The Paper Mario series has gone through many changes since it was introduced on the Nintendo 64 more than 15 years ago. For his next paper-thin journey, Paper Mario: Color Splash, coming to Wii U later this year, Mario must return color to the washed-out world of Prism Island. At San Diego Comic-Con 2016, we got a new taste of the game in a clever little demo.
The premise of Paper Mario: Color Splash would be super-creepy if it weren't so darn cute. Shy Guys and other classic Mario enemies are going around with straws and sucking the paint out of paper people and things, leaving them blank, white husks. Paper Mario teams up with his newest friend Huey, a floating paint bucket with eyes, to return color to the world. Huey assists Mario on his journey by imbuing Mario's hammer with the power of paint. One good whack of his hammer splashes paint on whatever it hits, bringing life back to the once blank areas.
Returning color to the world was a big thrust of the Comic-Con 2016 demo. Mario and Huey find the powerful star they need to collect on their quest, but the bridge to it is missing, and so are the seven green Toads that could fix the bridge. So this small area becomes a bit of a scavenger hunt to find these seven missing Toads. Some are merely washed out on the ground, so a quick smash of the paint hammer wakes them back up. Another is taped to a cabinet in his home, and once you've unstuck him, you head into the cabinet for a cute, quick mini-game where you find missing items on an image by hammering them back into color.
Color Splash is the first Paper Mario on an HD system, and it really shows. Sure, Mario and all the other characters are as flat as ever, but the world looks much richer. The game is as vibrant as you'd expect from something with "color" in the title, Each time the hammer hits an object there's an explosion of color all over the screen, reminding you of the paint battles in last year's Wii U hit Splatoon.
The real life items pulled into the game look fantastic as well. The turn-based combat is more traditional than in the previous game, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, with Color Splash's combat built around using collectible cards to pull off attacks. But the game does borrow Sticker Star's comical super attacks that summon real world items like fans, BBQ grills, and lucky cat statues to do extra damage to whomever you're fighting.
After searching out the seven missing Toads and defeating a particularly surly Hammer Bro, I collected the star and the demo was over. It was a short but sweet look at Paper Mario: Color Splash, and I came away impressed with the vibrant visuals, clever writing, and inventive approach to Paper Mario's traditional gameplay. We'll all be able to see if it can keep up that pace for a full game when Color Splash launches October 7 on Wii U.