Reviews: Super Paper Mario

The Definition of Average

If you need any real definition of a really, truly average game, Super Paper Mario is your best bet. Good Points? Yep. Bad Points. Oh yes.

People gush about it's story, and for Mario standards it's actually pretty good. The world is built up, and there are plenty of memorable characters. In fact, I would probably say the story is the reason why this game is still even worth talking about. The only bad thing I can say about the story is that it really gets in the way of the gameplay. The gameplay is stale enough, but it's constantly interrupted with dialogue. The story and gameplay don't mesh together properly. When you're not playing, you're reading. It's a major pacebreaker and just makes the game worse.

Super Paper Mario is not a bad game, but at it's design core it represents everything I don't like about video games. Lavish presentation and bells and whistles covering up for shallow gameplay mediocrity and padded out with lots of filler. The level design isn't very clever or smart (hey, let's rip verbatim from levels 1-1, 1-2 and 2-1 in Mario 1 because nostalgia). Whatever puzzles the game has are either too simple and are there just to get in the way, or so convoluted (block puzzle in 5-1, Rubee chapter 2-3) that you'll spend a long time on it, so they come off as artificial padding and filler. You'll spend a lot of time with Super Paper Mario, not because the game is actually good or addicting, it's stuffed to the brim with pointless filler. Not only that, the backtracking and fetch quests from Thousand Year Door are back with a vengeance, especially in Chapter 5.

Overall, because of its obtuse design and pretentious overemphasis on it's story, Super Paper Mario instead of being a good game, is just average and not very fun. The game is worth a look for it's silly meta-humor and fun characters. Just don't expect a classic game.

A good game that could have been great with some more polish.

Given that Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is one of my favorite games ever, this one really had a lot to live up to. Did it make it? Not quite. It's not a bad game, by any means, but it lacksthe touches that made the previous entries in the series so great. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to pull a "It sucks because it's not Thousand Year Door" review. TYD just had two main elements that Super Paper Mario didn't quite manage effectively: gameplay focus and unique aesthetics.

Gameplay-wise, TYD had a focus; it decided to be an RPG first and foremost. SPM, on the other hand, never makes up its mind on whether it wants to be an RPG, a platformer, or a puzzle game. It has elements of all three genres, but they aren't really developed. TYD gave you a small-ish set of abilities to use, and then spent the rest of the game trying to make you use them in ways that you wouldn't have thought of. SPM doesn't have that variety. The hammer pixl: smashing blocks and nothing else. Nearly every pixl has that issue: Cardboard Obstacle. Rather than get inventive with the powers, it's "crack in the wall: use bomb". It's also an issue with the "party" set up. Each character has a unique ability, but all this does is force you to waste time switching. In practical terms, you'll play as Mario (who has the most useful power) and only switch to the others for obstacles.

In terms of aesthetics, it also falls a bit short. While TYD had interesting and unique settings, SPM just sort of has "generic desert", "generic clouds", and "generic hallways." Even the hub level has far less character to it than Rogueport did. There are interesting artistic concepts scattered around, but they get overused so much it gets kinda old. The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is a good example: it has a neat glowy monochrome style... that looks almost exactly the same in each of the four levels. The worlds generally aren't memorable.

Now, the game is not bad. The writing is hilarious as always, the story is interesting, and the main power (flipping) is very unique and interesting (though underused). If they had focused on making a "flipping puzzle platformer" rather than bloating the game with pixls and exploration, this would've been an instant classic. As is, it's merely good.