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  • 8.8: Not really a specific example, but a continuation of Sticker Star's example. Said game is commonly seen as So Okay, It's Average or just straight-up bad, but IGN slapped it with an 8.3. Controversial then, but they've only worsened the Internet Backdraft since then. This game, despite almost unanimously being seen as an improvement, got hit with a 7.3. Weirdly, the review called Color Splash the better game of the two. Make of this what you will.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
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    • Some of Sticker Star's more glaring flaws, such as generic worlds and no reason to battle, have been fixed in Color Splash with more creative environments and rewarding "Hammer Scraps" after battle, which increase the maximum amount of paint Mario can hold.
    • Battles have been made less tedious through two things: first, there are cards that allow Mario to do multiple attacks, such as a card with 5 Worn-Out Jumps or a card with 2 Hammers. In addition, the ability to play more than one card is no longer something that you need the Battle Spin to do; you find 3 extra card slots at certain points in the game, which permanently give you the ability to play up to 4 cards in a turn. Meanwhile, the Battle Spin has been repurposed to give you extra cards during battle, mitigating the issue of running out of cards.
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    • Bowser and Luigi are back to being talkative again after being a Silent Antagonist and The Cameo, respectively, in Sticker Star.
    • A more minor saving throw: all Hammer attacks have much clearer Action Command timing than they did in Sticker Star.
    • Another minor one. Huey has a much more relaxed and friendly personality which is likely a response to Kersti being a jerk.
    • The game also fixes some of the problems with Things. Sling-A-Thing is completely removed, and now when you grab a Thing, it's immediately added to your card deck. There's also a Toad living in a dustbin in Port Prisma who gives you hints as to what Thing you need to progress in the game. Things are often found in more obvious locations, as opposed to being hidden to a Guide Dang It! level. Additionally, if a Thing is needed to beat a boss then you're given hints both before and during boss battles as to which Thing you should use and when.
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    • Bosses in Sticker Star were hated for simply being a case of using the appropriate Thing at the right time, at which point the boss would be drained of almost all its HP. Here, Things in boss battles are used to stop a powerful attack or make the boss vulnerable, meaning that the boss still puts up a fair fight. Some bosses don't even need Things to be beaten.
  • Awesome Music: Like its predecessor, the game itself is very polarizing, but in true Paper Mario fashion, the music is every bit as great as you'd expect from the series.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • The Rescue V squad. While a number of folks love them for being a Sentai-like group of Toads, others can't get past the fact that they are yet another group of Toads in a game that's already littered with them.
    • Bowser continues to be divisive among the fanbase. Some people enjoy the fact that the game brought him out of his Sophomore Slump and fixed his characterization, but the other side of the base can't get past the fact that this is the fourth RPG in a row where he's the Big Bad (the others being Sticker Star, Dream Team and Paper Jam).
    • Either the Koopalings are cool additions of fan-favorite characters for this universe, allowing for some unique fights, or they're an excuse to take up most of the boss roster once again, with their act starting to wear thin (it doesn't help that, unlike in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, they don't get much character development or involvement outside their boss fights), though the boss fights are at least decent. This naturally depends on your opinions of the Koopalings in general, particularly their Spotlight-Stealing Squad status in the eighth generation of gaming.
  • Best Boss Ever: While still suffering from issues like those from Sticker Star, such as Thing weaknesses that turn boss fights into Curb-Stomp Battles, many of the boss fights are agreed to be better handled than those of Sticker Star. Namely for giving you hints on which Things to use, and still fighting back even after being weakened.
    • Petea Piranha. First of all, the subtle redesign as a tea bag makes for a great Visual Pun, but the fight in itself is surprisingly dynamic and challenging and does not require any Thing card. What we mean is it's all skill! You have to change tactics on the go depending on Petea's stance and attacks, and the player is rewarded with a turn to Counter Attack if they manage to guard at the right moment.
    • Ludwig. Yes, he's easy, and yes, this can make him an Anti-Climax Boss to some, but if you look at the fight, it's rather fun. Basically, he fights you on a battleship (That's Ludwig's Megabad Super Battleship of DOOOOOOOOM for you) that can't be harmed by your attacks. What you need to do is use a Tail card to reflect his attacks. His second phase is a Puzzle Boss that falls victim to the Thing weakness system, but he still gives off a pretty great hint as to what you're supposed to do. The last phase is a Curb-Stomp Battle. Yes, these last 2 phases are stupid-easy, but the music is great, and his dialogue is frequently peppered with ham to make up.
    • Wendy, though to a lesser extent than the others. Her fight is rather easy and doesn't have much variety to it, but its musical nature is a treat for fans of Rhythm Games like Space Channel 5 or Rhythm Heaven. There is even a little bit of strategy to it if you suck at rhythm games: you could prepare your guard only for the mooks and get hurt by the coins (and you obtain them too, so it's a bad for a good). Plus, it is to the beat of the infamous "HO!" choir.
