Nintendo review

Paper Mario: Color Splash Review

Paper Mario is back with a splash and ready to paint the town red. With a gloriously charming storyline that oozes visual appeal, Colour Splash hits great notes. Yet it doesn’t quite reach the heights of perfection with a lacklustre battle card system that’s just not quite speedy enough.

As the fifth instalment in the Paper Mario series and developed by the renowned Japanese team Intelligent Systems, Colour Splash is visually remarkable. Similar to Yoshi’s Woolly World, the game’s aesthetic appeal is stunning. It’s rigid in all the right places; with wooden boxes, pipes and corrugated cardboard poking out beneath the Shy Guys and their slurping straws. Clouds hang on wires as part of a set piece, giving players a boxed-in look that screams of Toy Story 4.0, while unfurl blocks roll out and physically build a ramp, a wall, a bridge before your very eyes. It’s the Wii U’s origami toy town – and it’s delightful.

Paper is used to such great effect in Colour Splash that the 3D background almost gets lost in the spectacle. Yet that’s exactly how it’s meant to be; awash with vibrant colour, the background folds around the scene as Mario jumps into a wooden barrel and gently pushes himself upstream. There’s often changes of perspective too, where you might have to run from a gigantic Chain Chomp and her pink bow towards the camera, outpace a raging lava pit to clear a course with rocks thrown towards you, or find solace for the housekeeper at Dark Bloo Inn following some spooky activity by a mysterious phone caller. Levels are so intrinsically varied that enjoyment is quite literally around every corner.

But without getting too lavish over the visual aspects, Paper Mario: Colour Splash also has a charming story at its heart. Princess Peach, Toad and Mario arrive on Prism Island after an unusual letter is mailed to them. Shocked to find that the mailed letter is actually a folded up and stamped colour-drained Toad, the group head straight to the centre of Prism Island to unearth the mystery. But on the way, they find a strange contraption asleep. When Mario hits it with his hammer, the contraption springs to life, revealing that it’s a paint can named Huey.

Attaching himself to Mario, Huey and the group head to the fountain only to discover the six Big Paint Stars are gone, with colourless spots dotted around the entire town. Huey is livid and vows that he will help Mario find the six Big Paint Stars to restore Prism Island to its bright, cheery and colourful tone. Yet shortly after Mario finds his first mini paint star, Princess Peach is kidnapped and taken by a black-painted Bowser and his minions onto an airship. And so, as always, Mario must find Princess Peach and bring her safely back to Prism Island.

With over 30 levels in the game, Paper Mario: Colour Splash can last anywhere between 30 to 40 hours. Completing a level will allow Mario to obtain a mini paint star, which opens up a new path or area within the on-screen map. Divided into six different areas correlating to the paint star colours, levels take place in the forest, volcano, desert, ocean, on the beach or at sunset. And while you’ll only be able to collect 9,999 coins at any time, there are plenty of Roshambo temples scattered across the map for quick monetary gain. These Rock-Paper-Scissor mini-games are amusing though largely forgettable, but they do serve a good purpose, particularly towards the end of the game.

Soon after your first run-in with an enemy, players are welcomed with open arms to the title’s battle system. Aside from its clear-cut homage to Sticker Star, battling in Colour Splash is solely card-based with jumps, hammers, mushrooms, fire and ice flower cards all making an appearance throughout the game. Working only on the Wii U GamePad, the turn-based battles are basic attack and defend cycles with players being able to place anywhere between one and four cards in their playable deck before the encounter begins – though it will depend on how many card slots you have unlocked. While selecting your cards can be a hindrance, particularly with 99 in your hand and no option to stack them, you’ll also have to slide your cards on the GamePad you wish to use, paint them to the desired level, and the swipe them onto the battle field. It’s painstakingly slow, sapping the fun rather than just the colour from the game.

For those who are familiar with the previous Paper Mario games or the Mario & Luigi series, using your cards will enable battle actions which must be executed perfectly for maximum damage. Strategically using your cards for the amount of enemies on screen is a must, given that played but unused cards are automatically discarded. From Shy Guys with spike helmets and slurping straws, to mega Goombas, Paratroopers and stacked versions of each, there are enough variations of Bowser’s minions to keep you enthralled.

