brief introduction to the story the core mechanic is introduced. The use of paint (I know; I was just as surprised as you when I found out). The island and its surrounding areas have been raided and the once colourful destination has now been drained of colour. Mario is tasked with collecting magical Paint Stars while filling in all the grey patches with his paint hammer along the way. At first it seems like a simplistic mechanic but one quickly discovers that the paint plays a far more significant role. The hammer has two different attacks – a regular smash and the swing that produces the relevant colour blotch. Your paint swing needs to be controlled though as the more paint you use the more your paint gauge goes down. The paint gauge consists of three colours: red, blue and yellow. That’s the RGB colours you might have heard of before. Combined these three colours are used to transform objects into any necessary colour. Your paint supply can be replenished by hitting environmental objects with your regular hammer or by defeating enemies. Your paint supply is also inherently related to the game’s combat system. A system similar to that seen in Paper Mario: Sticker Star only this time presented in the form of attack cards. Your attack cards represent a wide array of attacks, the most common of which are the jump and hammer attacks and the numerous variations that go with them.
Know your deck…
The trick to these attack cards is that the majority of them need to be fueled by paint to be of any use. This is done by selecting your chosen card(s) on the Wii U gamepad. Once your card has been selected you need to fill it up with paint that depletes from your paint gauge. If you run out of ink you are unable to fill up your cards and in turn won’t be able to attack. In the same way you won’t be able to attack without any cards. If you find yourself in either of these predicaments you aren’t completely vulnerable. You are also able to use your coins to purchase a single attack card which is rewarded to you essentially at random. These can be purchased once per turn by using the coins you collect during the game. If not in battle you can make your way to Port Prisma, which is principally the game’s hub, to buy or sell more cards. Thing cards are your most prized possession. These rare cards represent real-life objects that assist you in key puzzle moments during the game and can be used as attacks against more powerful enemies.
On the flip side…
Mario has another ability that adds to the puzzle element of Color Splash. He, along with Huey, has the ability to manipulate background environments similar to how Mario did in Sticker Star. This is often necessary to bridge a gap between two areas, if you see a crossing that can’t be covered the chances are that this ability will need to be used. The Flip technique from Super Paper Mario also makes a comeback in one of the most nostalgic levels later in the game.
[pullquote_right]These boss fights were my personal highlight of the game, I couldn’t wait to encounter my next foe[/pullquote_right]As you progress through Color Splash you come across a number of new items, environments, enemies and most importantly boss fights. Each boss uses a different method to attack and you need to strategically work with the cards at your disposal in order to be victorious. This can usually be worked out logically but every now and again you are required to think outside the box. These boss fights were my personal highlight of the game, I couldn’t wait to encounter my next foe.
Color Splash has some of the best writing in the entire series. Clever puns and whacky reactions are plentiful and there are so many well thought out references to the Mario Universe for the more enthusiastic fans. It improves on the shortcomings in Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star and while very different to The Thousand-Year Door it exudes the same quality fans have been expecting form the franchise. A must have title on the Wii U towards the end of its lifespan.