    • Larry. He's That One Boss, yes, but he's also the first boss to put up a significant fight. Whether this makes him an incredibly late Wake-Up Call Boss or Morton still fills the role is for you to decide. This fight is a Traintop Battle with fitting Awesome Music. Also, considering Larry does way more than the other Koopalings, this can also be a Climax Boss. He's a Marathon Flunky Boss that will use the smoke from the train's chimney to heal himself. The trick is to drag the fight out long enough for the assisting Toad to stop the Shy Guy from allowing him to do this. The fight also gets bonus points for allowing him to put up a fight after his weakness is used in the next phase.
    • Lemmy. Besides being a justified Large Ham and and his level being a Circus of Fear Boss Bonanza featuring hostile Yoshis and Dino Rhinos, he has a fun boss fight that irons out Larry's That One Boss qualities. He has a boss theme that captures him perfectly. He's a fair difficulty for this point. He continues to put up a fight after being weakened. And until you do weaken him, he dodges your Thing attacks.
    • Roy. Yeah, he suffers from a bad case of They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character, depending on who you ask. Yeah, he has no relevance to the story and borders on Giant Space Flea from Nowhere territory. However, his boss fight is among the best. The second it starts, he immediately proves smarter than other bosses and steals your paint and 1-Ups from you, removing your ability to power up your cards. Even Bowser doesn't decide to do this crap. He then attacks you with said paint in a fair bit of Irony lampshaded by him, with each color causing a unique effect on Mario. After a while, Roy gets bored and creates black paint, causing a blackout. Here, you have to clean the paint with the correct Thing, probably the only annoying part. And even after that, he'll fight back, much like the previous two entries.
    • Bowser, the Final Boss. As "Black Bowser", he is quite often compared to the Shadow Queen from The Thousand Year Door in many ways, such as being a dark being that contrasts with the rest of the game, as well as being a difficult boss on its own. Right off the bat, you'll notice that unlike Bowser in Sticker Star, who required no less than five Things to beat, this fight doesn't require any Things. This takes away all of the tediousness of the mechanic. Our first phase does lots of damage and summons Black Lava Bubble flunkies, who will heal Bowser if not taken out. After a while, Black Bowser goes One-Winged Angel. This phase? Seemingly Hopeless Boss Fight, in series tradition. After a while, Huey will transform into a card, allowing you to return him to a 3D state. After this, blocking Bowser's attacks will absorb the black paint, while Bowser gets stronger as the fight goes on. This is also a Time-Limit Boss, as Huey can only take a certain number of attacks. The sheer awesomeness of this phase mainly comes from Huey. He doesn't pull a Disney Death giving you an 11th-Hour Superpower like Kersti, who didn't need to do that anyway. No. Huey is part of the action, allowing you to use him to absorb the black paint by blocking Bowser's attacks. It helps to cement his status as an Ensemble Dark Horse. As an added bonus, Bowser is the only enemy that doesn't have the standard death animation when defeating him, and killing him with a Jump card is incredibly satisfying (Even more satisfying, return for a rematch and kill him with the Black Bowser's Castle card). Throw on great music in both phases, and you've got a fight with the big guy to remember. Compared to his disappointing fight in Sticker Star, while this one might be not on the level of the one from the first game or the Shadow Queen or Super Dimentio, it's certainly a much better final battle than the one from the previous game.
  • Best Level Ever:
    • Green Energy Plant, the Super Mario Bros. 3 level. Fun, nostalgic (for old-school players as well as Super Paper Mario fans), and with plenty of secrets and alternate routes to encourage replayability.
    • Dark Bloo Inn, as Mario has to piece together what exactly is going on in this hotel, and it feels incredibly rewarding once you do and solve the mystery.
  • Breather Boss: Wendy is significantly easier than the following fight with Larry, and even ends up easier than the fight with Ludwig beforehand. She only has two attacks, one of which will only be used once in the whole fight. Her other attack can be tricky, but you only need to prepare for the Mooks as you'll collect the coins you don't block. Also, the Thing you need to use is blatantly obvious. Considering what you have to go through to prepare for the fight, it's a bit of a letdown, difficulty-wise.
  • Broken Base: Given that this game is coming off the heels of Sticker Star, this was inevitable.
    • There's a huge divide between people who jumped ship after the first few trailers and those that are willing to give the game a chance; the latter often accuses the former of Complaining about Games You Don't Play (missing the point of trailers and previews in the process), while the former often accuses the latter of simply being contrarian to negative criticism of the game. The fact that most reviews of the game by critics are noticeably more kind to the game than those of Sticker Star definitely doesn't help the divide.
    • People's stances on the game in general cause a bit of division. Are the detractors being unreasonable or not? Or are the defenders being unreasonable or not? Or are both being unreasonable or not?