Battling with enemies is the only way Mario can level up the amount of paint he can carry throughout Colour Splash, allowing players to paint cards that require more for higher attack yields. Each time an enemy is defeated it will leave behind mini wooden or glitter hammers, as well as leftover paint to replenish Huey’s can. Should players find themselves with no cards to hand for an enemy, they can choose to Battle Spin for ten coins once per battle and randomly select a card from the rotating pile. During Kamek’s magically altered battles, where he’ll turn your cards face down or give you six from your hand to play with, Battle Spin can be used to great effect but sadly it’s all too often a redundant feature of the game.

While cards can be found throughout Colour Splash’s enticing levels, they can also be bought from Prism Island with your easy-to-earn coins, as well as sold, or donated to the in-game museum. But perhaps the most interesting feature is the ability to use “Thing Cards”. Seemingly delivered direct from the Chibi-Robo series, Thing Cards often take the shape of household items such as a washing machine, a plunger, a bottle opener or even an ice pick. Bizarrely, lemons, turnips and salt and pepper shakers can also feature in levels, too. Although each Thing Card has a specific use in battle, they are also used as part of Colour Splash’s cut-out technique. By using the GamePad, players must trace their stylus across the screen to physically cut-out a part of the game’s background. It’s simple yet fun and can easily solve the most trickiest of puzzles within the game.

The inclusive humour, the superb music, and the engaging characterisation of Huey, the Toads, and the Shy Guys all add to the beautiful charm of Paper Mario: Colour Splash. With each level so different from the last, there are many that just ooze creativity. Dark Bloo Inn, Plum Park, Mondo Woods, Sacred Forest, and the entire pirate sea voyage are a joy to play through. In many ways, the level design is the real treasure of Paper Mario and reflects the timeless classic it could be if it were refined just a touch more for children and adults alike.

Yet the flaws are quite apparent. From unnecessary thing cards that needlessly lengthen the story, to the frustrating back and forth between Prism Island and the myriad of levels, Colour Splash would be ideal with a handy warp pipe on-screen. There’s also issues with the game’s depth perception too, where a colourless spot hasn’t filled in correctly due to Mario’s position; a centimetre away from the perfect hammer-splash. And with the game’s lack of amiibo support entirely, coupled with the GamePad as the only controller option, Colour Splash doesn’t quite feel complete. It should be said, though, that these issues are paltry in comparison to the game’s card battle system, which arguably becomes the most necessary and mundane feature, crumpling under the pressure.

With the battle system aside, Paper Mario: Colour Splash is filled with vibrant colour, characters and fantastic in-game level design. It may not be on par with The Thousand Year Door, but it’s still an enjoyable journey and, nonetheless, is a must-play for fans of the series. Besides, it’s never paper thin on content.

8/10

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54 comments

  1. Does it really have a good story? Because based on what I’ve read and watched, the story seems like just a typical Mario story, nothing special. Thousand Year Door and Super Paper Mario had great stories, especially Super. Even the first Paper Mario has a solid story due it’s fantastic original characters and the highest tension ever felt during a Bowser fight, due to that game being one of the only Mario games where Bowser is an effective villain

    Liked by 4 people

      1. ||Your excuse is acceptable, do play TTYD first before Colour Splash if you plan to get it and you’ll understand the difference…||

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I don’t plan to play Color Splash before TTYD or even Super, but I love the original Paper Mario 64 so I have an idea of what TTYD would be like since that happened before Sticker Star came and messed everything up.

        I do have a friend who still has his Ganecube copy, perhaps I will ask to borrow it.

        Liked by 5 people

      3. I have super paper Mario. It’s more of a platformer but yea the story is pretty entertaining and it has a good amount of length definitely worth playing just bear in mind that it’s not an rpg

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      4. Just my opinion, but those games are overrated. Not by a large margin, but enough. Color Splash looks just as good as any Paper Mario game on the market. It has steller reviews across the board. 8s and 9s from most reviewers on the internet. IGN gave it a 7.3 but that is literally the lowest score right now. All those reviewers are not lieing, the game is good. You Color Splash haters are starting to fucking annoy me. lol

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      1. I’m probably in the minority, but I always thought TTYD was about an 8 or 9 out of 10 anyways. Never really the masterpiece everyone remembers it to be. If Color Splash really is as good as all the reviews say it is, I dont see how it couldnt surpass the originals…. at least for me. Ive never been nostalgic for the Paper Mario series, so thats probably why… Great review btw.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Color Splash does have a good story actually. While there aren’t a lot of “unique” characters, Huey is a very charming character to travel with. You’ll grow to love him and it will especially play out once you get to the end. That said, the story is still pretty silly, but the final fight was extremely well done. It’s one of the only fights in the game where I felt threatened and the ONLY boss I got a game over on. I wish all the bosses were as good as the ending’s boss.

