Legendary director Howard Hawkes once said that a good movie consists of three good scenes and no bad ones. Not so high a bar, right? Few works of entertainment fire on all cylinders throughout, but as long as the audience has just enough enjoyable elements to cling to and a minimum of detractors, the experience will be worth it. That’s the way I feel at this point about Paper Mario: Color Splash, and though obviously playability is a huge part of enjoyability in the gaming medium, sometimes there are other reasons to spend sixty dollars. Yes, the card-based combat carried over (though tweaked) from Sticker Star still looks like an unsatisfying slog despite the fresh coat of paint, but as long as Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have found a way to mitigate some of the frustrations players had with storage and ambiguity enough to make all the flinging tolerable (i.e., not a bad scene), there are three reasons I’m still excited to experience Paper Mario’s latest:
Let’s admit that as gamers we are a bit superficial. Like birds and fish, nothing grabs our attention like shiny things, and the trailers for Color Splash have been absolutely sparkling. Crisp paper bushes flapping in the breeze, tactile cardboard Chain Chomps squashing opponents, and photorealistic lemons that blind enemies with their luscious, lip-puckering juices are just some of the bits of eye candy on display. The world of Prism Island is alive with movement and detail, packed with picturesque scenery and plenty of variety. Though sure to take place over the usual Mario landscapes (I’m assuming this island has a snowy mountain), even the familiar seems fresh due to the creativity put forth. For once I’m actually looking forward to the obligatory desert portion. Vibrant colors showcase the imagination the developers have injected into their two-dimensional 3D world, playing on the paper motif with backgrounds that can be cut out (via the gamepad touchscreen), Toads robbed of their pigment looking eerily dead before being revived by Mario’s goopy, Splatoon-like paint, and tracts of land that roll up like the cityscape in Inception. Looks may not be everything, but they sure don’t hurt. The visuals of Color Splash have me wondering if I’ve been this shallow all along.
As the years have gone by my love for the RPG genre has slowly faded. I’ve personally never been sold on storytelling in video games (with a few exceptions), so the thought of putting more than 30+ hours into a turn-based grind to merely discover how yet another amnesiac fulfills his or her destiny to save the world isn’t exactly what I’d call appealing these days. There needs to be something else compelling me to stay motivated to keep fighting the same things over and over again, like Xenoblade Chronicles X‘s intense, fluid combat, or even better, Nintendo’s penchant for breaking up the monotony with light-hearted puzzles. As I use that stomp attack card for the 500th time in Paper Mario: Color Splash, it’s these little mini-challenges the company is so good at sprinkling throughout their games that will continuously put that smile back on my face and reinvigorate my desire to reach the next area. Toying with perspectives, reshaping the paper world with scissors, searching for hidden Toads, and uncovering secrets by splashing paint around should provide just the sort of breezy variety that prevents card fight fatigue.
Personality goes a long way, and it’s a huge reason why I’ve been a Nintendo fan for so long. Through both visuals and writing, Nintendo oozes charm in nearly everything they make, playing on nostalgia, inside jokes, and pure wit that corresponds to my personality like no other developer. As I stated before, stories in video games don’t mean much to me, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy hammering the A button through hundreds of dialogue boxes just to get back to the gameplay. A little Luigi-bashing can sustain me through even the most forgettable plots (I’m looking at you, Paper Jam), and thankfully Color Splash looks to deal out that same quirky humor in spades.
This time around it’s the toads that seem to provide the written laughs, with the bravado of the ambitious and possibly underappreciated Toad Brigade putting a chuckle-worthy face on the Mushroom Kingdom’s normally faceless subjects, and clever moments unfolding to offer exposition. Add to that Nintendo’s sense of the completely bizarre, like giant cats raining confetti destruction, Shy Guys on treadmills, soda cans for some reason unleashing lightening (Jolt?), and hair dryers torching Koopas to death, and players can expect to keep one eyebrow amusedly raised from moment to insanely weird moment. Even with the comfortable familiarity Nintendo games often emit, they rarely fail to surprise me in some unexpectedly entertaining way, and I can’t wait to revel in the charming delights Color Splash will surely provide.
It’s hard to be perfect, so I have no problem being satisfied with less. Three good “scenes” and no bad ones are all Paper Mario: Color Splash needs to win me over despite its clunky card-based combat, and so far the right elements look in place to do just that. What do you think?
Paper Mario: Color Splash releases for Wii U October 7th.