    • Fans are split on whether the writing is on par with the first three Paper Mario games, if not the best it's ever been, while others feel it's just full of forced jokes, outdated slang and over-relying on Leaning on the Fourth Wall. However, nearly everyone agrees that it's a vast improvement from Sticker Star's rather lacking writing, particularly as the jokes are far more than paper-related puns.
    • In addition, the game contains several jokes lampshading some of the game's various faults, such as the cliche story or lack of variety among the Non-Player Characters. Opinions are divided as to whether these are lighthearted and funny Self-Deprecation, or just mean-spirited Take That, Critics! that come across as the developers and localizers acknowledging the game's problems but refusing to actually fix them.
    • The battle system's "reason to fight" is also contentious. Does the addition of Hammer Scraps mean that battles have meaning now due to a level up system or does it fall into the same trap as Sticker Star of using paint and cards to win battles to get more paint and cards, thus making fights pointless yet again? It doesn't help that paint is quite easy to refill, so running out of paint is rarely an issue, and you can buy pre-painted cards at Port Prisma (and even though they're more expensive than paint-less ones, that won't be a problem since it's extremely easy to get coins as well), which means that it's possible to just save the paint for blank spots and required fights without upgrading the maximum paint that much. The controversial battle system itself doesn't do any favors, since some of the base believe that it is a chore to fight and feels like a waste of paint and cards, and that "upgrading the paint meter" isn't enough to give battles a true meaning.
    • Has this game ended the Paper Mario Dork Age? Many people believe the series is still locked in one because Color Splash uses the gameplay of Sticker Star instead of the much more loved gameplay of the first two games, having an overload of Toads and an Excuse Plot. Many others, meanwhile, praise the game for fixing most of the problems with the battle system, adding in a hint system and bringing back the writing of the past games. They also note The Thousand Year Door and Super Paper Mario are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to plots in Mario RPGs and note those two games are Cliché Storms.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: Despite some dialogue parodying this, the reveal of Bowser as the Big Bad was intended to be a plot twist. The Bowser Tape as early as the hub world, the use of the Koopalings as the main bosses, and Morton outright telling you that he's working for someone after his defeat are clear evidence that you won't be surprised by this. The real twist is his possession, but even then, that's fairly obvious from the start, and this isn't exactly the first time. And this is before you take the meta into account, as this is the fourth RPG in a row to use him as the villain, and almost every recent game uses him as the main antagonist and Final Boss.
  • Character Rerailment: After being The Cameo and a Silent Antagonist, respectively, Luigi and Bowser are back to their original portrayals in the Paper Mario series.
  • Contested Sequel: A minor example. This game had a lot to fix when it first came out, and it's almost unanimously agreed that the game improves on Sticker Star, but whether or not it does so in a good way is an open question.
    • Regarding the Paper Mario series as a whole, there are some who view this game as bringing the series out of the Dork Age by bringing back the humour and witty dialogue and fixing the flaws with Sticker Star and its gameplay. Others still feel the game is a disgrace that shows the series is long dead and Nintendo does not care for it.
  • Critical Dissonance: Much like Sticker Star, the game got mostly positive reviews by critics, earning a 76 score at Metacritic. Of course, judging from this page alone, it's very clear that the same can't be said about the fans.
  • Demonic Spiders: Coal Guys without a doubt. They'll block all of your attacks until you destroy their coal blocks, said blocks take a lot of hits before being destroyed, and until they're destroyed, the enemies can deal huge chunks of damage with them. It's still a lot of damage even when your health is maxed out. If Larry summons one during his boss fight, be prepared to start the first phase over.
  • Designated Villain: Yeah, Bowser was responsible for creating the Black Paint, but it was on accident. As the paint starts losing its influence on him, it becomes increasingly clear that he has no idea what's going on. Instead of just ending the battle after destroying the Black Paint, Mario still beats the crap out of Bowser afterwards. The ending festival has his airship hit by a firework with the heroes basically going "serves you right." It's especially egregious in Peach's case as a major plot point is Peach learning Black Bowser is actually possessed, only to forget and blame him for everything after he jumped in the Prisma Fountain. A good amount of players, however, just feel bad about how badly Bowser gets treated in this game. It doesn't help that this is right after being portrayed as a very competent antagonist in the last two Mario & Luigi games, whereas his portrayal in Color Splash is more reminiscent of his Butt-Monkey portrayal in Superstar Saga, right down to being possessed by the true Big Bad.
  • Disappointing Last Level: In spite of its great atmosphere and amazing music (which even plays during battles), Black Bowser's Castle is a fairly short stage that consists of a fight against the last remaining Koopaling, Roy, then a couple of rooms with some puzzles including an Escape Sequence, and then the fight against Bowser himself, which is then followed by another Escape Sequence. It's not as bad as in Sticker Star, though (where the final stage merely consisted of two long, empty hallways with a boss fight at the beginning and the end of the stage, respectively), but it's still kind of underwhelming for a final dungeon, particularly when compared to the ones from the first three games.
  • Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game: Some of the less outraged and more forgiving fans admit that the game is too easy and the gameplay suffers from a few issues from its predecessor, but ultimately don't really care as they find the writing very funny and the art direction beautiful. Of course, since the story itself hasn't been very well-received, as it's said to be better than Sticker Star's Excuse Plot but still nowhere near the level of the first three games, this could be a case of a Downplayed Trope.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
  • Fanon Discontinuity:
    • By virtue of having too many similarities to Sticker Star, which was already hit with this, most detractors would rather pretend that Color Splash never happened either, with them still seeing Super Paper Mario or The Thousand-Year Door as the point where the series ended (or started a long hiatus). It doesn't help that the director, designers, and writers changed between Super Paper Mario and Sticker Star (while Color Splash retains most of the staff in Sticker Star), and it really shows.
      • Not helping Color Splash endear itself is the fact that, like Paper Jam yet unlike Sticker Star, Color Splash never explicitly mentions anyone or anything by name from the first three games (to the point there's no mention of Parakarry in this game). In fact, the game goes out of its way to avoid openly referencing the first three games note . Even when similar ideas or visuals are used (like Flipping or the vast amounts of Thousand Year Door imagery), the game pretends as though this is the first time those ideas have ever been used, and does not openly credit or link these ideas to the past.
    • A minor example that doesn't have much to do with the game itself is the fact that, like with Paper Jam, the Koopalings are clearly portrayed as Bowser's minions instead of his children (Morton even calls Bowser his "master"), which unsurprisingly annoyed the group of fans who believe that they're his children, and thus prefer to ignore this fact.
  • Goddamned Bats: Lava Bubbles (aka Podoboos) from Redpepper Volcano and Redpepper Crater (lava-based levels, natch). They appear all over the place, spawning from any given lava pool and occasionally dropping from the ceiling. Additionally, you can't do regular jumps or hammer strikes on them, as they damage you or disintegrate your hammer, respectively, and Fire Flowers obviously won't hurt them, leaving Iron Jumps or Ice Flowers as your only attack options.
  • Idiot Plot: A downplayed example, but the game happens because Bowser mixes paint. Yes, really. Occasionally theorized to be intentional, with the trope being Played for Laughs.
  • It's Easy, So It Sucks!: Similar to Super Paper Mario, the lack of difficulty in Color Splash is a major complaint about the game, regardless if one hates the gameplay or not. While the game itself is much less Guide Dang It!-heavy than its predecessor, this results in the game being noticeably easier, and since you can easily win most fights by just spamming powerful cards, Thing or not (and using the needed one when you get the hint). Some wish it had a "hard mode" that gave enemies and bosses higher HP, attack, defense, and possibly new tactics to make the fights more involved and challenging.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: The game is lambasted in many circles for reusing the same basic formula as Sticker Star and many other elements, earning it the derogatory nickname "Sticker Star 2" and anything similar (such as Sticker Star 2: Colorful Boogaloo). What doesn't help any matters is that one of the directors said that he wanted Sticker Star to become the new standard, fueling the flames even further.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Bowser, to the point of bordering on just-Woobie territory. All he wanted was to paint his shell with a neon rainbow of colors (albeit in a completely reckless fashion); instead, he endures Demonic Possession by an Eldritch Abomination substance, then continues being treated as the Designated Villain (despite his obvious confusion) even after getting purged of it.
  • Last Lousy Point: In order to get 100% Completion, you need to color in every blank spot in every level. While most of them are obvious and hard to miss, there are some that'll have you backtracking through levels until you shout "Guide Dang It!"
    • Bloo Bay Beach has a single rock in the first area that must be colored in. It's one of the smallest colorless spots in the game.
    • Plum Park is littered with tiny, uncolored bricks on the path. It also has one of the most nonsensical colorless spots. You'll see a very obvious white bush, but in order to get to it, you need to hammer off a random ledge to create a path.
    • Most levels with a blue color scheme have spots that seem to blend in with their surroundings.
      • Indigo Underground has a blank spot right before the first moving rock.
      • Fort Cobalt has a rail at the left of the Magma Burger stand. Good luck noticing it.
      • Fortune Island has a spot at the end of the parallel cave that, despite being pretty big, seems to be just another rock.
    • Kiwano Temple has an invisible block trail right outside that you'll have to hammer to see.
