Super Paper Mario
It’s-ah me, Mario! His second adventure on the Wii is standing in front of the door. Unfortunately still no Galaxy, but already a bit more noticeable than Mario Strikers: Charged. I wonder if you funghi-lover with moustache still has it in him.
Super Paper Mario is already the third adventure in the series in which typically the entire environment is made out of paper. At first sight the game doesn’t differ from another Mario-platformer on the SNES but the paper particularities become clear when the happy plumber turns around; he looks a bit thin. The background is also drawn and coloured at times like someone’s using a paint brush. It adds to the original 8- and 16-bit atmosphere which, unfortunately, we’ve been missing for the last decade.
What makes de Paper Mario series different from the other titles in the franchise is the fact that they are RPGs. Often a puzzle needs solving to reach the end of a level but the typical level structure with worlds and sublevels does remain intact. Objectives always have to be reached within the same sublevel though which makes it remain a rather superficial RPG. Superficial and a little kiddy, as the characters are drawn very in a very caricature way and also the dialogues are clearly meant to target children. But no worries, it’s Mario and we’ve had to wait long enough.
All that waiting made Mario and Luigi sooooo tired. They’ve only reached that conclusion (yea, what those Italians talk about these days) or Toad comes running in with the disastrous news that Princess Peach has been kidnapped again. Who o who could be the bad guy? Once arrived on Bowser’s castle, the anti-hero doesn’t know anything. Bad luck Mario! This time it’s Count Bleck who ran off with the bride. His only goal is to destroy all dimensions like it is predicted in the book Dark Prognosticus.
Exhausted after the fight against Bleck, Mario is transported by the butterfly Tippi to the mysterious town of Flipside that’s hidden in between all the dimensions. There our hero gets confronted with a Merlin look-a-like who possesses the Light Prognosticus. This book was written as a reply to the Dark Prognosticus and speaks of a hero in red outfit and black moustache who will take on evil. However, before being able to do the confrontation, our hero has to collect eight pure hearts that will be able to outbalance the effect of evil. Of course Mario is perfectly fit for the role of hero.
Luckily he’s not on his own in this. Throughout the different worlds Mario will come into contact with Pixls, that just like Tippi have special abilities or – to be more precise – give these abilities to the people in their surroundings. This way Mario can for instance grab his enemies, drop bombs or play porcupine, depending on which Pixl is active. People that are used to playing Kirby games probably know how the principle works. As the story progresses you’ll also get the chance to control other characters and quickly change figure when necessary. On his first voyage our hero also gets a new power; the possibility to explore the third dimension.
Being in the 3D world, however, demands so much energy that you as player are forced to use the available time wisely before losing lifepoints. This technique was implemented in the game in a funny way as most of the time the background (in 2D) will be part of the game world (in 3D). This way you’ll find hidden passages, power-ups, but also sometimes necessary hints to finish a sublevel. Not that they’re so hard to find but sometimes they’re hidden in such a way that you could bang your head against a wall because you walked past them a dozen times without ever noticing.
To keep up the RPG level of this game somewhat high, there are all kinds of things you can collect. With Catch Cards you can try to capture the soul of enemies and store them on a card, a bit like Pokémon, but Beyblade-style. Of course you’re suggested to “collect them all” and also recipes which you can brew from all kinds of different combinations of power-ups can be collected.
As said, the game looks quite retro and this becomes even more clear when Mario comes into the possession of a star. Where in the old games you would become temporarily immortal, this time the active character grows up to a giant 8-bit version of itself. Remember Super Mario Bros 1? Well, a giant retro-Mario will suddenly be running around on your screen. Sublime! Also the levels, just like the music here and there, remind of the original and the dialogues are filled with references to the original. Controlling the game is done ni the classical (horizontal) way but sometimes you do have to point at the screen. The nunchuck isn’t used.
Super Paper Mario is in my eyes a very good adaptation of the classic platformer. It makes inventive use of the 2D-3D conversion of the game world and vigorously chooses for a retro-feel. The game, however, isn’t all too difficult (maybe even a bit too easy in the beginning) and offers, for an RPG, only 15 to 20 hours of playing fun.