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Super Paper Mario (Wii) artwork

Super Paper Mario (Wii) review


"The latest instalment of the Paper Mario franchise captures a beauty similar to the paper-folding art of origami; a mixture of vibrant colours, abstract design, and mind-boggling use of 2D and 3D contributes to this, but don’t think Super Paper Mario is a one-trick pony. The side-scrolling action of the classic Mario games, combined with light RPG elements of the Paper Mario sub-franchise, complement each other marvellously. "



The latest instalment of the Paper Mario franchise captures a beauty similar to the paper-folding art of origami; a mixture of vibrant colours, abstract design, and mind-boggling use of 2D and 3D contributes to this, but don’t think Super Paper Mario is a one-trick pony. The side-scrolling action of the classic Mario games, combined with light RPG elements of the Paper Mario sub-franchise, complement each other marvellously.

In a refreshing twist, it isn’t Bowser who has kidnapped Princess Peach, but a new villain with his own troupe of troublemakers. The mysterious Count Bleck is the culprit; in an attempt to fulfil a dark prophecy that will end all worlds, he kidnaps Princess Peach and orchestrates a marriage between her and Bowser (it’s a strange prophecy). Naturally, Mario doesn’t take kindly to this and crashes the wedding. No match for the powerful Count Bleck, the moustached plumber gets knocked unconscious and wakes up in the town of Flipside, a gateway to all dimensions. It’s here that Mario learns of the pure hearts, powerful items that will allow him to stop the dark prophecy and thwart Count Bleck. With this knowledge, Mario sets out on a dimension-hopping quest to save all worlds from certain destruction.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the series (or you didn’t get the hint in the title), Mario and friends are all paper-thin in a 3D world. The contrast between 2D characters and 3D environments is amazing, and the art direction in general is equally impressive. Viewing familiar environments from past games is great, but the new places that Super Paper Mario has added to the universe are a real treat. Some of these locales include the Bitlands, a blocky tribute to the Mario games of old, and the lair of Count Bleck, which uses an abstract black & white colour scheme to create an intimidating atmosphere. Super Paper Mario’s visuals are a meeting of the old and the new, and they’re definitely one of its most defining features.

Super Paper Mario’s general theme matches its visual style: it’s fun, it’s colourful, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Although there is no voice acting (excluding the occasional “Wa-hoo!” sound-byte), the script is very well written. The Paper Mario games have a reputation for humorous dialogue, and Super Paper Mario keeps it up. The script would be nothing without good characters though. You all know what to expect from Mario and company, but the new personalities are great. The dastardly Count Bleck has a tendency to refer to himself in the third-person, and his bearded, gung-ho henchman O’Chunks likes to smash things. Perhaps the best new character is Francis, a chameleon who is your typical computer geek type. The chapter that revolves around him is great fun thanks to his over-the-top, stereotypical character.

Mario is primarily controlled with the Wii remote positioned horizontally. For the most part, you’ll be in familiar territory if you’ve ever played a Mario game. You run through the level, jumping gaps and jumping on goombas, until you reach the end and progress to the next. It isn’t always that simple in Super Paper Mario. There’ll be times when it looks impossible to progress. What now? Flip, that’s what! At the press of a button, you can flip the action into three-dimensions. This is so often the key to reaching a previously inaccessible platform, or avoiding death where it seemed inevitable. It’s all well and good reading about this, but you’ll still be blown away the first time you flip dimensions. You can’t stay 3D forever though, as your “flip meter” continually runs down (you’ll lose health if you remain in 3D after the meter is fully depleted).

The various boss characters you encounter are made more enjoyable thanks to the flip ability. Just as you need it to progress through a level, some bosses need to be beat down in three-dimensions. That isn’t to say every boss needs flipping, though. There are a good number of old-skool battles that the purists will enjoy; all you’ll need is your trusty jump attack and the ability to recognise attack patterns. Both kinds of boss battles are fun, but they tend to be a little on the easy side.

The flip mechanic is employed extremely well, but it isn’t without its faults. There are times where you’ll find yourself standing around for the flip meter to refill; these unwelcome pauses, though few and far between, break up the action. The more pressing issue is controlling Mario in 3D. Again, these instances are uncommon, but gauging distance when making a jump can be difficult due to the camera. The d-pad, which is better suited for 2D gameplay, doesn’t help in these instances. It has its flaws, but flipping is still a fantastic feature and there is no doubt that Super Paper Mario is better off with it.

Mario is joined on his quest by a number of familiar and unfamiliar characters. You’ll eventually be able to switch between Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Bowser. Mario is the typical all-rounder and is the only one that can flip; Luigi has the largest leap of all the characters; Peach can use her parasol to glide from platform to platform; and Bowser can breathe fire to scorch his foes. The unfamiliar characters I spoke of are the “pixls”, small creatures who can grant you special abilities. Tippi is the first one you’ll meet and is constantly active. By pointing the Wii remote at the screen, you can get information from Tippi about enemies and items you point at. You can use one more pixl at a time, and their abilities are assigned to the 1-button. For example, Slim allows you spin ninety degrees so you are paper thin, letting you squeeze through tiny gaps and become immune to damage when standing still. Other pixls give you abilities like the ground-pound, item grab, and setting down a bomb.

Pressing the 1- and 2-buttons at the same time brings up a menu where you can switch your active character and pixl. You can also use items from this menu; some, like the shroom shake healing items, can be used straight away, but others have action commands that use the Wii remote. For example, when you use a thunderbolt, you are prompted to shake the remote as quickly as possible to maximise damage. For the most part, the attacking items are a novelty, but the pal-pill and starman items deserve a special mention. Collecting a pal-pill will spawn you a mini-army of retro Marios; they can take a hit for you, and they can dispatch enemies as they jump at the same time as you. Collecting a starman will transform you into an old-skool, screen-consuming version of whichever character you’re currently playing as. For a limited period of time, you can run through the level demolishing anything that comes into contact with you.

You’ll be happy to know that a good soundtrack will accompany your dimension-flipping quest. There is a good balance of classic Mario remixes against original recordings for the new places added to the universe. The new stuff isn’t quite as memorable as the old, but that’s only because some of these remixes (such as the underworld and starman themes) are based on such iconic tracks. The sound effects will also be familiar to anyone who has played a Mario game. The sound of a jump or the descent down a pipe is pretty much the same as it’s always been.

If you’re looking for an innovative platformer with light elements of an RPG, Super Paper Mario will be perfect for you. It’s accessible for casual and hardcore gamers alike, but seasoned Mario players may find the trade-off in difficulty a little disappointing. Still, this is no reason to dissuade you from playing Super Paper Mario. A fun story, great cast of characters, and a solid soundtrack complement the gameplay, and the visuals simply speak for themselves.

Rating: 9/10

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Community review by PAJ89 (October 27, 2007)

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