    • Sacred Forest is full of tiny white spots. It's fitting because the level has been magically shrunk, but that doesn't make them any less annoying to color.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Leston. Explanation 
    • The Super Ludship (or Ludwig's Megabad Super Battleship of DOOOOOOOOM). Explanation 
    • HO. Explanation 
    • Mario X Wendy. Explanation 
    • Mario shrugging. Explantion 
    • Pinhead Larry. Explanation 
    • Everyone is a Toad. Explanation 
    • Blinded by Salt and Pepper! Explanation 
  • Memetic Troll: Kamek has this reputation due to being able to ruin your day by giving you exactly the wrong cards to use against certain enemies: all hammers for flying enemies, all jumps for spiked, etc, leading to lots of stolen cards and smashed controllers.
  • Mis-blamed: Hooooooooooooo boy, where do we begin?
    • Risa Tabata got a fair bit of scorn, mainly due to the infamous interview with GameXplain, where most answers were either really vague such as "I don’t know if I want to say a proper story–but we have a story" or saying that since there's Mario & Luigi, there's "no need for RPG elements", which caused a massive Internet Backdraft. But at the end of the day, she's simply an assistant producer and not the lead developer, and thus she doesn't deserve some of the hatred she got beyond that interview. It's also worth stating she's mentioned Tanabe's influence a few times.
    • The game itself started development very shortly after the release of Sticker Star, so by the time fans began savaging the revamped gameplay style, Intelligent Systems had put too much work into Color Splash to scrap it and start over.
    • In the Birdo musical, her Koopa Troopa backup dancers are doing some jazzy moves that many people mistakenly interpreted as being the dab and wrongly blamed Nintendo for pulling a We're Still Relevant, Dammit!.note 
  • Nightmare Retardant: Shunned Guy may be quite creepy when you see him in Indigo Underground, but his unsettling appearance is tempered drastically when he plays competitive Rock–Paper–Scissors in the third Roshambo Temple.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • One might find Roy Koopa's role in the game is a bit unusual (being the only Koopaling fought in the final castle, while the six other Koopalings get their own stages), but both Super Mario World and Hotel Mario did the exact same thing: Larry Koopa shared World 7 (but not Bowser's Castle) with Bowser in the former game, while in the latter game you went through six levels and Bowser's area, fighting Iggy Koopa in Bowser's hotel.
    • At one point (Sunset Express), the game makes a big deal out of Bowser's minions not being all bad, having their own desires and or disagreeing with their boss. The thing is Super Paper Mario also portrayed Bowser's minions in this manner in a few scenes (where a Hammer Bro captain stays behind to save his squad on his own merits, or when Bowser's minions decide to throw a party after he joins Mario's team). That's not even getting into the earlier Paper Mario games portraying enemies as friendly locals with no affiliation to Bowser, or the Mario & Luigi series depicting Bowser's minions as normal people years beforehand.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • The battle system mostly counts, since it's pretty much the same battle system from Sticker Star, which most fans disliked. However, there are a few specific gripes with it:
      • Like stickers in Sticker Star, cards are this due to them being consumable attacks that disappear forever after using them in combat as well as being the only way to fight in battles.
      • If you defeat every enemy in a battle but haven't used all the cards you selected, the unused cards simply disappear.
      • Selecting cards is a bit tedious. You have to scroll to find the cards you're going to use, then pick them up, paint them (you don't have to paint them to use them, but they're weaker if you neglect to do so), and then throw them to finally act. This often slows battles to a crawl, killing their pace.
      • Also like in Sticker Star, Things and the Thing weakness system. Things tend to be overpowered to the point of being a One-Hit Kill for most enemies, and if it doesn't kill them, it will do a lot of damage to them, meaning that you can win by just spamming Thing cards, defeating the point of using more powerful versions of standard cards. Also, while Things get transformed into cards when you get them (thus eliminating part of the backtracking in Sticker Star), the same can't be said if you don't have it when needed; you'll have to backtrack and then get it to clear the puzzles, which is still very tedious to do so.
      • Replica cards can't be used in place of the genuine Thing card, so don't think that having a Replica of what you need will save you.
      • Unlike Sticker Star, the player is now required to use Things in many battles, since the bosses will auto-dodge attacks, even if they would normally hit. Most egregious is Lemmy and his bolted-down Wonder Ball moving out of the way of wide area attacks. This one does have the excuse of making bosses puzzles.
      • Yet again like in Sticker Star, there's no option to choose which enemy to target. Already as bad as it sounds, but this becomes very aggravating, especially since the next card you use will always target the next enemy like in Sticker Star, which takes away a lot of the tactical potential in battles and can ruin your strategy if a single enemy dies before you expect it. Also like with its predecessor, there's no option to skip a turn, meaning that you'll either have to waste at least one card or try to run away and pray that you don't actually flee.
