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Reviewed: Super Paper Mario
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: May 25th, 2007
Page: 2

Alright - so it's the beginning of another Mario title. Princess Toadstool (aka Princess Peach) has been kidnapped by Bowser, the King of the Koopas. So, Mario and his brother Luigi run off to invade Koopa's castle and rescue the Princess. And then, because this isn't your normal Mario title - it's in the Paper Mario / Mario RPG line - the plot twists. Koopa's not the one who kidnapped Peach, and there's a new villain, named Count Bleck, whose goal is to destroy the universe.

Yes, destroy the universe. Even Bowser isn't normally this dastardly. For the rest of the game, Super Paper Mario is about puzzles, level exploration, and plenty of in-jokes about older Nintendo titles starting out with a whole load of jokes about Mario's mustache.

The premise of Paper Mario? Mario, and just about everyone else in the game, has a 2-D existence. Mario, in order to be the hero of legend (zelda reference, anyone?) must learn to "flip" the screen into 3-D, allowing him to move back and forth, expose objects hidden behind other objects, and hunt down new passages for exploration. A few enemies will be able to follow Mario into 3-D, or appear there living a perpendicular existence to the rest of the world, but for most of the time "flipping" into 3-D is a quick way to avoid enemies or hunt down passageways with little risk.

Mario's joined by three other "heroes." Two join early on: Princess Peach, who can use her parasol to glide and to shield herself, and Bowser, who moves slowly, hits very hard (twice as hard as any other hero) and can breathe fire. Eventually, Luigi briefly becomes the fourth hero and offers his high-jumping abilities, but not before plenty of in-jokes about the rivalry between the two brothers and Luigi's second-rate status in terms of games and exposure.

The party's also given a host of new "powers" in the form of creatures called Pixls (the missing "e" is deliberate). Mario starts out with just one, a Pixl named Tippi, who can be used to scan the screen for information on enemies and "hidden" invisible objects. Eventually, there are Pixls allowing him to set bombs, grab and throw enemies a la Super Mario Bros. 2, smack enemies with a hammer, turn "sideways" and become invisibly invincible (while standing still), do a flying butt-stomp attack (straight out of Super Mario 64), and a host of other equally silly powers, most of which are used as keys to navigate a puzzle and then are never used again until the final level.

Keeping to the Mario format, there are eight "worlds" to explore; seven odd worlds full of levels of in-jokes and references, and the final castle. There's a classic Mario-feel level, plus a few later levels that look (from 2-D perspective) ripped right from earlier Mario titles. There's a level that's entirely pixelated, a level set in a prehistoric world, a level where characters who've had "game over" go for their "aftergame" (complete with the River Twygz), and even a level full of "Sammer Guys" and ninjas to contend with. There's also a  "between levels" world of Flipside/Flopside, where Mario and party can run around, explore, try out the new powers, hunt for coins, do side quests, and purchase items to use in battle. Flipside/Flopside is also where players must unlock the next level, by taking the "Pure Heart" and finding a white pedestal to attach it to. Have no fear, though - if you're having issues (or just lost) there's a fortune teller in the game who will, for a small amount of coin, give you exact steps to find the next pillar.

Throughout these game, Mario and the other heroes are harassed by a number of Count Bleck's henchmen; a shapeshifter/spider-being known as Mimi, a vaguely Irish-looking fist fighter named O'Chunks, a devious and diabolical menace known as Dimentio, and the Mysterious "Mister L" (a joke they don't stop hammering throughout the game) who fights from within a huge robot called "Brobot." The boss fights are classic pattern recognition, but not a serious challenge, and experienced gamers are probably going to be very unimpressed with them even though the characters are entertaining.

The final castle, despite the running storyline leading up to it, is a bit of a letdown. For some reason, the designers decided that the whole place would be completely without texture; it's literally a bunch of 3-D line art. Four levels of black screens with white line art and colorized enemies, right down to the final end boss. It's a sad disappointment, since Nintendo could have done some amazing things with the level if they'd bothered to. As it is, it feels like someone was just too lazy to do anything with the level, and that hurts the game.

Overall, if you're a Nintendo fan, you're going to love Super Paper Mario for in-jokes alone; there are constant visual gags and references, as well as conversation references, to be found and catalogued. If you're new to the Paper Mario series or some of the Nintendo titles, a lot of these jokes are going to fly right by unnoticed. For Nintendo fans? A must-play. For the rest? You'll probably enjoy it, but some time with a few classic Nintendo titles might improve the experience.

Added:  Saturday, May 26, 2007
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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