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  2. You really didn’t get very deep with the problems in the battle system other than Thing cards to defeat Koopalings. The moment you get a third card slot battles are practically handed to you. They keep throwing in old enemies you’ve seen since the beginning and the new enemies just aren’t strong enough. For example, the very first time you see Boos you can simply hammer them on the field and not fight them at all. And even if you do fight them, they don’t hit very hard at all. While there are exceptions to this like Coal Guys, the hoards in the small forest, and giant goombas, the variety of strong enemies is very spread out.

    Another really huge flaw is not being able to aim at who you want. Mario chooses himself. There are several times I’d fail to kill the first thing in the row and Mario would just waltz up to the next target ANYWAYS. This is especially annoying with Hurl Hammers. An attack meant to hit ALL targets will skip ones that were already targeted — dead or alive. It’s extremely frustrating especially with how expensive they are on blue paint.

    I don’t mean to be intrusive on your review, but I felt like there wasn’t enough information on what exactly MAKES the combat flawed.

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    1. She may not share the same gripes as you. Maybe thats why she didn’t list them? You can’t expect her review to match yours. There could be a part of a game you despise and think brings the game down, while another person couldn’t care less and completely ignore it.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Aaron, the media were embargoed on the battles with the Koopalings, and anything game-wise after Roy (sixth big paint star) so I was a little limited in what I could actually say.
      However, I didn’t find the targeting system a problem at all. It targets the enemies in systematic order and you’ve got to be strategic with your cards. It actually gave the battles more of an edge throughout gameplay. The boo fights were brilliant if you engaged with them and often had little twists to them too. I often just battled the enemies to see their interaction with Mario.
      I understand your problems with the enemies not doing much damage towards the end of the game. But at this point they are really gearing you up for the battles towards the end. Oh! And the blue paint I didn’t find limited. I racked up 9,999 coins fairly easily and just grabbed a load of the painted-in ice flowers and line jumps.
      If I didn’t go deep enough into the flaws with the battle system in the review, then I apologise, however we are limited on space. I rarely ever go over 1,400 words in a review due to readability. And some of the battle parts you noted, as you can see in my post, aren’t ones that I felt needed written about, since I didn’t find them to be overall flaws. I hope that helps – and thanks for reading our review. :)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, thanks for taking the time to respond to me! I also liked to fight everything to see how they interact. Regardless of what I said, the enemy design is smart. They just simply aren’t strong enough to be a threat most of the time which was disappointing to me. It feels like the game was meant to be open-ended rather than linear, because if it was open to exploring a lot of the balancing problems in chapters 3 through 6 wouldn’t be an issue. Especially if the card slots were hidden rewards rather than being in your path.

        All that said, I can accept that what is considered a problem varies from person to person. Thank you again for taking the time to read my post, it’s always nice when an editor addresses their audience!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If we’re being fair that’s not an excuse and doesn’t make it a good RPG. Especially in the case of this game where you can wipe them all out without them being able to have a turn. RPGs like Mother, Shin Megami Tensei, Final Fantasy, or hell even Quest64 all feature threatening “fodder” enemies that make fighting a risk vs. reward. Even fodder enemies in typical RPGs — yes, including older Mario RPGs — could at least fight back and chip at you.

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      3. Not an excuse, just a fact. Look, you’ve obviously made up your mind, but the fact remains that most enemies in other RPGs have no chance at seriously harming you either. Have you really played any of the RPGs you mentioned? Most enemies don’t have a turn to attack you either, especially in the late-game. But, no, you’re right. This and SS are horrible and the worst games ever made ever.

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      4. I have played all of those games thoroughly yes.

        Mother games have difficult late game monsters even at max level. The first Mother game is infamous for having absolutely brutal enemies in the second half of the game. Mother 2 (Earthbound) sets you up with very bulky enemies some of which heal themselves. Some enemies may reflect magic, some only take heavy damage from magic, some will explode upon death and deal mortal damage to your entire party. Not to mention all the Mother games like to throw tons of status at you — one of the most threatening being Nausea.