    • Like in Sticker Star, some levels have multiple end goals (in Color Splash's case, Mini-Paint Stars). Also like Sticker Star, collecting the end goal item opens the way to the next level in exchange for booting Mario out of the level. What actually lands this mechanic here, however, is that there's several instances where two Mini-Paint Stars are within a very short easily traveled distance of each other, forcing Mario to replay most of the level (or in cases like Kiwano Temple, the entire level with no changes) again just to grab the other star]]. Making this even more egregious is that while Sticker Star had the "Wiggler's Tree House" level where several Comet Pieces were a jump away from each other, the world it was in was designed in a way so the Pieces had to be grabbed over a period of time to progress.
    • You can no longer see how powerful Mario's attacks are in terms of numbers. The removal of this basic information makes it unnecessarily hard to determine the best move to make. This is even worse considering enemy attacks still do show up in numbers.
    • For a widely hated mechanic that isn't a carry-over from Sticker Star, Shy Bandit. He randomly appears on the overworld and leaves his Calling Card on a level, requiring Mario to race him there. Here's where the trope comes in — if Mario doesn't make it in time, Shy Bandit steals all the color from the level, resetting almost all the blank spots, and meaning that you'll have to paint all the blank spots all over again.
    • The new Enemy Cards that can summon the enemy on the card to act as a pseudo-party member in battle. For starters, they're all generic enemies that you have no control over and all deal pathetic amounts of damage. In addition, they only last about one turn because on enemy turns, they act as meat shields that are easily defeated in one or two hits. To make things worse, they are useless in boss fights, as they run away the moment they're summoned, which means you just wasted a turn. The Koopalings can be gathered as rare Enemy Cards, but in addition to also being useless in boss fights, they're nothing more than Fright Jars, as they do nothing but run up to the enemy team and chase them away with no variation between each Koopaling. The only thing Enemy Cards seem to be good for is completing the Museum, but other than that, they're almost useless in the main game.
    • Kamek's curses are also a point of contention. Not only do they occur at random and disable the Flee button and Battle Spinner, but they affect all of Mario's cards (including the tough-to-get Koopaling cards). Making things ten times worse is a HUGE design oversight that can result in things like all your cards becoming Hammer cards when your only enemies are flying ones, which means they'll do nothing but miss, resulting in an unwinnable fight. Finally, even after defeating Kamek in-game, this mechanic still doesn't stop.
    • There's also the instant Non-Standard Game Over moments in the game. While these were also present in the previous games, they were mostly easy to avoid, few and far between, or just there to laugh at (like not putting on a space helmet in the middle of space), which isn't the case in this game. In fact, a major criticism about Color Splash is that the Non-Standard Game Overs are overly frequent and often blown out of proportion. For example, if you fail the quiz sections in the first two games, you would get punished by having to fight Demonic Spiders. In Color Splash? Lose the Sniffit-or-Whiffit section, and you die. They've been criticized for feeling like cheap attempts to bump up the difficulty of an otherwise very easy game, as they often bring unnecessary frustration rather than an actual, fun challenge.
  • So Okay, It's Average: The game is agreed to be better than Sticker Star, but people do note that it still shares several of the problems as Sticker Star as far as the battle system is concerned. Overall, it's considered an average and unremarkable game at best that can be enjoyable for a first playthrough to some, which wouldn't be as notable if the game wasn't part of the beloved Paper Mario series.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: Downplayed. Color Splash is near-universally considered a step up from Sticker Star thanks to its direct improvements to the characters and gameplay. However, the game itself is still extremely polarizing, and it's hotly debated whether it's a good game in its own right, especially compared to the first three Paper Mario games.
  • Tainted by the Preview: You have no idea. Given that Sticker Star is widely seen as the worst game in the Paper Mario series and even the role-playing side of the Mario franchise, Color Splash got a ton of backlash the moment it was revealed that it was following the same formula as Sticker Star. It got so bad that the original YMMV page was cut and locked within hours for excessive complaining.
  • That One Boss: Though the game is rather easy, a few of the bosses can give the player a headache if they're not prepared, even with the needed Thing card.
    • Larry is a great example of this. This is a Traintop Battle where Larry is healed at every turn and can even make you blind so that your attacks fail (thus wasting your cards), until you use the required Thing card, which will make him unable to use those dirty tactics any longer. Even after this, he still puts up a fight unlike many other bosses, and he's a stealth Time-Limit Boss; if you take too long when fighting him, he'll launch a series of attacks that will kill you, thus ending the game.
    • Roy can also be a tough boss, being the penultimate one and all. First of all, he steals your paint and uses it to his advantage, meaning that not only are you unable to use it as you want, but on top of that he can inflict status ailments such as the inability to use certain cards, along with some tough attacks. After a while, he will mix all the paint and create black paint and then throw it all across the room, creating a blackout. At this point, you won't be able to even land a hit on him, unless you have the required Thing card. And like Larry, he still puts up a fight even after using the required Thing card.
