Paper Mario: Color Splash on Wii U
Mario has come in a lot of different styles and shapes over the years, but few have been as memorable as the Paper Mario series. Just like it sounds, the series gives us a 2D cutout version of Mario and his world. Paper Mario: Color Splash is the newest game in the sub-series, and it decides to change things up a little bit from past games by toning back a bit on its RPG elements and emphasizing exploration.
Color Splash starts very much like other games in the series. Princess Peach, Mario, and Toad receive a strange letter from Prism Island, a letter that’s actually a colorless folded up Toad. It urges them to come to the island, and the group quickly sails there by boat. Upon arrival Mario finds a desperate situation, as Port Prisma has been completely drained of color.
As Peach and Mario make their way into the city they stumble upon a strange talking paint bucket named Huey, who gives Mario the ability to use a paint hammer to restore color. Together they restore the color to Port Primsa, and find out that Bowser is really behind the disappearing color all over the island.
The story is absolutely one of the highlights of Color Splash, and the writing goes along with it. It’s a fun, albeit simple story, that introduces a fun relationship between Mario and Huey. Across the board the writing in Color Splash is phenomenal, and consistently keeps things funny even with minor characters across the world. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek game, often making fun of how ridiculous it is and breaking the fourth wall.
You’ll want to talk to every character you run into just to see what they have to say, from a self deprevating Toad that bemoans his place in life to a Shy Guy that tells Mario how terrible of a Shy Guy he’d be, because he has too much self-confidence and a face. It’s a wacky, colorful game with equally wacky characters.
The game is structured in a traditional Mario fashion, with a world map that features different levels scattered across it. Mario and Huey have to travel across Prism Island and collect six Big Paint Stars to restore color. Each level has a number of Small Paint Stars, that when collected, will unlock another level. Mario can travel freely between each area in the game, returning to previous ones whenever you choose to do so. Levels are 3D areas that Mario explores, and encountering enemies takes you into a battle.
Color Splash has a kind of construction paper design to its aesthetic, that really works for it. The game pops right off of the screen, with vibrant colors and locations. Each area has its own unique design, and oftentimes unique gimmick. This could be a volcano with rising lava, or a forest where everything in it is huge.
Exploration and puzzle solving is fun and engaging, while not being overly difficult most of the time. Areas are dotted with places to hit with your hammer and restore color to, rewarding Mario with coins or battle cards. As you whack things with your paint hammer, your paint levels go down, and you can restore them by finding paint in the world, using items in battle, or having enemies drop paint when defeated.