One day on a stormy night Mario gets a knock at his door. Turns out it’s Peach and Toad! Except they don’t look very happy. Mario lets them in and Peach delivers him a letter, which in actuality is a color-drained toad! Mario looks at where the postage stamp came from and turns out it’s from Prism Island. Without hesitation Mario, Peach, and Toad travel through a storm on a boat and eventually reach Prism Island, only to find the place deserted. It’s up to Mario to find out who did this and bring Prism Island back to normal.
Color Splash gameplay-wise is very similar to its predecessor, Paper Mario Sticker Star. Mario finds a 3D paint bucket named Huey, who is eventually turned into paper form by Mario. Huey travels with Mario for the whole game and provides Mario with a paint hammer, which is crucial throughout the game. Every area Mario explores is filled with colorless patches and using the paint hammer Mario can paint them back to normal again. Areas Mario explores range from forests to riding on a train. Another gameplay element is called “cutout.” Huey takes Mario out of the current place he is in and allows him to cut out a certain part of the environment in order to make it to unreachable places. The catch with this is that you have to be EXTREMELY precise with where you're standing in order to make it work. A hint is provided if you're near a place where you can use the cutout ability, but it’s hardly useful, if at all. Smashing things with paint is extremely enjoyable and will have you looking for every colorless patch. The environments are also enjoyable to explore as they are each unique. I dislike the cutout ability because it requires too much precision in order to make it work.
The turn-based battle system returns and Mario now uses cards to battle. There are three different types of cards: normal cards, thing cards, and ally cards. Normal cards are Mario's basic attacks ranging from jump, hammer, and variations of these plus other attacks. Thing cards are powerful cards that play a funny animation that greatly damages your enemies. Thing cards are required for most boss battles unfortunately. Ally cards are similar to partners like in the original Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door, except after the battle is over they disappear. Cards can also be painted to increase attack power. Oh, and the HP of enemies cannot be seen; you have to rely on looking at their sprite to see how much is left painted in them. My honest opinion on the battle system is that it’s pretty bad. Scanning through your cards is very annoying (as you can have up to 100 cards to search through), and the overall battle is just boring. Bosses are a different story as you have to have a specific “thing” item in order to defeat most of them. Though one touch I liked about the battle system is that enemies say little phrases every once in a while to provoke Mario to attack them, often revealing their strengths or weaknesses indirectly (so if a spiny said to jump on him, then that means you shouldn’t jump on him).
The story itself is pretty bland, but is an improvement from Sticker Star. Bowser kidnaps Peach once again, but at least they give a reason behind why Peach is kidnapped besides just kidnapping her for normal reasons. The idea of Bowser being possessed was a great idea, but they didn’t take it very far at all when they could’ve, and it ended up being pretty dull. I’m glad Luigi and Bowser can talk in this game since they didn’t in the previous Paper Mario game. The paint star memories of what happened before Mario came to Prism Island were a neat touch as well.
Controls are good for the most part. You can either play on the TV or just on the gamepad for off TV play. Whichever one you choose the gamepad will be the controller. Mario controls very nicely in this game. The only time where I found the controls to be annoying was during battle. As I mentioned earlier scanning through the cards is pretty annoying, and you have to do that via touching the gamepad screen. This means you have to slide your finger or stylus back and forth over and over to be able to find the card you want, then paint it, and flick it into the battle.
Audio is amazing in general. It comes in very well and the music plus sound effects are awesome as well. Each music piece feels just right in each area Mario is in. Oh, and did I mention the graphics are the best in the series? With this game being the first HD Mario game the graphics outdo every other Paper Mario game by far. Even the animation of the paint splashing from your paint hammer is extremely nice to look at.
After beating the main story there are a couple of side-tasks you can do. There are these temples called Roshambo Temple and they play in a manner similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors. Winning these Roshambo Temples will earn you ridiculous amounts of coins and, if you beat all three opponents, an exclusive card.
Another side-task you can do is visit a museum that is located in a dojo house in the east part of town. There you can donate cards of all types and in turn you will get access to different tracks in the game and artwork of different areas they worked on throughout the development of the game, including early artwork of Huey and other characters.
The main moral warning in the game is that there is a lot of cartoon violence. There is also a couple points during the game where NPCs are sucked of their color by enemies, and since in this game color is life, the enemies are basically sucking the life out of NPCs. Mario also gets sucked of his color when he dies in a battle. Also Bowser gets possessed by black paint throughout the whole game (and you can witness it happening), which makes him a bit more evil than usual. When Mario visits a haunted mansion, he finds it filled with toads who are ghosts. There are boos and dry bones as enemies, and there is a magikoopa named Kamek who uses magic and spells. The bosses also use minor magic.
My final thoughts on the game is that it’s very good overall. When it was announced I was very excited and even preordered the game. They fixed a lot of issues that were present in Sticker Star. Some issues fixed are that exploration is no longer boring and they upped the amount of humor in the game. Other issues are still around in this game such as the over-usage of toads and generic enemies but I didn't mind it hardly at all, especially with the amount of humor that was in the game. My only real complaint is the battle system, as it's very boring and poorly implemented.