        With Shin Megami Tensei in mind, those games are practically made to hand your ass to you. Not even towns are safe from encounters in most cases. There is always a system to exploit, but your enemies can exploit it, too. Nocturne is especially known for how it throws you into difficult situations frequently and its press-turn combat that can potentially make you lose all of your turns if you make a mistake and give the enemies extra turns if you have an open weakness on your team. It’s no small franchise either with over 40 games with several genres of RPG.

        Quest 64’s Late game is crazy tough and the normal enemies are arguably harder than bosses themselves. Although there is the major flaw that if you invest a lot into Earth magic, you gain an invincibility spell. But that’s not something you want to throw around in every fight because there is no currency. What you get is all you’ll get the entire game which makes it hard to find items dispensable.

        etc, etc. Mind you it is possible to prepare yourself for fights in these games, but in no way are they given to you. Especially the aforementioned make magic restoration a rarity. Enemies should scale in health to a respective degree that keeps them up with your progression and frankly, should not die to a single attack. RPGs should also not recycle low-level enemies frequently — something Color Splash is INCREDIBLY guilty of doing. If an RPG doesn’t find a way to challenge you, it’s doing something extremely wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I think comparing color splash to smt is like comparing apples to oranges. They just released apocalypse. I think that’s probably more your speed. I’ll take your word for quest 64 as I haven’t played it. I have played a number of dq and ff games and they all got a lot easier toward the end for me at least.

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  3. I’m on the fence, as I want to play it and form my own opinion of it, but at the same time I don’t want to buy it and show support for these sticker star mechanics of which I hate. Because I feel like if I go out and buy it Nintendo will just look it as “oh hey people actually like this mechanic and we can keep rolling with it like that in the future” when in reality I want the RPG mechanics of PM64 and TTYD. So I guess I need to buy the game used is my only option.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s the same debate I’ve been having in my head over the last few weeks. I want to try it, but what I’ve heard from reviews and saw online of the battle system and over world map tells me it keeps the parts I disliked most from Sticker Star while I truly just want them to expand on The Thousand Year Door formula. Paper Mario being one of my favorite Nintendo franchises (based on the strength of the first two) its incredibly disappointing to see them so fixed on taking away what people enjoyed most about it and trying to hold on to what so many seemed to dislike.

      But this looks and (based on this review) seems much better than SS and could still be pretty fun so I may have to give them my money. 😕

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      1. The game is actually really good. And im extremely picky when it comes to Nintendo games lately. This game will make you laugh, and it is addictive. The level design is very good in the fact it will make you want to play through one more level before you stop. You should really get this game, don’t listen to the downers…. Oh, and please dont pirate the game like someone here suggested.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I wouldn’t pirate it but I did consider buying it used from Gamestop. No worries though, I bought it brand new from Target today (only store in my city that I could find a copy at after searching all day yesterday 😕). After putting maybe a few hours in I can say it’s visually stunning and definitely charming but after getting the red and blue Mini Paint Stars from a level I believe was called Cherry Lake I can already see the battle and level/map system getting old by the end of the game. It’s pretty fun, just really feels like they’re forcing extra work into the battle system and platformer overworld/stage elements into an RPG. I sort of understood using a map for Sticker Star because it was a handheld entry but since SPM they’ve been doing this “reach the goal” thing and Color Splash feels like it would’ve been great with a more connected world.

        But I don’t mean to sound too negative, i’m enjoying it and i’m still glad I bought it rather than just watching a stream or trying to get it for free.

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      3. I understand about the “extra work” in the battle sytem. I was actually upset that the game forced touch controls during battles, until I found out you could change that in the settings. After changing the settings to basic the battles became alot less tedious as you didnt have to use your touchscreen anymore.

