- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Platform: Wii U
- Shelved At: Bowser’s Castle, basically the last couple hours of the game.
It may seem weird that I shelved a game when I knew I was near the end of the game, but for this game it was basically the point of no return for me. Paper Mario: Color Splash was a frustrating experience. Frustrating because it’s a much better game than the previous entry, Sticker Star, but also because the key story points generally introduced changes in mechanics that seemed to counteract everything that had been going on before.
One of the big things that really turned me off from playing Sticker Star was the need to collect stickers just to continue the battles. This has unfortunately not gone away, but at least for the bulk of the game, is not a huge issue. There are now a couple shops in the main town that sell standard cards, as well as the more special-case Thing cards that are the primary mechanic of most boss fights. That said, the convenience of them being there is fairly heavily counteracted by the need for them to be there. Going into a boss battle, you generally don’t know what you need to do to win. You may know what cards you’ll need, but not when or how to use them. Because of this, it was not uncommon for me to go into a boss battle blind, effectively expecting to die so I could actually prepare for the fight.
Because this entry is also not a stat-based RPG, the effective growth curve of enemies results in you needing upgraded variants of cards, and therefore a higher overall cost. The cost is both coins if buying directly, or amount of paint used if using unpainted cards. This ended up pushing me to a point where to get past where I shelved the game, I would have had to just grind through battles with cheap cards in order to buy the expensive cards I now knew I needed. Because the first fight in Bowser’s Castle effectively starts out by removing your paint supply, then limiting you to specific colors of cards, simply stocking up on cheaper unpainted variants was a recipe for death. While grinding then wouldn’t have been difficult, it wasn’t worth the amount of time needed given how many frustrating boss fights I’d already encountered getting to there.
If nothing else, there were some positive signs in this game if a future entry cleans up some of the less fun shenanigans. The story itself was much more entertaining than either Sticker Star or the sort of related Paper Jam, and was definitely much closer to the quality of the RPG entries in the series. While the battle system had some collecting issues, when I was just using the cards themselves, it was still a mechanically tight and fun to use turn-based system, with a lot of variety in the cards beyond the standard jump/hammer. The visuals and soundtrack were also both fantastic.
At this point, I’m not really sure what this series needs. My instinct is to say they just need to go back to making a straight RPG experience, and Paper Jam was certainly enough of an indication that a Mario RPG is still fun to play. That said, they’ve shown that non-RPG Paper games can be a lot of fun with Super Paper Mario, but that was nearly 10 years ago at this point. I suspect what they really need to do is just take a break and try some other things before deciding to come back, because their attempts at new things within this IP have become at best a mixed bag.