Infendo Reader Reviews: McClain on Super Paper Mario

Super Paper Mario ReviewWelcome the first in an occasional (read: when we feel like it) series of Infendo reader reviews. From time to time, we’ll take a few well-written, intelligent and objective reviews from the Infendo Forums and throw them up on the main page for the whole world to enjoy.

Super Paper Mario is the mostly successful sandwiching of traditional Mario platformer with the whimsical RPG style of the previous Paper Mario titles. While it never really lives up to either legacy, it’s still a fun little game and a perfect distraction until meatier titles come out for the Wii later this year.

The biggest problem Super Paper Mario has is that it’s not as deep as an RPG should be (not even the lighter fair of Paper Mario) and it doesn’t control as tight as a platformer should. The control is never really bad, but for anyone who grew up on Super Mario Bros., it leaves you wanting more.

As far as the RPG elements go, SPM falls short. The writing is wonderful and often hilarious, but feels a bit dense at times. And the item management is very lacking. The Badge system from Paper Mario is gone. In its place you are given cards, which are really pretty pointless. Sure, if you get an enemy’s card, you double damage on it. But the method for getting these cards are frustrating. There are several scattered through the game, and you can “catch” enemies with an item. But I found myself ditching the catch cards as they took up too much space in my already anemic items menu. Bottom line, you don’t get anywhere near the depth of customization as you did with the badges. Bring them back for the next game.

Back to the control, the Mario moves you know and love are divided up into strange meta-characters called Pixils. These give you the ability to shrink, ground pound, hammer and even run fast. Oh, that’s right, you need help to run fast. You can’t just hold B (on in this case, 1) to sprint like you can in every other Mario game. And to make matters worse, you can only have one Pixil at a time, making it a chore to switch from a sprint to hammering a bad guy. I have a theory that all this needless menu switching is a product of this game being ported from the end of the Gamecube’s run to the Wii. While it’s charming to play with the remote sideways, reminding us of the original NES controller with it’s limited buttons, I would have preferred to have a few extra commands at my disposal.

As for the Wii-specific tag on, they feel woefully unremarkable. As much fun at it was to swing the remote like a sword in Zelda, it was just as un-fun to shake the remote to make Mario & Co. show off while jumping on baddies. And the act of pointing the remote at the screen to look up information seemed to always get me hurt while Mario sat there dumbly waiting for the pointer to register.

This is a game that would have been better served coming out on the Gamecube last fall than playing short on the Wii.

And despite all of these gripes, Super Paper Mario has the gall to still be really freaking fun to play. Its worst problems are mostly a victim of Mario’s past successes, and as a 20+ hour gaiden of sorts, it’s a perfectly good first generation game for the Wii.

VERDICT: Thumbs up.