Once again, Princess Peach is captured, and this time it's by Count Bleck. When she awakes from her hypnotic stupor, she finds herself in a wedding ceremony with Bowser! This sets off a chain of events that causes Mario and the gang to not only go and rescue the Princess, but also to save all worlds from destruction by the hands of Count Bleck.

So, what kind of game is this exactly?

Nintendo's main mascot Mario has found himself in many kinds of games. From his platforming roots, he's found himself in sports games, dancing games, and even role playing games (RPGs). The Paper Mario series has traditionally been one of the ways that Mario has battled foes in a variation of the RPG genre. This time, while sticking with many RPG elements, it has taken a decidedly action/platform approach to the Paper Mario universe. Super Paper Mario is somewhat difficult to categorize as it's not completely a platform game, nor is it completely a role playing game.

As you defeat enemies, your party gains experience. You defeat enemies by jumping on them, hitting them with bombs or hammers, and various other Mario-esque attacks. You can also combo attacks and chain them in style by shaking the Wii Remote for even more experience points. As you gain levels, you alternate between increasing your heart points (which are like hit points) and raising your attack level by one. There are also items to collect which you can use anytime, and people to talk to and learn from or sometimes buy/sell with. The most useful items are healing items, though some are attack or defensive items. I find most attack items aren\'t that useful, though the ones that double your attack certainly can be in some situations.

How does the game play work?

Most of Super Paper Mario takes place in the 2D space – that is, you see the game as though it was flat, like other 2D Mario platform games. Most characters, as well as enemies also see the world this way. Mario gains the ability to 'flip' between dimensions – he can switch between a 2D and a 3D view of the world with a press of the 'A' button. It\'s a pretty neat effect. Some levels and puzzles are much simpler in 3D view, while some are simpler (or only possible) in 2D view. There is also some treasure that is only found in 3D view. It's neat to switch often and it brings a creative element to level design as well. To balance the fact that most of the game lives in the 2D plane, the developers put in a time countdown gauge while you are in 3D view where after this timer counts down to zero, you lose a hit point. It slowly counts back up while you are in 2D view. It works pretty well to force a balance and lead you back to the 2D plane most of the time, especially since 90+% of the enemies can easily be skipped in the 3D view.

The game has a main hub between worlds called Flipside. Here there is a town with many common items for sale, a fortune teller to help further you along if you are stuck, a chef to help you cook powerful items, an arcade to play simple mini-games, and people to talk to. There are also other things and places to find in town and on the outskirts. This is the main place that the story is furthered as well.

When you complete one world (in the Super Mario 'chapter 1-1' through 'chapter 1-4' fashion) you collect a Pure Heart which allows you to go to the next world. Usually there is some little side errand you have to perform before going to the next world, even if it's just finding the place to put the Pure Heart you just got. Each of the eight worlds (like other Super Mario games) has a theme. One level is stylized like an 8-bit game, where another is in space, and so on, so each one feels unique. A few of the worlds also have their own towns and shops to visit and buy stuff in. Sometimes it can be quite a hike to get to those shops, so sometimes they have things on sale that you either can't get anywhere else or for substantial discounts. Mario is not alone in his quest to save the world. He is also joined by pixls. Pixls are small creatures that help you in some way perform an action. You start with Tippi, with which you can point at the screen with the Wii remote and identify people, buildings, items, and sometimes secrets. Other pixls, of which you can only use one at a time, give you another ability. These range from throwing things, hitting stuff with hammers, blowing up things with bombs, avoiding enemies, becoming thinner or smaller, or various other skills that help you further your quest. Mario is also joined by up to three other party members that you can switch to at any time. Each of them has unique abilities.

Though Mario is the only one who can flip into 3D, each of the others has unique skills. *** Some minor spoilers follow. *** Mario's party members include Princess Peach, Bowser, and later on, Luigi. While Mario can basically run and jump as well as flip into 3D, the others cannot flip but have some advantage in the 2D plane. Princess Peach can float long distances with her parasol, and she can protect her head when on the ground by ducking. Bowser is quite handy. Though slow, much larger, and generally clumsy, certain pixls make his movement much more reasonable, and he always does double damage and can breathe fire. This can most definitely come in handy when you want to clean out an area of enemies. I find Bowser quite effective in certain parts of the pit of 100 trials, for example. Near the end of the game, you finally get Luigi. With the exception of Bowser and his damage, I find him (as in many other games) the most effective. Not only can he run and jump fairly similarly to Mario, he has a super jump power that is great fun, especially against airborne enemies. When ducking, he charges up a super jump that can take you to ledges off of the screen. In addition, if anyone is hit by his head as he\'s going up, they take double damage. As you can imagine, those flying enemies don't stand a chance against him – where other characters have a hard time hitting them at all. *** End spoilers. ***