    • Bowser, the Final Boss, is a doozy. Unlike in Sticker Star, which required no less than five Thing stickers to beat him, he's one of the few bosses that don't require any Thing cards to be defeated. In spite of this, he manages to be a very hard boss, as not only can he regenerate health if you don't destroy the Black Lava Bubbles, but he launches some very strong attacks at Mario. It gets even worse when he goes One-Winged Angel, as his attacks become stronger, Thing cards are far less effective (unlike in the rest of the game), and if you fail to counter his Last Ditch Move, not only does Bowser deal more than 100 damage, but he recovers half of his health. Many have compared this boss fight to the Shadow Queen from The Thousand-Year Door, as they're both very hard final bosses with two forms each.
  • That One Level:
    • Kiwano Temple. Peppered with spikes that deal 12 damage at a point when you only have 75 health, covered in Spinies, and ending with a section where you have to ride a slow-moving platform all the way across a rising lava pit before it gets too high and gives you an extra-toasty Mario, followed by the Big Spiny miniboss after this. And if you're going for 100% completion, you have to deal with all but the miniboss again to get the first alternate exit, which is right below the regular one.
    • Dark Bloo Inn. It's not as terribly difficult as it is time-consuming, though. The whole level is spent finding 6 Ghost Toads and performing random fetch quests for them. This doesn't sound so bad, but it gets worse. One of them can only be found at a specific time that you're likely to miss on the first go, and a couple fetch quests are Guide Dang It!-based. In addition, the level is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that turns it into a Timed Mission, which you probably won't know about the first time. If you don't beat the level in time, you get booted from the level, and the whole thing resets.
    • Cobalt Base. Completing it normally is not too difficult, but reaching the bonus rounds of Snifit or Whiffit and completing that requires you to go though the whole thing and make no mistakes, so if you have a bad memory, you are in trouble. Plus, you do need to complete this because the Instant Camera Thing you get as a reward is needed to defeat Wendy. Also, it is easy to miss the blue Snifit that gives you 30 cards, including the ones needed to win the game, and you do need to be able to carry 30 cards to get them.
    • Violet Passage. This is an Unexpected Gameplay Change-based stage where you're in control of a ship. The first section consists of mushroom-shaped islands that are hard to tell apart, and then turn either to the left or right to continue, made difficult by the fact that seafaring terms "starboard" and "port" are used. After that, you have to clear minigames such as breaking the targets to get 70 points or getting as many coins as you can, which wouldn't be as bad if it wasn't for the terrible camera angles and method for firing the cannons. If you fail on that, you'll be forced to fight random enemies and do the tasks all over again. If you fail too many times there's a Mercy Mode that will make the ordeal a lot easier.
  • Unexpected Character:
    • Dino-Rhinos, a Super Mario World enemy that hadn't made an appearance since one of their sub-species (Albino Dinos) did back in the very first Paper Mario game, return in this game as regular enemies.
    • Near the end of the game, Luigi shows up to help Mario and Huey get to Black Bowser's Castle. That's not the surprising part. What is the surprising part is that he shows up riding the Mario Kart 8 Standard Kart, along with the same game's title theme. No, really.
  • The Un-Twist: It is made very clear that the black paint has a mind of its own, but the game never expands on that point. The black paint never betrays Bowser or does anything of its own free will besides the possession, making it seem like it was just a catalyst for the plot.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Many people feel this way about the black paint. It clearly has a mind of its own and is even given a humanoid form in some concept art, but it's only fought as a Brainwashed and Crazy Bowser, which is nothing new for a Mario RPG. They feel it should have at least left Bowser partway through the fight for a more unique final boss.
    • A lot of fans feel that a new land centered around paint and colors could've made for a lot of new ideas, unique characters and creativity, much like Rogueport, Flipside, the Beanbean Kingdom, and Pi'illo Island before. Given that Prism Island is mostly populated by generic Toads and the enemies are generally the same from the main series, most fans were very disappointed about this, to say the least.
    • Despite Prism Island being a tropical location, no friendly species associated with that archetype, such as Piantas and Nokis, show up.
    • Still others feel this way about the Koopalings as a whole. Unlike in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, the Koopalings don't interact with Mario at all aside from their respective stages and boss fights, whereas in Paper Jam they appeared throughout the game and some of them were even fought more than once. Not helping any matters is the severe case of Depending on the Writer, as some of the personalities in Color Splash are very different from the ones in Paper Jam (for example, Morton now speaks in a Hulk Speak manner, which he didn't in Paper Jam, and Roy is suddenly far more intelligent than he was in Paper Jam), which isn't helped by the aforementioned lack of screentime, either.
    • Much like Wario not being in New Super Mario Bros. 2, Bowser Jr.'s absence is especially bizarre, given that he played a major role in Sticker Star and this game is all about painting, which is one of Jr.'s defining points. Not helping either is the fairly major focus the Juniors had in Paper Jam, much like the Koopalings.
