What is Paper Mario: Colour Splash?
Paper Mario: Colour Splash is an adventure game with role playing elements. Playing as Paper Mario - like the real deal, only much, much slimmer - you set out on a quest to rescue the people of Prism Island from a spate of attacks that have been robbing the land of its colour. Armed with your trusty hammer, and with a paint can named Huey tagging along for the adventure, it's up to you to figure out who's behind the dastardly plot, find the seven colour stars, and return colour to the land in the only way you know how - by whacking things with your hammer. No, really.
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How do you play Paper Mario: Colour Splash?
Paper Mario: Colour Splash is divided up into areas/levels, with over 30 to explore, each of which holds a mini-star. As part of your quest to restore colour to the land, it's up to you to collect these mini-stars, which will then show you the way to the main paint star. And while the mini-stars can pretty much always be found at the end of the levels, it's never just as easy as simply walking from A to B.
Each area has its own theme, set of characters, and problems to be solved. One level sees you taking part in the 500th Oceanfest, where it's up to you to try and figure out how to stop a gang of five identical Toad mushroom men (known as the "five fun guys") from diddling you out of your prize - a key to an exclusive private beach, where a mini-star can be found - in a place-switching, keep-your-eye-on-the-prize, cup and ball style game. Another sees you having to restore a poor, depressed Toad's house to its former self after it's been trounced by colour-stealing vandals - by splatting anything and everything you can with your unwieldy paintbrush-hammer, to colour it all back in. Anything you come across in the levels that's left white and uncoloured can be whacked with a hammer to repaint it - and it's often key to your progression.
The role playing style elements come from the game's battles, which are turn based - although these are rather different to other games. As you progress through the levels, you'll find a number of cards, and you can use these cards to perform moves in battles. What this means is that the number of moves you can perform is limited to the number of cards you've got, and so regular trips to the game's shop to spend your in-game currency are in order. Battles also have an emphasis on timing - if you do a jump, hitting A at the right time will let you bounce on your opponent a few more times; use your hammer, and you'll need to press A at the right time to land the most powerful blow possible - get it too late, and you won't do any damage at all. If you've played a Mario and Luigi, or earlier Paper Mario game, you'll be on familiar footing here.
How easy is Paper Mario: Colour Splash to pick up and play?
In terms of accessibility, Paper Mario: Colour Splash is a fairly complex game, and it's arguably the battles that provide the greatest challenge here.
First, you can only perform the moves you have the cards for - if you run out of cards, you'll have to spin a wheel to get a basic card for 10 coins. Second, certain enemies can only be damaged by certain cards - a flying enemy can't be damaged by fireballs (or hammers), a buzzy beetle can't be damaged by hammer due to its tough shell, and a spiky enemy can't be damaged by jumps. It means the battles usually require a bit of trial and error, as you make a mental list of what can and can't damage which enemies.
It's also tricky to regain health outside of a battle - while you have a variety of health-restoring items, they can only be used during the battles themselves. If you're left with just a little HP after a battle, you'll need to try and find a heart somewhere in the level to heal you (being careful to avoid enemies until you do) - or try and play a mushroom card first thing next battle.
The game autosaves your progress after completing a stage, while you can also save mid-level at handy save points in longer levels. You can also call for a hint by pressing up on the +Control Pad, where your trusty paint can companion will give you a clue, sometimes in a fairly direct way, and sometimes pretty cryptically. There is, however, nothing in the way of an adjustable difficulty level.
For the youngest of players, there's also a hefty reading requirement here - with nothing in the way of voice overs, and a lot of reading to get down, little ones will need to be confident readers to get the most out of this, especially for the game's few riddles.
Sample sentences include:
"In case of emergency, active these three switches hidden in the plaza:
(Yellow) Pull(Red) Jump"
- "If you wanna chat, just press (+Control Pad Up) to summon me. It's easier and less painful than hitting me with a hammer."
- "We'll want to head to Prisma Fountain in the center of town. It's a big tourist attraction!"
With nothing in the way of sex, violence or bad language, Paper Mario: Colour Splash is thoroughly family friendly fun.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii U