Mario has become quite well travelled. Not just as an experienced plumber, but certainly also a man who knows his way around the gaming industry. Time and time again he has proven that wherever the situation may be he can turn it into a great game. But experience isn't necessarily linked directly to success, right? Let's see what Paper Mario: Color Splash has to offer.
Almost every time we meet Mario, something traumatic has happened to himself or those that he loves. And even now he won't get any "me time" either, because once again evil forces are at play and they must be stopped. That is clear when Princess Peach and Toad come to see Mario on a particularly dark and stormy evening with a terrifying letter in their hands. Unfolded, this letter reveals a Toad completely void of colour.
Mario and his two friends - Princess Peach and Toad - immediately leaves for Prism Island because according to the stamp on the Toad, that's where the letter is from. Shortly after they arrive Princess Peach and Toad decide now is the perfect time for a well-deserved nap, and leave Mario alone to complete all of the heroic deeds that need doing. Fortunately he quickly makes a new friend - the talking paint bucket that goes by the name of Huey.
It becomes clear that whatever has sucked all the colour out of this poor Toad has also been draining the entire Prism Island. The colourless spots all around you clearly demonstrate that. And it's now up to Mario to give the island its famous colourful glow back.
You have been equipped with a special hammer that lets you paint your surroundings - at least as long as you've got the paint. In the top right corner you can see your current amount of paint. You can recharge your paint hammer by banging on your surroundings and picking up the paint it spills. Via this process and you can also increase the overall amount of paint that the hammer is able to hold by picking up little hammers from downed enemies. But wandering around and painting all these colourless spots is actually incredibly satisfying and it really soothed our inner OCD. We could spend hours on end just exploring the levels and making sure that these colourless spots are 100 percent painted!
But of course colouring in the world is not your only job. The Paint Stars have also been stolen from the fountain of colours that the Prism Island is known for. To get the rainbow fountain going again - and to soothe the pretty tense Huey - you have to find these stars that have been scattered all over the island and collect them. In most levels there are two stars that need collecting, but you can only pick up one before the level ends and you're taken back to the world map. Thus, in order to get both stars you would have to do the level one more time. So even though we enjoyed finding the colourless spots, it was pretty frustrating to have to complete each level twice to get star number two.
The paint that you pick up along your way is also multipurpose and can be used in battles. This battle system is probably also something some of you will remember from Paper Mario: Sticker Star. In Paper Mario: Color Splash it's not enough to just run up to an enemy and jump on and crush them, or even give them a proper whack with your hammer; here you have to try your luck in turn-based battles. Instead of being equipped with stickers as you were in Sticker Star, you're dealt a hand of cards. Your entire deck is gathered on the Wii U gamepad, so it almost feels like you are sitting with the cards in your hand. Each one represents a different attack Mario can perform. For example; you could jump on the head of an enemy or send fireballs at them. Depending on how well you time your attacks you can repeat the attack five times for ultimate damage. To use your cards you must first choose a card on the gamepad. After that you need to colour the card to make your attack stronger. And finally you have to "throw" the card to the TV by flicking it off the gamepad.
Unfortunately we found that after doing a whole bunch of battles this take on turn-based battles had a pretty negative effect on the general tempo of the game. The process of having to choose, colour and then use the cards was simply too much in the long run and these battles mostly just pulled us out of the experience. That resulted in us trying to avoid as many battles as possible by sneaking or running past enemies, even though that meant no leftover paint or other goodies for us post battle.
The cards themselves did, however, pep up the battles in certain cases. Just like there were Thing Stickers in Sticker Star there are Thing Cards here. That could mean, for example, an enormous fan that you can pull out in the middle of a battle and use to blow your enemies off the map.
It's this kind humour that is present everywhere in the game. From the fantastic stories and creatures we met throughout, to the funny comments from enemies mid-battle - everything just adds to the amazing atmosphere and mood. We attended a beach party with some pretty excited Toads. We met the incompetent Toad Savior Squad that needed saving themselves. And then we met the Toad that very insistently told us that he was a superhero. The comedy is golden in this game, and we think back a fair while to find a game that has made us laugh as much as Paper Mario: Color Splash did. When this humour is put together with the wondrous world with its amazing design, then you're almost certain it's going to be a grand adventure.
But it doesn't hurt that the game also cooks up some pretty great puzzles and offers smart gameplay along the way. Previously we were able to play around with perspectives and change the game from 2D to 3D, but this time we also get to change the perspective in the game. In certain situations you have to whip out a pair of scissors and literally cut into the level to create a way to reach otherwise inaccessible places. In order to do this you have to stand in the perfect spot where everything lines up exactly to create the bridge you need in order to cross. Other than using the Thing Cards in battle they can also be used to solve these puzzles. Even though the puzzles aren't exactly head-scratchers, they were quite enjoyable and always resulted in laughter.
So did our favourite plumber deliver yet another great gaming experience? Well, we weren't really challenged by the battles, we solved the puzzles pretty fast, and the story in the game has pretty much been told before, but yes, we had fun. So if you're looking for a colourful way to spend some time, look no further. Go paint the town red with Mario (pun intended).