Paper Mario: Color Splash

Review: Paper Mario: Color Splash

"Color" indeed... 

On the surface, Paper Mario is still, well, Paper, and the world he inhabits is still populated by fantastically animated cut out friends, foes and scenery. But this is not your fathers Paper Mario. The days of Paper Mario 64 and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door on the GameCube are long gone. Instead, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have chosen to build on the 3DS game, Sticker Star, for the Wii U game, Paper Mario Color Splash (yes, it is spelt Color). What we get, therefore, is a game that in its own right is a " fun and vibrant adventure that is enjoyable from start to finish, and yet in the shadow of its fore fathers never quite hits the heights of its predecessors.

I should explain that, at the ripe old age of 31, my first experience of Paper Mario was the N64 version. Which means that that and The Thousand Year Door are my Paper Mario bench marks. If Sticker Star was your first, and you enjoyed it, then this will be right up your alley. If you're an old hand like me though you might find yourself enjoying this game, yet wistfully reminiscing about older adventures and what might have been.

I actually did enjoy Sticker Star for the most part myself, and felt it was right at home on the 3DS with its more bite size level design and world map, encouraging you to play in shorter bursts with ample save opportunities. Porting that style over to the Wii U however feels like a bit of a misstep when, naturally, if you're playing on a home console you're more likely to be settling in for a cold October evening for a good solid few hours worth of gameplay.


If you need the story explaining for any Mario series game then frankly you're on the wrong website; suffice to say it follows familiar tropes in an enjoyable way and with a few suprises here and there to keep you on your toes. The main "point" of this one being that Prisma Island has been sucked dry of all its colour; it's up to Mario, his new friend and talking paint can Huey, and a hammer that can splash paint everywhere to restore law, order, and scenery back to normal. As always with Mario the plot may not be the most exciting part, but how you get there invariably is. Taken at face value, the gameplay here is fun. At first I was slightly concerned at the lack of atmosphere and quality on show, yet once I had gotten past the initial story progression and the world opened up, I was thoroughly entertained by what was on offer. A good 20 hour or so adventure is here and as an action game Color Splash holds up well. As an RPG, it doesn't hold up so well. Gone are the days of levelling up health or flower power, with health upgrades being bestowed upon you after each boss battle. The only hint of an RPG the game offers is upgrading your hammer's paint meter, which allows you to paint more colourless spaces and bigger battle cards to wipe out enemies.

Yes, the card/sticker based battle system makes a return, for better or worse. Mostly for worst, in my opinion; I found it one of the least enjoyable aspects of Sticker Star and it hasn't got any better. It becomes tedious very quickly having to use old boots and hammers to do minimal damage to even the smallest Goomba. As soon as I realised that I didn't really need to hang on to the bigger cards, however, I was away, smashing through battles early on until, after the first boss, you can hammer some of the smaller enemies in the levels without then being taken into a battle with them. You don't get any hammer levelling up points for avoiding battles, but I honestly found myself fine by merely engaging in the forced battles and dodging the random ones.


Large stickers that are environmentally sensitive also make a return in Color Splash, and thankfully they are less frustrating or obscure, for the most part, than some were in Sticker Star. It is disappointing to see the same ones turn up, the desk fan for example, however there are also new ones to keep things fresh as well. The boss battles do also have that one (sometimes two) stickers that you need to win. They are for the most part self explanatory however if you do find yourself stuck, and not just in the boss battles, then chatting to a Toad who lives in a dustbin (you heard me right) will yield a sufficient clue as to what you need to progress.

Ah yes, the Toads. This game is overpopulated with the little blighters, coming in different shapes, sizes and, yes, colours. On the one hand it's a shame that with Nintendo's rich history of characters they have decided to use only Toads as the main NPC's. However they are all so full of charm and have their own personalities that it's hard to feel too aggrieved, as clearly a lot of effort has gone into the script, even if the characters themselves are just reskinned Toads.

The script has, for my money, never been better. I found myself laughing out loud on plenty of occasions at the witty one liners and self referential jokes that Huey or the Toads would come out with. Of particular enjoyment to me were the numerous Super Mario Bros 2 mentions (including the games original title) and one enemy Shy Guy who threatens you before quickly realising he can't without changing the games age rating. It's clear a lot of fun was had in the devising of this script and it shines through in the finished product, making a cardboard cut out world, well, believable.

Graphically the game is beautiful to look at and much like 2015's Yoshi's Woolly World the aesthetic style has been embraced with maximum effect here. Everything is papery or cardboard cut outs, with clouds being held up on sticks and papery items being blown away easily with a strong wind in a sumptuous fashion. The early levels are certainly a joy to behold, bright and colourful and bursting with life, they provide the perfect start to the game and encourage replay ability as well, which is needed if your are someone who needs to complete everything the game has to offer.

Musically the game remixes some classic Mario tunes whilst also providing an original score as well; the overall vibe I got was of a French Riviera, certainly in Port Prisma, which suits the locale very well. In fact as I write this it's been two days since I last played the game and I'm humming away one of the songs, so they must have done something right.

Scoring this game has been tricky, as at points I've enjoyed myself so much that I felt "9 out of 10" vibes. However looking past that, to an overall score, I feel that while the game has some incredibly fun moments, the frustrating elements (if I have to attempt to prepare and cook that steak one more time...) the tedious and now almost defunct battle system and the lack of serious innovation from Sticker Star does ultimately let it down and leads me to my final score.

Having said that, as Wii U owners have been starved of games recently, is Color Splash, the U's big (and only) Christmas release and something of a swan song for the console, worth picking up and giving your time to? I'm delighted to say the answer is yes. It may not be perfect, and it may not be the Paper Mario game some people would hope for, but a witty script, a fully immersive paper craft world and some tight and rewarding action game play add up to an experience that every Wii U owner should have on their Christmas list. Or their, ummm, October list...celebrate Halloween? Why not ask for it then, perhaps? Beats trick or treating, anyway.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Paper Mario Color Splash continues the groundwork laid down by Sticker Star on the 3DS. Whilst for some that may be a turn off, if you persevere you'll find a flawed yet fun and engaging game here with plenty of moments, songs and set pieces that will stay with you after the curtain closes on yet another Mario adventure.

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability3
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Tight gameplay
Beautiful worlds
Great tunes
Fantastic script


Frustrating in places
No real RPG elements
Tedious battle system
Over use of Toads

Game Summary

N-Europe Score



Platform: Wii U
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Players: 1

Release Date:




RELEASE DATE AUS 08 Oct 2016 may not be the Paper Mario game some people would hope for, but a witty script, a fully immersive paper craft world and some tight and rewarding action game play add up to an experience that every Wii U owner should have...

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