Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Review Day: Super Paper Mario

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was almost flawless, and when I reviewed it in 2004 it was one of my "must-have" game for anyone owning a GameCube. About two weeks ago, the latest game in the Paper Mario series was released on the Wii, and I've now played it enough to talk about my first impressions. Was it worth the wait? Read on to find the heart-stopping answer to this mind-bendingly suspenseful question (and also tips on how to run your car on consommé in the face of rising oil prices).

The conceit of this series is that all the main characters are flat two-dimensional sprites made of paper, living in a three-dimensional world. In previous games, this made for some neat artistic choices and novel uses of perspective. SPM takes this one step further by giving Mario the ability to temporarily rotate the camera ninety degrees, giving the game world a field of depth and revealing hidden secrets. A wall that looks impassable in 2D might turn out to be less than an inch thick in 3D, which means that Mario can just duck behind it and be on his way. If you're having trouble visualizing this, watch this gameplay movie (11MB WMV).

Title: The title reeks of laziness like a freshman business major and its Japanese translation is probably "dumbass-san will buy any game with Mario-san in the title". I could feed alphabet soup to a baby and have it burp out a better title than this, even without the vowels. Super Paper Mario would definitely win the crappy title contest, if its competition weren't New Super Mario Brothers.

Cutscenes / Translation: It takes the game a good fifteen minutes of introduction to say that something bad has happened and Mario must save the day. The slick, self-referential, tongue-in-cheek humour of the series is now trying way too hard and gets a little annoying. It doesn't help that as dialogue appears on the screen, a sounds like a million gerbils playing the xylophone accompanies the letters and you can't turn it off. My advice: Skip all the cutscenes -- you won't miss anything.

Graphics: I thought the artistic style of the old game was unique and a pleasure to watch. When SPM begins, it opens on a town where minimalism is festering disease, not an artistic choice. It looks like the art designers were behind on their bills and the collection agency garnished every other line and texture. My five-year-old kindergartener could sketch a better town in Flesh crayon and, as far as I know, he's still swimming around my left testicle. On the plus side, the graphics DO get better as the game progresses -- if only they had had the common sense to put the better graphics at the beginning before the point where people stop playing the game.

Sprites: Ever since Zelda on the N64, Nintendo has loved to zitify the screen with glowing dots and fireflies and twinkling stars, as if to show off their mad graphic-processing skills. In SPM, you get annoying little Pixls, which float around you at all times and give you special powers. One of the special powers lets you pick things up and throw them. I have that special power IN REAL LIFE.

Gameplay: So far, SPM is first and foremost an action game. The turn-based combat of the old game has disappeared completely, and some of the other role-playing aspects feel very short-changed. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you are expecting a similar game to its prequel, you'll be disappointed. The 2D-to-3D gimmick is pretty fun for exploration, but would be better without the silly time limit (if you stay 3D for too long, Mario loses a point of health because Mario is a pansy). Every so often, the shifts in perspective will surprise you in a fun and interesting way.

Sound: The score is passable and unmemorable, and nowhere near as musically adventurous as the GameCube game. It sounds like every other video game out there.

Bosses: There have been two boss fights so far, and both were more Zelda-style (figure out how to beat a boss and repeat the gimmick three times) than Mario-style (jump on Birdo until s/he dies). One involved shifting perspectives to jump on a flying robotic dragon and throwing things at his antenna, and both fights were enjoyable.

Bottom Line: It's not as good as its predecessor and it will never be a classic. The beginning sequence so turned me off that I barely played the game for a week or so. However, once I got over my disappointment that the game was different than what I was expecting, I started to enjoy it more. Having beaten the first chapter, I'm planning on playing it out, but its not a game that I would run home from school to eagerly play until bedtime. You might as well buy it if you have a Wii, because there really aren't any other good games at the moment, and this is still better than many games on the market (see also, Red Steel, and the New Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley). 3 of 5 stars

Happy Birthday Philip Barbie and Andrea Frazao!

Prisoner wrongly freed after fake fax
Spiderman: The Musical (with music by Bono)
They say is it similar to the one the teen used, but hers had sharper spikes.

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