    • It's often pointed out the Toad who accompanies Mario and Peach to Prism Island should have been Toadsworth, as he's usable under the main series only character restrictions, and he also appeared in The Thousand Year Door. On that note, other unique Toads like Captain Toad, the Toad Brigade and Toadette (another Thousand Year Door veteran) are absent, which is strange considering Draggadon's appearance.
      • Even if by some chance there was an undisclosed character restriction that forced the developers to use Toads as the only completely friendly species, the Toads' power-up forms from the main series titles New Super Mario Bros Wii, New Super Mario Bros Unote  and Super Mario 3D World could have been used to portray separate characters and increase visual diversity dramatically.
    • While Yoshis are in the game, it's just as circus animals for one stage, with one early-bird cameo long before this. Given they are treated as intelligent beings in other Mario games (platformers or spin-offs) and equals to "human" characters, it's unusual they're not recurring NPCs across all of Prism Island like the Toads.
    • On a similar vein is Lakitu. Back in Mario & Luigi Paper Jam, Lakitus were friendly NPCs with no enemies. Meanwhile, Sticker Star had one unfightable Lakitu only seen in that game's optional Whammino Mountain level. With these two facts together, making Lakitus friendly NPCs en masse while simply not having them as enemies would help with the character variety. Alas, no such thing happens. What makes this more unusual is Luigi namedrops one version of Lakitu in this game, meaning that particular individual was usable as a character.
    • Also back in Sticker Star, Mizzter Blizzard wanted to be rebuilt so he could meet Mario once again. This seemed like foreshadowing for a future return, but Mizzter Blizzard isn't even mentioned in this game.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • The black paint causes this, depending on who you ask. It's given a humanoid form in concept art and is obviously possessing Bowser, which would generally be the making of an effective Man Behind the Man. Technically, it is this, but the point's not expanded on. It loses the humanoid form, simply becoming a Greater-Scope Villain and being fought by proxy while possessing Bowser, causing it to feel like a plot catalyst. In addition, the only time the black paint is shown or mentioned outside of the Big Paint Star flashbacks or the final level is during the first real trip through Sunglow Ridge, further limiting its direct presence in the overall plot.
    • The game never really goes that much into Huey's backstory (barring a single throwaway line at Emerald Circus), nor does it explain if the living black paint scenario happened before in Prism Island's history.
    • The letter Peach receives at the beginning of the game. Rather than the sender simply being Kamek for the sake of a trap and suddenly revealing such after only 2 chapters, it could have been arranged so someone more surprising was revealed to have sent it near the end of the game. Examples include an obscure Mario character, a past Paper Mario character, Luigi (to tie into his Big Damn Heroes moment more), or even Bowser himself while briefly not possessed. Instead, it just ends up feeling like window dressing to make the story "feel" more mysterious than it actually is.
    • With all the Thousand Year Door imagery in the game note , one would think it was leading to something or that at least someone would bring it up in-game. Neither thing happens, unfortunately.
    • None of Bowser's minions bring up sensing their boss acting unusual from the black paint covering him. Most noticeable of all is Kamek, Bowser's caretaker from birth and effectively privy to tiny behavioural quirks- one would think at least he would notice something was wrong with His Nastiness or pick up on Black Bowser's weird behaviour around Peach, but he never brings it up in any of his three story appearances. Considering Peach picking up on Black Bowser not being Bowser is a major plot point, it results in inadvertently portraying Kamek as dumber than usual or uncaring of Bowser. What makes this more glaring is in the side mode of Superstar Saga's remake (the very next in-house Mario RPG after Color Splash), the completely new character Captain Goomba actually does sense something is wrong with Bowser upon finding him, while Kamek is absent altogether in that game and his role as Bowser's lifelong guardian is brought up in Bowser Jr's Journey.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Most fans agree that at least the graphics are gorgeous. Paper Mario's artstyle has always been well-received, but the HD and sheer contrast just makes everything pop.
  • Win Back the Crowd: Somewhat succeeded in this aspect. Many figured it would be just an HD version of Sticker Star and weren't happy that they still wouldn't allow partner characters. Then the game came out and showed much improvement in the battle system, along with more intuitive puzzles, though not everyone agreed. So while it wasn't completely a major comeback, Color Splash was, to some people, a step above Sticker Star and considered a commendable installment in the franchise, potentially ending the Dork Age of the Paper Mario games for some.
  • Woolseyism:
    • The musical references Ludwig makes during his boss fight only exist in the English and Italian versions.
    • Huey's "What in the Lost Levels is going on here?" was added in the English version. Originally there was no joke there and Huey was just confused. This makes sense, of course, as the name "Lost Levels" is itself English-exclusive, being a rename of the originally No Export for You Mario 2.

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