Paper Mario: Color Splash Review: Sketchy

Real Talk By: Ms. Throwback

The Paper Mario series has been one of the most favorite for fans since it’s introduction on the Nintendo 64 and its reinvention on various other Nintendo platforms.  If you haven’t played Paper Mario games in the past, the art style alone creates a big appeal for players.  Mario and his crew are set in an environment of folding paper, bright cardboard, stamps, and stickers.  Typical games in the series are action-adventure style with RPG battle sequences which entice the player with various forms of folded paper and confetti. Regardless of the fact that some fans believe that Paper Mario has lost its appeal, I was willing to give it another chance.  I can never get enough of this series, but how does Paper Mario Color Splash fare against its predecessors?

Color Splash’s premise is that Mario’s arch nemesis is beginning to drain the color from the Paper Mario world, including his friend Toad!  All the beautiful colors of the Paper Mario world are transforming into boring black and white grey-scale.

Before we get into the depths of what I was disappointed in, let’s talk about the visual aspects.  The game keeps all the feel of what’s beautiful about other Paper Mario titles with some added artful aspects.  While this title feels more like stickers on top of a paper background, there are certain areas of the game that are paper Mario traveling around a completely intact realistic world, which is nothing less than awesome.  Nintendo has dealt in the worlds of yarn, clay, paper, and water-color so it’s no surprise that one of the best parts of this title are the artistic appeal.

Paper overload.

Lets just get into the most unfortunate aspect of this game, which is a pretty big one.  The battle system leaves much to be desired.  If any of you remember how intelligent and mind-blowing the battle system in Paper Mario: Thousand-Year Door was when it was developed, then you know what a big deal this is.  A lot of the game is dependent on the battle sequences because points are gained from beating enemies and many times the enemy cannot be avoided or it would not benefit the player to avoid the enemy.  Essentially the player uses cards as battle commands which are displayed on the Wii U touch screen.  The cards in play are also displayed in the upper left corner of the tv screen.

I understand why many companies use the touch screen as a menu option.  I even get why they used the touch screen in this game.  It’s essentially a slight rip off of the DS’ Paper Mario Sticker Star but in Sticker Star you’re looking down at the dual screens of a handheld.  It’s really easy to take your attention from one screen to another.  This type of menu is only done well if it’s not an active menu where the player feels they need to utilize it while also paying attention to the action of the game.  For example, the  Wii U touch screen menu works really well for Zelda titles because this screen is usually something you would see displayed if you were to pause the game.  In Color Splash this is not the case, there is a really awkward feeling of looking back and forth from the touch screen to the tv screen when trying to work out if the action of the sequence is more important, or the play of a battle card.  Unfortunately this doesn’t sit well, I  may have looked up and down from my controller to my screen several thousand times during the play through of this title. Big time deduction in points for this title, and something that should have been avoided, since I’m sure at least one person played this title before it launched.

Ready for an adventure.

I’m not done, the breakdown of this terrible battle system is going to take me many tears and a good deal longer than I intended because I know Nintendo is better than this.  On top of the issues I’ve already stated, the cards you’ve collected and need to use are in one long row on the touch screen.  You have to scroll through as many as a hundred cards to pick the one you want.  Why there is not some form of organization or why it isn’t displayed in several rows is beyond me and it’s just unacceptable.  If you think that takes a long time, you might want to also include the extra few seconds it takes for the menu to load onto the touch screen (for no reason) and the extra few seconds it takes for you to hold down on each individual card for you to paint it (for no reason).  All in all it takes about 1-4 minutes per attack on each enemy.  Way, way too long.

Also you can’t choose the enemy you’re attacking, like you’ve been able to do in the past. Why? Just, I can’t even go on about this battle system anymore.  It’s just really bad.

I really want to lead into a positive note, but I can’t because there are even aspects of the adventure that fit in with bad game design.  There are certain points in the game where I struggled to complete a task and wasn’t completing the action in the exact sequence necessary, or wasn’t standing in the exact spot to do so.  So stumped at times that I had to give in and just look it up online.  You’re talking about a woman who has played video games for two and a half decades.  I will try until I’m blue in the face to not look something up online.  Looking something up on a walk-through for me, is like a huge slap in the face, especially when it is something as asinine as some of the tasks this game was asking me to complete.  There were times I knew exactly what was supposed to happen and I literally just couldn’t figure out in what way they wanted me to do it.  Other times the puzzles just made no logical sense.

There is an addictive and fun personality of the game that is hard to ignore.  Even with all of this nonsense going on, painting in black and white portions of the levels brings back memories of better days in Paper Mario’s lifespan.  Overall the level design during the adventure phases are well thought out and a majority of the puzzles that make sense are fun to solve.  When they are solved there is a certain pleasure in seeing something dead and still come back to life with flare and movement.  There are a good amount of clever moments that feel classic and beautiful too.  There’s a feeling that this game could have been so much more.  Mario has more personality in this title than almost any other title I’ve ever played.  He’s hilarious without even talking and I appreciate this more than anything else about the game.

Wait for it..

In the end one thing is very clear.  Intelligent Systems either need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to the game play design and battle systems or hand the reigns over to someone who has some love for Paper Mario. Bring The RPG Back! This is a perfect example of the failure that can happen when a company tries to make a game more accessible.  It’s very clear they ported the DS title onto the Wii U and thought no one would notice.  Even the overhead map makes little sense when it comes right down to it.  Thousand-Year Door was one fluid story and one fluid feel, this game is the exact opposite of that.  Mario is a much-loved character who doesn’t deserve the final outcome of this title.  As far as I’m concerned, if you want a real Paper Mario game, buy Paper Mario Thousand-Year Door and experience the pinnacle of this amazing series.  Otherwise, wait until this one goes to the clearance bin.  It’s worth a play through, at some point.

Paper Mario Color Splash


3 Out of 5

What’s Legit?

+Beautiful Visuals

+Level Design during the adventure phase is top-notch

+Music is whimsical and fun

What’s Perpetrating?

-Puzzles that make no sense

-Battle sequences don’t work well with the Wii U touch pad

-Boss battles are boring

-Wii U touch controls make no sense

@PlayLegit #PaperMario


2 thoughts on “Paper Mario: Color Splash Review: Sketchy

  1. I am about to beat the game, and I agree completely. I feel it is a game that displays what Nintendo does at its best and worst.

    For the good, it is absurdly charming, funny, and has great level design!

    For the bad, there is that awful battle system. What really utterly shocks me is that everybody complained about Sticker Star’s battles and the lack of RPG elements. And what does Nintendo do?! They make the battle system even worse and keep the RPG elements out of the game! They could have, you know, listened to the feedback they got.


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