There are also quite a few hidden things as well as collectibles. Though most pixls must be found as a part of the storyline, not all of them are. In addition, there are maps that you can purchase which show various secrets you can find around the game world. There are also recipes you can collect. Each time you make a new recipe, it gets entered into your character recipe page. And last, but certainly not least, there are items called catch cards and catch card sps. These items can turn a particular enemy into a card. Once you have a card of an enemy, you do double damage to them. This can be stacked, so if you have more than one card you can do several times the damage to that type of creature. Cards can also be bought at a few places as well. This process can be extremely time consuming; I can imagine that the most perfectionist of players could spend easily twice the time playing through the storyline collecting things.

How is the Wii Remote used in this game?

The Wii Remote is held in a fashion similar to a NES controller. The d-pad is held with your left hand, and the 1 & 2 buttons are on your right. You play the game similarly to a classic Mario Bros. game most of the time, with '2' being jump. '1' operates the currently selected pixl. 'A' is used to flip dimensions to and from 3D, and it goes unused for the other characters. When you jump on an opponent, you can 'wiggle' the remote to get a style bonus, and if you combo it by immediately landing on an enemy and doing it again, you can rack up large bonuses. The pointer is used for Tippi's identification feature. This game was originally designed for GameCube, and the controls somewhat reflect that, but not to any detriment at all.

How are the graphics?

Super Paper Mario, like other Paper Mario games before it, have very clean, paper-like cut-outs for all characters. It\'s a neat effect. This one also shows the environments in a very flat 2D view, unless you flip to 3D. If you flip, the world also looks extremely flat, with items in the 3D plane also looking very flat, but a part of this plane, often instead of the other one. Though it looks good as an effect, the graphics of the 3D view are a bit disappointing. I was somewhat surprised to find the 3D effects in the GameCube Paper Mario game, The Thousand Year Door, to be much better looking. Nevertheless, overall the graphics are good. I was just a bit disappointed with that particular effect. I really like the art, colors, and most other aspects of the graphical design.

How is the sound and music?

This game does fairly well here. All sounds as well as the musical score sound great on my surround sound setup. Each world as well as each unique area (like sewer pipes, etc.) have their own themes. Sound effects are appropriate and satisfying. Many of the music themes set a proper mood, and some are catchy. There are a few voices here and there, but mostly the game uses text dialog, which is a long-standing Nintendo stylistic decision. I cannot complain at all in this department.

How appropriate is this game for Christians?

I apologize that this section contains spoilers, but an appropriateness review must be fairly complete. This game is mostly clean as far as I can tell, though there are a few things worth mentioning. Some folks consider it a bit darker than other Paper Mario games, and though I haven't played the others to completion, I can't say I disagree. Nastasia, one of Count Bleck's henchmen, has the power to hypnotize people into doing her (and the Count\'s) will. She forces Princess Peach into saying 'I do' to marry Bowser, which creates the Chaos Heart. This Chaos Heart sets about to destroy all worlds, or dimensions. You even get to see one world get destroyed, and it turns into nothingness.

You are also forced to fight Mr. L., which turns out to be Luigi, who is also hypnotized by Nastasia, and some of his jealousy over his brother comes out. The final story comes out that the reason Count Bleck wants to destroy all worlds, including the one he lives in, is that he could not have the love of his life, so that feeling of depression leads to his madness as he opens the Dark Prognosticus, which is a tome that tells the future, with a distinct bent to bringing about the destruction of everything. The good guys have the Light Prognosticus, which was made in ages past to counter the Dark Prognosticus. Like other Paper Mario games, there is fortune telling, as well as the main plot line of the prophecies relating to the various Prognosticus tomes. There are also ghost-like enemies around. As you can see, there are some topics that may be a bit mature for younger audiences. Though it is all presented in a cartoon-ish enough way that it should not be a problem on presentation alone, there are rather heady concepts that the younger among us might not understand.

Overall & Conclusion

Super Paper Mario is definitely a fun game. It's like a fun blend of elements from various Mario games. There is also a very well written script to go along with this, to not just keep your interest, but at times to make you smile, laugh, or even be touched with emotion. The production values are definitely top-notch, as you would usually expect from Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. There are a few things to be watchful of, especially with inquisitive younger players, but it\'s fairly safe for the rest of us.

Final Ratings

Appropriateness Score:
Violence 8/10
Language 10/10
Sexual Content/Nudity 10/10
Occult/Supernatural 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10
Appropriateness Total: 45/50

Game Score:
Game Play 18/20
Graphics 9/10
Sound/Music 10/10
Stability/Polish 5/5
Controls/Interface 5/5
Game Score Total: 47/50

Overall: 92/100


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