Super Paper Mario Wii Review - 24/10/2007

After 2 cult hits, the Paper Mario series has made a name for itself among both RPG and Mario fans. And now that Nintendo is trying to inject the Super into the Paper, is this hybrid of the two worth playing?

Super Paper Mario attempts to meld together the smooth 2D platforming of the Super Mario series, with the RPG, stat heavy gameplay of the Paper games. On paper (pun intended), this looks to be great, mixing two great things into one package. But in practice it doesn’t come off as well as it should.

The story had always been the main attraction of the Paper series, and there is no change here. Peach and Bowser are to be wed, and so Mario and Luigi set off to rescue her, thinking that it is Bowser who has kidnapped her. But the actual villain, the mysterious Count Bleck, is doing this in a bid to fulfil the prophecy found in the Dark Prognosticus, which will cause devastation to the world. It all seems a bit weird at first, but the lighthearted way it is told is the shining feature in the game. Lines will actually make you laugh, and the events that happen join in the comedy. There is an entire world based on being a nerd, which features some immensely witty dialogue, and leaves you laughing about how true it is. It’s up there with the likes of Wario Ware and Rayman Raving Rabbids for comedy value, and is a lesson in excellent script writing.

When it comes to Mario, you can usually depend on him for one thing, good solid platforming. This isn’t the case in Super Paper Mario, and those looking for the fast paced gameplay of Super Mario, should look elsewhere. The game's first problem, and it is a problem before you ask, is the lack of a run button. Yes…it may not be the end of the world, but it affects the game in a way that can’t be shaken off. The Wii remote is held on its side, like an NES controller, and the game is played in the same way as the classic Mario games are. The 2 button is jump, while the 1 button uses the Pxls that Mario befriends. These small creatures fly behind you and can help you in many ways. One, for example, allows Mario to butt stomp on blocks of wood, while another allows him to plant bombs. All of this is fine, but the use of this button restricts the player from having the ability to run. When playing the game, this becomes apparent as the lack of any change in speed hampers the experience. By doing this, Mario has lost the trademark style of platforming that has littered the Super Mario series, and replaced it with a more adventure-style of gameplay. Which in effect makes the game seem even more like its Nintendo cousin.

This game could easily be a Zelda game…it basically is, just with Mario in the lead role. All of the features of a Zelda game are present; devilish puzzles; that classic sound effect when you complete one; a main world that leads to other ‘dungeons’; a mute character, and plenty others. This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t trying to be different. All of the RPG elements, like hit points and special attacks, seem like add-ons onto a style of game that has already been perfected. This is an action adventure, trying to be a platformer, trying to be an RPG, and eventually a game that loses all categorisation in the usual sense. This still doesn’t make it a bad game, Nintendo still know how to make a game fun, but it isn’t the revolution that people expected.

‘But what about the switching to 3D’, I hear you cry; well…It is an innovative piece of design, the ability to switch to 3D, and is executed well. With a quick tap of A, Mario (and just Mario) can ‘flip’ into 3D. In this alternate dimension, Mario can hit '?' blocks and the like, while under a small time limit. This limit to the amount of time you can spend in 3D can become tiresome, but you eventually learn when to flip and when not to. The main problem with the flipping is the control. Controlling a character with a D-pad in 3D is not a nice experience, and it doesn’t work well here. The environments suddenly become deserted in 3D as well, which makes you try to get the job done quickly, to avoid becoming lonely. This seemed at first like a brilliant innovation, but the magic is lost far too quickly for a game of this length, clocking in at around 30 hours of play.

You also get to control other characters throughout the course of the game. Peach regains her ability from Super Mario Bros 2, and can hover in mid air for a while. Certain puzzles require you to switch to Peach to get across long gaps, and the easy menu interface does a great job of this. Bowser on the other hand, cannot jump high, but can destroy anyone in his path with fire. This makes the game feel fresh, and at times tremendously fun. You will love every second of controlling Bowser, and it feels great to be a bit evil for once in a Mario game.

One thing that makes the game stand above others in the genre is the presentation. The game looks great, with comic style characters coming to life in the vibrant world. It may not push your Hi-def TV to its limits, but it will shine through with its bright nature. The music is also good, with tunes that will stick in your head for days on end. But even though both of these things are great, it can’t detract from the fact that Super Paper Mario is a Gamecube game. It seems weird that the three big games on the Wii (Zelda, Resi 4, and Paper Mario) have all either been ports, or originally Gamecube titles. This plagues the game throughout, and you’ll wonder why you entered into the next generation of hardware. This is even more apparent in the fact that there is basically no motion control to be found. You shake the Wii Remote to power certain items, but even this seems tacked on.

If this game had come out on the Gamecube a few years ago, Nintendo would have had a great game on their hands. As it is, there is not enough here to make this a must buy. All of the elements are there, a brilliant story, decent graphics and fun gameplay, but none of this warrants the hype that has surrounded this game. If you are dying for a new game to play on your Wii, get it for some knockout comedy and a fun game. But you would be much better waiting for Nintendo’s Bounty Hunter mascot to make her first appearance instead. Or better still, Mario’s true debut on the Wii, when he breaks into a galaxy of his own.

- Sam Atkins



Intelligent Systems