|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Intelligent Systems||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 9, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
Am I happy I played this game! Super Paper Mario really surpassed my expectations. When I played Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door I felt slightly disappointed because, even though it was a Mario game, the gameplay wasn't entertaining enough for me. Although some people might regret that Paper Mario lost several of its RPG elements in this new installment, Super Paper Mario is far superior and really feels like a Mario game that will keep you hooked for hours to come. Super Paper Mario feels fresh and new and, at the same time, it brings us back to the good ol' Mario we all know and have always loved.
After New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS became one of the top three best-selling games of 2006, we all knew that the Italian plumber with blue overalls is still a leader in the industry and draws more people in than any other video game franchise ever did. Nintendo made Super Paper Mario more loyal to the traditional gameplay and incorporated some interesting new elements that gave it a good twist. This game is not that similar to its predecessor on the GameCube, although it did maintain its look and feel. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door had you fighting enemies most of the time, achieving experience points, learning some new attacks, etc. But it just wasn't as engaging, except for those that really enjoy the RPG gameplay. Of course, this game still has many RPG elements, like the fact that you will go around towns, visit people, obtain new objects, achieve new skills, attain experience points, and become more and more powerful.
At the same time, Super Paper Mario has our glaring-moustache character jumping from one platform to another, finding hidden doors, climbing into pipes, hitting [?] blocks wherever he goes, and collecting coins. Many aspects of this game are reminiscent of the classic Super Mario Bros. for the NES, like the cool "Pal Pills" power-up you will find in some blocks. It summons a few mini classic-Marios on the screen that will help you for a while by mimicking your moves. Another power-up will turn you into a giant classic-Mario; for a few seconds you'll be knocking down the house, breaking everything that gets on your way, killing all enemies in your path, and picking up a good amount of coins, much like it happened in the New Super Mario Bros. but with a classic look. Of course, there are many other power-ups like mushrooms, energy shakes, cake mix, etc. to keep you healthy, and others that will cause damage to your enemies or stun them for a short period of time.
Is it the same old story? Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach and Mario and Luigi go to the rescue, blah, blah, blah Nope! The story also gets a twist: following the ill-fated destiny written in the "Dark Pronogsticus" book, evil Count Bleck steals Princess Peach and Bowser. He wants to get them married in order to start the most tremendous chaos and slowly destroy The Worlds. With both Luigi and Peach gone, and, as if that wasn't enough, Bowser and his minions also kidnapped, Mario finds himself alone in a strange new town called Flipside. There he'll meet Merlon, who will guide him into his new adventure to rescue his friends and save the world. It will take eight "Pure Hearts" to destroy Count Bleck's evil plans, and they are (how uncommon!) scattered all over The Worlds; as always, it's up to Mario to find them and put them together. Merlon sends Mario to visit his ancient friend so he can learn to flip, which allows him to go into 3D and explore areas that would remain unseen if you were to just play in two dimensions. This innovative feature is the heart of the gameplay and really brings it up a notch. The game is a great mix of platform action, RPG, and puzzling; also, it presents a wonderful story, filled with comical situations and lots of interesting characters. While you visit the 3D world, you will often find treasure chests, hidden doors, and platforms that you can bring into the 2D world in order to continue your quest. Also, little fairies will accompany you along the way. These fairies are called Pixls and each one of them carries a different name and specialty. You will have to find them little by little, as they were trapped inside chests 1500 years ago in order to wait for the "hero," who is no other than Mario.
Thoreau can throw stuff around, help you pick up enemies or objects, launch them in the air, etc. Slim will turn you into paper-thin, in case you weren't thin enough in 2D, so you can sneak into slots in the walls or become practically invisible so enemies can't touch you. Boomer will become a bomb and allow you to place him wherever you want without ever hurting you; thanks to him you will blow up bricks and wall-cracks, discovering new pathways and secret chambers. Tippi will give you tips and info about certain displayed objects when you point at them with the Wii-mote; she can also find hidden stairs, doors, and ledges if you point at them first with the Wii-mote. You'll have to discover the other Pixls by yourself, but they are all useful and make the gameplay more interesting and diverse.
The ability to go into 3D is part of what makes this game so especial, and you would think the game could get confusing with so much changing between dimensions. However, there's a timed gauge that limits your time in the three-dimensional world and that fills back up when you're back into the two dimensions; if you let it drain, you'll start taking damage. Thanks to that, you'll know not to remain into the 3D environments for long periods of time and just use it for your benefit: discover new areas, items, or platforms and then go back into 2D. A few times I wished the time limit was a little longer but the truth is everything is so much easier in 3D that it wouldn't make sense to play the game that way. Enemies and traps become paper thin so you can just go around them when playing in 3D.
Mario will gradually find each of the missing friends, including Bowser, and they will all team up to beat Count Bleck and save The Worlds. They also have different abilities. For example, Mario is the only one that can flip into the third dimension, while Peach can glide with her umbrella when jumping longer gaps. Count Bleck has a troupe of minions that you will encounter throughout the game. Not only will they make things tough for you, you'll also have to fight them and several other bosses in order to reach the next levels. There are eight levels and each level has four stages plus all the walking around town that there's in between; so the game is plenty long to keep you entertained for a long time, unless you're one of those that will just sit down until you beat the game; in that case, you will still miss several hours of sleep, rest assured.
The developers did a good job assigning the controls for the game. They put the Wii-mote sensing-controls to good use but not abuse; most of the gameplay is managed with classic controls, by holding the Wii-mote horizontally, using the D-pad to move the characters, and the buttons to execute actions like jumping or using the Pixl's abilities. The only time that the Wii-mote is used differently is to point at the screen and get information about something or someone or when you use a power-up (sometimes you have to shake the controller to activate them). Nintendo, as the creators of the Wii, know all the possibilities that the Wii controller has to offer. However, they also know that using the motion sensors on every game, even when it's not necessary, will make people tired and will turn the games into gimmicky instead of serious. I'm glad that they know this and made Super Paper Mario controls as good as they get.