Paper Mario: Color Splash Preview

This tagger needs a lot of practice!

Attendees of San Diego Comic-Con are in for a treat this year when they visit the Nintendo Gaming Lounge. Yes, the plumber with the wicked 'stache is back and flatter than ever in the new Wii U title, Paper Mario: Color Splash. This is the first chance for people to get hands-on with the whimsical game, and I'm sure they'll get a kick out of it.

I started out my adventure on a level that consists of floating islands, and I quickly discovered that Mario has two hammers. One is for whacking whatever I feel like while the other hammer returns color to whitened areas. As I ventured forward, I saw small patches of white on the ground and small buildings. In addition, some items like flowers were also white, and I immediately knew it was hammertime! One smack of the color hammer and anything I hit was covered in color. Heck, I could even splash paint on items and areas that didn't need it.

Returning color to items not only looks nice, but also offers useful rewards. For example, painting large areas of white ground made coins and attack cards appear, and painting all the white areas of a small house unlocked the door so I could step inside. A paint meter indicates when players are getting low on paint, and all they have to do is clobber a few flowers and walk over the globs of paint to refill the meter. Don't worry, vegans, the flowers will eventually return to their blooming glory.

Like all Mario Bros. games, Paper Mario: Color Splash promotes exploration by including hidden areas and secrets. I found one area by simply walking around to the back of a house. The other secret area I found lurks inside of a protruding green pipe. Everyone who's played a Mario game knows to jump into the pipe and see what's inside, and that's where I found a hiding member of the rescue squad. He was one of three that I was tasked with finding so I could cross a bridge to the end of the level.

When enemies are encountered in the game, it switches to a battle screen where turn-based combat ensues using virtual cards. Players must look at the Wii U controller screen and select which cards they want to use in battle. Then they hold their finger on each card to power it up, and when all cards are powered up, players use their finger to flick them forward. When this happens, Mario initiates an attack on the TV screen. Just like previous games, pressing the “A” button at the right instant makes the attack more powerful and pressing it at the right time when being attacked performs a block that lessens damage.

Most of the cards utilize standard attacks that let players launch single, double, or triple attacks, while others are much more powerful. I had the pleasure of seeing two great attacks that made me literally laugh out loud. One was a gigantic dancing pig that came out of nowhere, performed a few dance moves, and then attacked the enemy. The other was a humongous fire extinguisher that changed the entire screen to the top of a burning building and then fired a mighty blast of water at the enemy.

It's too bad that the game doesn't let me control which color is used to paint bleached areas, though. I would like to paint them whichever color I want instead of seeing a bunch of random colors splashed across the ground and on buildings. Using certain colors in certain situations could also add depth to the game. I also noticed that Paper Mario didn't take advantage of his minuscule width in the demo. Hopefully he will be able to slide under doors and into thin crevices in the full game. 

Paper Mario: Color Splash releases for Wii U on October 7, 2016.