        To each thier own, I’m glad you decided to buy the game at least. I understand your fustration about the battle system, I think its a little lackluster too. I don’t know, maybe because im getting my rpg fix off other games (DQ7 to name one) im a little more forgiving of Color Spash lacking the rpg elements. I went into Color Spash hoping it was a fun adventure game, and was pleasantly suprised. I think the people that go into Color Splash hoping for an epic rpg will ultimately be let down.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah it’s very fun for what it is. When I say I’d like a more connected world it’s not about trying to make it something it’s not so much as it is about me enjoying the parts of this world that we get to see and wishing I could see what was in between stages. Plus i’m a little fatigued by the switch to level-based overworlds for any and every Mario adventure these days. I just miss open worlds and hub worlds, but that said Color Splash is still pretty great. In a perfect scenario this would be what handheld Paper Mario games are the epic world building 64/TTYD style games could still exist on console. I feel like the touchscreen battle mechanics could be better appreciated if both screens were closer like on a 3DS. But either way i’m really enjoying the game, probably one of the stand out Wii U titles to be honest.

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    2. I say either pirate it or wait for it to go on sale. It’s not so bad that you shouldn’t play it. The first two chapters are very well balanced as are the last two chapters. The final boss is ESPECIALLY worth it. The humor throughout the entire game is also good as you’d expect from a Paper Mario game. However, everything between those chapters is a mess of weak enemies and horribly tedious minigames. So if you can get a decent price or have a good 25-30 hours to invest into it, go for it.

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      1. Why would you suggest someone pirate a new released Nintendo game? Nintendo needs all the help they can get. In one hand you want them to make TTYD sequel, and with the other hand you pirate their games. You can see how that would be counter productive for your cause.

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      2. I understand the concern. Im just a try before I buy kind of guy and there was no demo. I already purchased the game on launch because it was only fair when i played it to completion. It is not a game i would immediately reccommend to buy at full price, however.

        I understand that nintendo needs to see there is immediate interest, but good sales will also make them think nothing is wrong and they can keep repeating mistakes. It has a weird tradeoff to it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well, I can say Nintendo can be very stubborn. Low sales would not guarantee they would go back to the old battle system and high sales would not guarantee they would keep things the same. Nintendo does things on spur of the moment ideas, and there is not much planning behind it. They start development of a game and let the development unfold naturally. Sometimes it works out sometimes it doesn’t. But I don’t think sales influence the way they develop thier gameplay. If that was the case Windwaker would have never existed! The best thing you can do if your a true Nintendo fan and want another Paper Mario game is just support them anyway you can and hope or the best.

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  4. Well, i’m still as torn as ever about whether or not I should buy this Friday but thank you for the review Colette! You some what confirmed what I thought after seeing the trailer in that there’s fun to be had but Sticker Star mechanics to be annoyed by.

    Also I wasn’t a big fan of Thing stickers or whatever so i’m not sure how to feel about them in this as cards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you can get it for a good price, it’s worth the time. Especially for the final two chapters. They’re very good. You’ll have to deal with weak enemies throughout the middle of the game though which makes it really boring to press through if you don’t like to talk to NPCs or explore.

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    2. They didnt fix the battle system but the puzzles and exploration are fun and can actually be challenging at times. The dialog is very good, and has the best writing in the Paper Mario series. And honestly the battle system isnt horrible, its just not as good as previous games… Its worth a playthrough honestly, and this is coming from someone who has skipped out on most Nintendo games this year. Ok im done promoting this game lol

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t played the game for that many hours, but I am surprised of how much more attractive this games is compared to Sticker Star.

    Excellent review as always. I love how in depth your writing is! I’m probably going to end up with the same score myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like your review Colette, but personally I give it about a 7/10, due to some points you mentioned and just the overall battle system being a process for every single battle, and just the lack of RPG elements. it does give you more reason to fight unlike sticker star but just barely and the lack of personal growth exp, abilities, badges, special powers etc etc just makes it lacking. The game is fun in a sense that it has enjoyable scenarios and dialog as you traverse the simplistic story, but outside the beautiful looks and humor there’s really not a lot going on under the hood. Another flaw I find is the lack of diversity like the older games, as fun as it is to see Toad’s in some many different lifestyles it gets old fast being that they are almost the only NPCs you interact with, where PM64 and TTYD felt like a living world with all the types of creatures from the Mushroom Kingdom populating it.

    Overall I will say the game is worth playing but, it is definitly not the direction I want them to continue going with, but it is better than sticker star by a longshot, just not quite there with TTYD and PM64.

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  7. Do I have to Beat Sticker Star First? I’ve heard “nothing” but negatives……… Color Splash looks Fantastic & I eventually plan on obtaining it and beating every facet of the game, I’m just curious to know whether or not I should play Sticker Star at all

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