Super Paper Mario - Staff Review  

Office Paper Space
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Super Paper Mario
Moderately Easy
15-25 Hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Super Paper Mario was originally announced for release on the Nintendo GameCube in 2006, but after the unveiling of the Nintendo Wii, the game was delayed. Later in the year, the Intelligent Systems title was discretely shifted to the Wii only. This title is a cross between the Paper Mario games that began in the Nintendo 64 and the traditional Super Mario platforming games.

   Controls in Super Paper Mario feel almost like playing the original Super Mario Bros., but with the addition of menus, hit points, and helpful characters known as Pixls. As this game was initially designed for the Nintendo GameCube, most Wii controls seem tacked on rather than seamlessly integrated. Interactive features involve pointing the remote at the screen to use the Pixl, Tippi, to find clues and hidden doors. Menus allow for character swapping, item usage, and changing of Pixls. The problem with this is that it's a constant impediment to smooth gameplay. Jumping back and forth between platforming and selecting menu options gives Super Paper Mario an RPG feel, but the transition process is less than ideal.

   As Super Paper Mario is heavily oriented toward platforming, the game's battle system is built around the skills and actions of the playable characters. Though featuring four playable characters, a good majority of gameplay is focused around Mario. Mario is the only character capable of flipping from the standard 2D into 3D. Many puzzles require a flip into 3D in order to find hidden paths, though others require Princess Peach's floating jump, Luigi's high jump, Bowser's flame breath, or the skill of a specific Pixl. Pixls can be used to hammer breakable areas, to become thin to pass through barriers, or reveal secret areas. Characters have levels and HP that increase through gaining experience in battles. Battles are nothing more than stomping or crushing enemies, though thanks to the many different Pixls available, there are tons of way to accomplish this. Combat is a major aspect of the game and is very diverse, but due to interaction issues mentioned above, the system is not as fluid as it could have been.

Paper Office Space Umm... yeah...

   A true highlight of Super Paper Mario is not so much the story, but the dialogue that goes along with it. This title never takes itself too seriously, and the characters are constantly making fun of themselves through humorous references to the Mario series. The unfortunately paper-thin plot details the works of the villainous Count Bleck as he attempts to fulfill the prophecy known as the Dark Prognosticus. Through this prophecy, Bleck intends to create a void to destroy all worlds. Another prophecy known as the Light Prognosticus exists to counter the Dark Prognosticus and states that four heroes will work together to save creation. The tale as a whole is fairly predictable, but the characters encountered on the path to the end make it one worth exploring. Most of the main characters fill their classic role, such as Bowser being a rough and rugged beast that wants things his way. However, in Super Paper Mario he is slightly more heroic. The villains are quite an interesting lot. The main bad guy, Count Bleck, refers to himself in third person and despite wanting to destroy the world seems to be well liked by his henchmen. His assistant Nastasia has the power of mind control and talks just like Bill Lumbergh from the movie Office Space. This in itself is classic humor. The Paper Mario games are not known for having epic stories, and this one is no exception. It suffers from slow story pacing and meaningless progression quests, but the wonderfully unique characters rescue Super Paper Mario from mediocrity.

   Super Paper Mario began development as a GameCube title, and as such it does not push the envelope. It does show that a game does not have to be a pre-rendered masterpiece to look impressive. The game takes the "paper" theme and plays it up quite well, with the 2D characters moving from side to side as though they were flat. Also, at the introduction to each chapter, the backgrounds piece themselves together as those they are being drawn onto the screen. There is a special item in the game that causes the current playable character to grow in size enough to fill the screen, and in homage to the NES original, they don their classic 8-bit look when doing so. Throwbacks don't end there, as many of the musical pieces used throughout Super Paper Mario are remixes from the original series. The game contains no voice acting other than the occasional "oohs" and "ahhs" from characters. Overall, the sound effects and soundtrack of the game leave a lot to be desired.

Flare If you wanted me to wear 100 pieces of flare, you should make that the minimum!

   Clocking in at between fifteen and twenty-five hours, Super Paper Mario is not a very long game. Once again, mimicking the original platformer, the game is divided up into eight chapters with most containing four sections, but it also features an explorable main world as well. This main world will have Mario and crew exploring both the second and third dimension in order to access new areas. This exploration starts off as a fun, novel idea, but by the end of the game is just a repetitive search for the next hidden area that will require quite a bit of backtracking. Any challenge that comes from this is more a test of patience than of ingenuity.

   A decent diversion from typical RPGs, Super Paper Mario mixes platforming and role-playing elements in a way that is fresh and enjoyable. With a ton of interesting characters and a new style of gameplay, it is highly original even compared to other games in the Paper Mario series. While the game might not be challenging or flawless, the dialogue is fantastic and the variety in gameplay is enjoyable. Super Paper Mario is not an epic masterpiece, but it is a fun departure from the conventional RPG.

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