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Super Paper Mario

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

When it debuted in the Nintendo 64, Paper Mario took the plumber’s adventures into an entirely different direction. While the Mushroom Kingdom was no stranger to RPGs, Paper Mario took these elements and merged them with 2D cutout images reminiscent of early platformers. The series was well accepted and received a follow-up on the GameCube. Building on this success, Nintendo and Intelligent systems have released Super Paper Mario on the Wii. Although the game keeps the same 2D style as the first two, it drops many of the RPG trappings in favor of platforming elements, making it an accessable and fun adventure.

Super Paper Mario doesn’t look like much, though it features a level of artistry rarely seen in games. The inclusion of multiple worlds allowed the designers to really spread their creative wings and try out a variety of different styles. Some levels have a blocky, geometric look (complete with mathematical equations dotting the sky) while others stick to the paper cutout look. One level is made up of pixilated backgrounds that refer back to the NES games. Regardless of what style the levels use, all have fun with the game’s “paper” concept.

All of the characters use the same cutout look of previous games and use a really neat animation style that keeps both hold the paper look, while keeping movements clean and fluid. In one of many references to the older games, Mario and company can grow into giant 8-bit versions of themselves after touching a flower. One power-up, the Pill Pals, calls out a number of smaller 8-bit Marios to help out.

Sound is a mix of classic Mario sounds and a few new ones. All of the songs on the soundtrack fit with their respective levels. Some are remixes of old Mario standards, while others use familar beats as a base for original songs.


Although Super Paper Mario is a much faster-paced game than the previous two entries, it does have its slow moments. The game opens with a long explanation in which the plot is explained no more than three times. Princess Peach and Bowser are kidnapped and forced to wed by Count Bleck, an angular enemy with plans to trigger the end of the world by unlocking the Dark Prognosticus. The union opens a void that threatens to suck all realities into it unless Mario, a hero prophesized by the Light Prognosticus, is able to locate the seven Pure Hearts and close the void.

If Super Paper Mario has any flaws, it is that it is too wordy. Nearly every character you come across has a lot to say, and while it is tempting to quickly scroll through the text, there is a chance you’ll lose a key plot element or, worse yet, the solution to a puzzle. On the plus side, the text is well-written and features plenty of genuinely funny moments. There are numerous references to pop culture (including an oh-so-true encounter with a message board fanboy) and several in-joke references to other Mario titles. Some of the funnier moments come when the game breaks down the fourth wall and refers to the player as a “person watching in another dimension” or the “person in control.” If anything, Super Paper Mario will go down as one of the industry’s better localization efforts.

Gameplay is made up mostly of the jump and bop platforming that made the Mario series popular in the first place. In fact, several of the levels Mario traverses feature subtle references to levels found in the first Super Mario Bros. – including a hidden level that is a perfect recreation of that game’s second level (complete with the hidden warp room). Although the game loses the turn-based combat elements, it still retains several RPG elements. Mario still levels up by earning points and can also use items to replenish health, reduce damage and attack enemies.

However, don’t expect a pure platform game. You still spend a great deal of time searching areas for hidden paths, rooms and items. Also, in order to unlock new chapters (the game is split into eight worlds, each split into four levels) you’ll need to search Flipside, the hub area, for columns. Some are easy to find, while others are not. Like the story sequences, these areas tend to drag and really slow down the pacing. Sometimes you just want to jump on turtles and run through levels, not talk to people and find obscure locations.

Super Paper Mario’s main play mechanic is the ability to flip between 2D and 3D perspectives. By pressing the (A) button, you can switch perspectives – each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Playing in 2D presents a very simple sideview that, when switched to 3D, becomes more complicated. What looks like an impassible wall in 2D is actually only one box deep and can be walked around, while dead ends can reveal hidden paths or new items. The relationship between the 2D and 3D perspectives is smart and presents many of the game’s “Wow” moments.


Super Paper Mario isn’t too difficult a game, at least not for seasoned veterans of platformers. The “flip” mechanic introduces a number of mind-bending twists to the genre such that it is impossible to not to find yourself stuck in one or two situations. While it is tempting to spend most of the game in the 3D mode, Mario can only stay there for a limited time; otherwise he begins to lose health.

A majority of the game’s levels are standard 2D side-scrollers, though a few are really big puzzles with little combat. In one level, you’ll need to earn a number of rubies to pay off a debt while another has you searching a castle for hidden keys. Though tricky, many of the puzzles can be solved by finding the right people and getting information; the trick is that some people will only talk to certain characters (usually Peach). If you even become really stuck, you can always visit the fortune teller who, for a price, can point you in the right direction.

Game Mechanics:

At the start of the game, you play only as Mario, though as the game progresses you team up with other members of the Mario cast, Peach and Bowser. Each character has their own abilities that must be used to overcome obstacles in the game. Mario is the only character that can use the flip ability, while Peach can use her parasol to float long distances. Bowser is the powerhouse of your group and can breathe fire. All of the abilities are easy to use, though as the game progresses, you’ll find that you can stick to Mario most of the time and still get far. None of the other characters can switch into the 3D mode, limiting their usefulness given how much of the game is build around flipping levels.

Mario also teams up with a number of other helpers during his quest called Pixls. These small creatures grant special abilities like throwing objects, shrinking, uncovering hidden areas or blowing things up. All told, there are about a dozen different Pixls you can uncover. Many are found over the course of the story, though you need to revisit one or two areas in order to uncover other helpers. Pixls add a dynamic to the game that is similar to Legend of Zelda or recent Castlevanias. There are a number of areas in each level that can only be reached by using their abilities. For example, during a level, you may come across a cracked wall that can be blown apart with a bomb. Or, you may come across a spike-covered floor that can only by crossed by using the carry ability.

Super Paper Mario was originally intended as a GameCube title, but was moved to the Wii late in its development cycle. Although the game wasn’t designed from the ground up to use the Wii-mote’s functions, the developers were still able to work in some uses. Only the Wii-mote is required to play and is held on its side similar to an NES joypad. The (A) button is used to flip perspectives, while the (2) button jumps and (1) button activates your equipped Pixl ability. Super Paper Mario also makes minimal use of the controller’s motion-sensing capabilities. After jumping on an enemy, you can move the controller in order to earn a few extra style points. This is one of the more entertaining uses for the controller and, in its own subtle way, nods to the legions of players who did the same thing while playing the original games.

Though it doesn’t do much to showcase the system’s main selling points (though it could be argued Mario games are one), Super Paper Mario is a must-play title for any Wii owner. The game is just as fun as it is funny, and the simple complexity of the flip mechanic is something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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