Super Paper Mario - Staff Review  

RPG + Platformer = Lots and Lots of Mustache Jokes
by Jason Schreier

15-20 Hours


Rating definitions 

   With Super Paper Mario, Nintendo has outdone themselves yet again, creating not only the best incarnation of the Paper Mario series to date, but a near-perfect amalgamation of drastically different gaming genres. Super Paper Mario combines the classic platformer that Mario has been fine-tuning for decades with a great story and some RPG elements, resulting in a hilarious and innovative product that is, above all, one of the most fun games around.

   Naturally, you play as a paper-thin version of Mario, who is called upon once again to save the world. This time, he has to collect eight Purity Hearts in order to stop the menacing Count Bleck and his diabolic plans to destroy the universe using a dark prophecy. Princess Peach, Bowser, and a certain special fourth hero all inevitably join Mario on the quest, along with a butterfly named Tippi who serves as Mario's guide and constant companion. As his travels take him from base of operations Flipside to a series of different worlds, each harboring a different Purity Heart, Mario winds up everywhere from deserts to swamps to outer space. The game is broken down into eight chapters, with most containing four different segments that serve as levels.

Nintendo hopes to appeal to the Nintendo hopes to appeal to the "mature gamer" crowd by mixing Princess Peach and tentacles.

   It's the gameplay that really shines in Super Paper Mario, which manages to succeed at the impossible in this day and age: do things that have never been done before. Think of a standard Mario platformer game, where Mario runs through levels, jumping on Goombas and Koopas and collecting power-ups and coins. Add hit points to both Mario and his enemies, an inventory with expendable items, and replace points with experience for leveling up... and you've still just scratched the surface of Super Paper Mario's depth.

   On top of all that, there are the puzzles, which are clever and occasionally tricky without cheating. Mario's most useful ability is to literally flip around the world, taking the 2-D side-scroller landscape into the third dimension and revealing new pathways, pipes, and enemies. Not only is the 3-D landscape beautifully rendered and fun to look at, most of the game's challenges require intelligent use of this ability, and there are a plethora of secrets which will have you constantly flipping back and forth to try to find. Mario also receives the assistance of floating little creatures called Pixls, each with its own special ability. One Pixl will let you grab and throw objects, another will let Mario use the classic hammer, and a handful of others offer a range of exciting new powers that will open up new secrets and passages to explore every time you receive a new one. Between different characters, different Pixls, and dimension-swapping, puzzle solutions require smart use of all of your unique abilities in order to get through the game.

   Just when you think you've seen it all already, the game pulls a fast one. Every single level contains one surprise or another, and the RPG elements allow Super Paper Mario to do things that other platformers can't pull off; name one other game that has you explore an entire planet in order to find some toilet paper, yet does it with class. All of your regular monsters show up, from Boos to Piranha Plants, along with a good chunk of new creatures that range from frightening to wacky. Unfortunately, many of the game's levels rely way too much on unnecessary repetition, which leads to a lot of tediousness, particularly toward the final few chapters. However, for the most part, the gameplay is refreshing enough to alleviate this problem.

Peach and Bowser getting married?  I smell a sitcom! Peach and Bowser getting married? I smell a sitcom!

   The Wii controller is used pretty simply in Super Paper Mario; for the majority of the game you'll be holding it horizontally like an NES controller, using the directional pad to move around and the 2 button to jump. For those players used to holding B or Y to run while moving in a Mario game, you'll have to readjust to the new controls, as the 1 button has a different function. Consequently, you might find yourself accidentally activating your Pixl power by muscle memory and producing some unintended results. The controller can get uncomfortable in its horizontal position, but you'll get used to it. Motion-sensing is used in some cool ways; status ailments like sleep require you to shake the remote in order to wake up, and some items require you to hold the remote in certain ways in order to properly activate them. You can also shake the remote while jumping on enemies in a throwback to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door that lets you impress an audience and receive extra experience points for "stylish attacks."

   While the dialogue in Super Paper Mario is abundant and the game could be considered pretty text-heavy, nearly every line is well-written and punchy. Because the game doesn't take itself seriously, it makes fun of just about everything in some very clever ways. With a charming cast of heroes and villains, every single character is appealing, from a shape-shifting girl who forces you into slave labor to pay back loans to a nerd chameleon that seems to frequent the RPGamer message boards. A tribe of cavemen all refer to you as "brah" and ask for you to "hook them up," while a Goomba encounters an injured Luigi and suggests that they team up, noting "well this is awkward." Even the townspeople of Flipside always have new ridiculous things to say, and if you don't take the time to constantly talk to people, you're missing out on a good portion of the game's hilarity.

   Mario's new adventure is quite aesthetically pleasing, with intricately designed levels and bizarre background shapes and images. The graphics of Super Paper Mario are clearly meant for the Gamecube, but they fit the tone nicely, and the 3-D transition is smooth; it's hard to expect much else from a game like this. There are a few noticeable slowdowns when flipping at times, but the different perspectives are well-rendered and very attractive -- there's a certain 3-D railroad ride that is stunningly gorgeous despite its simplicity. Aurally, Super Paper Mario is pretty appealing, remixing old tunes for a good portion of its levels. Many of the new songs are pleasant while others can get repetitive and annoying, but there's nothing quite like the nostalgia of hearing classic Mario music, even if it has been rehashed a million times by now.

The best boss fight EVER fought. The best boss fight EVER fought.

   Super Paper Mario is an easy game for the most part. It's easy to accumulate damage fast, but since you can hold healing items and use them at your discretion, it's rare to see the Game Over screen. Mushrooms, Starmen, and Fire Flowers are all in but do completely new things; mushrooms give HP, Starmen turn you into a giant 8-bit version of yourself for a few seconds in order to crush the entire level, and Fire Flowers cause coins to fall from the sky. There are other power-ups that are both neat and surprising, and since they're found frequently, most battles are easy to defeat. Bosses are way too easy despite looking cool, and most will leave you wondering "is that it?" upon their defeat.

   The normal story will run you about 20 hours, but there are things you can do to extend the gameplay, besides the myriad secrets and conversations you can have all throughout the worlds. There are minigames in the form of a video arcade, including a cool Boo shoot'em'up using the Wii-mote as a pointer. There's also the infamous Pit of 100 Trials, which allows you to challenge yourself and attempt to get through 100 levels of increasing difficulty with no save point in between them.

   Super Paper Mario will hopefully set a new standard for games, both on the Wii and otherwise. The hybrid of platformer and RPG is something that should definitely be used again, and it's refreshing to see that game designers can actually create a game that is completely unique (despite continuing all the classic Mario trends) and hasn't been done at all before. Of course, the game has its flaws; it's short, easy, and can get really tedious when levels force repetition. However, the sheer amounts of hilarity and fun Super Paper Mario provides makes it a must-buy for any Wii-owner.

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