This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Paper Mario Color Splash.
I found myself wondering if Paper Mario: Sticker Star did alright - not by my standards, and I know sometimes I give the impression that the game would have to escape from Colditz and fall to its knees at my door to commence a blowjob marathon that makes my feet recede into my legs to impress me, but Sticker Star was a particular thorn in my suppository because the older Paper Mario games had humor and life and creativity whereas Sticker Star has ... well, it has stickers. Nope, there it is on Wikipedia; Sticker Star - mixed reviews, and the lowest scores of any Paper Mario game.
Well, that clears it up. Now I understand perfectly why Nintendo thought "Yes! This is the one we need to bring to Wii U. This is exactly what our ailing brand needs: a good hard shot of mediocrity that will pull out bootstraps about halfway up before getting bored and wandering off.' You know, I seem to remember being a bit down on Super Paper Mario when it first came out on the Wii, now I'm counting the days till the NX comes out and Nintendo does the usual thing where they stop supporting the previous console but one, and thinking of all the things I should've said to Super Paper Mario before I pressed down on the pillow.
Paper Mario: Color Splash opens with Mario and the princess arriving at a mysterious port town to find answers to a mystery, which made a single cobweb fall off my long-dormant stiffy because that's how Thousand-Year Door started. But nope, it's just the usual thing: monsters have stolen the local 6 or 7 important and inevitably star-shaped artifacts of power and the person behind it all begins with B and rhymes with something Inspector Gadget used to say a lot. And after restoring the first of the inevitably star-shaped things, it's parked its pointy bum down for less than a second before Princess Peach gets kidnapped, which I wouldn't have minded. But then a nearby toad comments 'Oh no! Bowser kidnapped Princess Peach! What a totally unexpected happenstance!' And you know what? Fuck you, Paper Mario: Color Splash. There's a difference between clever, subversive self-parody and just doing the same thing you always do but sarcastically rolling your eyes at it. Don't kick me in the bollocks and say 'Gosh, wouldn't it be funny if I were really kicking you in the bollocks?'.
What bothers me the most about these last 2 Paper Marios is that there's such a brazen lack of effort on display. And this isn't fucking Wii Fit Trainer's quest for the perfect bleached asshole. This is Mario, Nintendo's fucking A-grade intellectual property. Yeah, Pokémon might be the money maker now but Mario is the pimp daddy; it has to pay at the end of the night. If they were going to crowbar the wallet open to create new content for any game, you'd think it'd be for Mario but nope, still using the same flea-bitten paper cutout sprites Paper Mario has been using for over a decade. And I assume some of them have gotten more flea-bitten than others over the years because every non-hostile NPC in this game is a generic toadstool man - every single one, some palette-swapped. And they all have the same role in life: throwing out glib, sarcastic remarks on the utterly pedestrian things that surround them in half-arsed acknowledgement of the obligation for funny dialogue.
This might sound like an odd thing to harp on, but what the fuck happened to Toadsworth? You know, the scholarly advisor toadstool man with the 'stache who used to hang around Princess Peach like he was trying to wipe his arse on the toilet paper stuck to her shoe. I ask, 'coz there's a character filling that role, but - you guessed it - it's a generic, indistinct toadstool man. And Toadsworth's been in previous Mario games. What happened, Nintendo? Did the dog knock over the bin with all your old sprites in it?
By now, I'm sure the Nintendo fans are nervously chewing on their Triforce-shaped asthma inhalers trying to get a word in edgeways. 'Oh, Yahtzee, stop giving us the same old shit about Nintendo not giving us the same old shit. So it isn't like the Paper Marios YOU used to like. So what? It's Nintendo's property and they could do what they like with it.' Alright, granted. I might point out they keep slapping the Paper Mario name on it, but then this is the eternal paradox of Nintendo, isn't it? Exclusively makes games catered to the nostalgia crowd and yet goes out of their way to annoy them at the same time.
But play it your way. I shall now stick this red-hot wire coat hanger down my ear until I've forgotten about good Paper Marios. *hmph* There we go.
Now, flurble blurble recidivist Mario cunt. The gameplay of Color Splash revolves around paint. You're questing for the 6 magic paint stars and have the ability to smash paint onto white things with your hammer to restore them. I think I understand the wheeze now. Nintendo are going through every substance and object one could possibly associate with paper crafting. Last time it was adhesive, now it's paint. Next time it will probably be rescuing the 6 magic sheets of blank printer paper from the clutches of king Hole Punch.
The plot establishes that the villains are draining paint from characters to make them lifeless which creates a 'paint as blood' metaphor that gets more fucked up the more you think about it as Mario gaily romps through the world pouring blood on things as well as smashing objects with a hammer to recover blood from them, and using blood to infuse his combat cards with power like a deranged Satanic ritualist playing Yu-Gi-Oh!.
On that note, the combat system is not dissimilar to Sticker Star's. As you explore, you constantly pick up cards representing single forms of attack and in each round of combat you choose what cards to inflict upon the enemy. I find this combat style to be the proverbial Styrofoam packing material in the gnocchi and now I shall explain why. In a normal RPG, annoying as it is when the game stops you every 10 steps to blow the random encounter trumpet, we take the consolation that every fight gives us a little experience and makes us a little bit stronger. In the Color Splash and Sticker Star system, however, getting caught by a random battle is totally disadvantageous. Cards are single-use, so you might have to waste a phwoar crikey death spooge on two one-legged special needs Goombas and a soggy biscuit. The only benefit you can get is money and expanded blood capacity but virtually everything in the environment disgorges money and blood like a pole dancer with the Ebola virus.
If Nintendo were hoping to move Sticker Star to a non-handheld console, then the joke's on them, 'coz I ended up playing in controller-only mode just so I wouldn't have to be constantly looking up and down like I was lying on my side at a tennis match. Even then the basic combat was arduous. How many button presses does it take to jump on a Goomba in Super Mario Bros.? One if it is already moving towards you. Meanwhile, in Color Splash, first you gotta drag the shoe icon onto the card slot, then fill it with paint by awkwardly fingering it like you're navigating thick pubes and aren't sure if you found the clitoris or a forgotten sultana, then confirm your selection, and then they make you flick it off the touchscreen for no particular reason, unless Nintendo thinks there's mileage in a bogey disposal simulator.
So now that we've established that fun and original storytelling isn't part of Paper Mario's appeal, shplurgle shplurgle fuck mother hairy pipes then fun gameplay is the only thing left you could possibly stand up on, but the combat is both disadvantageous to get into and not fun, which is not my idea of core gameplay, except in the sense of "Cor, this gameplay is shite!"
- Damn those coloureds: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- One day the Wii Fit Trainer will discover that the perfect bleached asshole was inside her all along
- Turns out generic toadstool men have a really good union