Top critical review
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A fun game that holds itself down.
on December 21, 2012
I enjoyed the original Paper Mario and loved Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door so I knew I'd be playing this eventually. I got it knowing that it wasn't strictly an RPG game anymore but more of a platformer-RPG. I wasn't happy with the change but was more than willing to give it a chance. Ultimately, I found a game that was fun but holds itself back through some poor design choices.
Story - Count Bleck has decided that he wants to end all worlds by using the power of the chaos heart. He obtains this by forcing Bowser and Peach to get married. Mario and company get separated and he meets Tippi who teleports him to Flipside where he meets Merlon. Merlon explains that Mario needs to collect the 8 pure hearts to stop Count Bleck. You'll go through 8 different worlds to obtain them. The whole pure hearts story isn't exactly compelling, especially the way in which you obtain some of them. That said, the rest of the story is pretty good. There's plenty of funny dialogue and humorous things happening throughout to keep you entertained.
Gameplay - The game mostly plays like a platformer. You'll run around and hop on enemies heads in real time. You'll find plenty of blocks to hit and get coins and other goodies. The RPG elements of the game are much lighter than the previous games and some seemed tacked on. You can use attack items or healing items at any time and can hold up to 10 of them. There will be plenty of dialogue and plenty of puzzles to solve. You'll get experience for killing any enemies or for picking up some objects. Every so many points you'll level up which gives you all your life back and then you'll get 5 extra hit points 1 level and 1 extra attack power the next. This will rotate throughout the game. You will get 8 Pixls throughout the game which give you certain powers depending on which one you have equipped. One lets you pick up objects and throw them, another lets you put a bomb down to hurt enemies or blow up blocks and another lets you shrink yourself down. There are some side quests and other things to do but for the most part, I didn't bother with them because they were generally fetch quests or time consuming things.
The big thing about the gameplay is the ability for Mario to switch between 2D and 3D at any time. This works out reasonably well and allows for a lot of things that wouldn't normally be possible in a strictly 2D game. Most puzzles are solved in the game by switching back and forth between the two. One minor gripe I have about this is that the view they give you here can make it somewhat tedious to kill enemies. You'll often jump just over an enemy and land right in front/behind them and get hurt by them.
The biggest 2 gripes I have about the ability to flip really drag the game down. First, you have a time limit you can be in 3d. Once it hits 0, Mario takes 1 damage and it fills back up. If you flip back to 2d before the timer runs out it fills back up at an absurdly slow pace. I'm not sure exactly why they did this. It makes searching for things in 3d annoying and time consuming. There are some parts where you'll want to be in 3d for a minute or 2 to collect some coins, hit some blocks or explore the area and you'll find that you're much more willing to just take 1 damage then wait the 20-30 seconds for the timer to fill back up. The second major gripe I have here is that Mario is the only character that you can go into 3d with. If you select any other character while in 3d you'll instantly be flipped back to 2d. You will need to go into 3d constantly throughout the game to solve puzzles, find secrets and transverse areas. So unless you want to constantly change your character by going into the start menu, you'll find that you're pretty much stuck playing as Mario throughout the whole game.
Characters - There are 4 playable characters in the game, each with their own unique powers, Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser. As I just mentioned, you'll find yourself playing as Mario for the majority of the game simply because you can't be bothered with having to change characters every 20 seconds. This makes me surly as someone who would've liked to spend more time playing as Luigi. Merlon and all of the characters in Flip-Side are totally forgettable and uninteresting, though Tippi is alright. The most memorable and interesting characters other than our heroes tend to be Count Bleck's minions.
Controls - I really have no complaints here. The controls are solid. There is nothing here not to like.
Difficulty - This is another area where the game lets me down. This game is incredibly easy. At no point was I in any real danger of dying. Almost every enemy is just a minor object in your path because they're so simple to kill. Bosses are rarely difficult at all, some you'll kill within 20 seconds whereas others just take a little more time to kill because they have invulnerable periods. Your partner Tippi will tell you how to beat every single one of them so there is no guesswork or need to figure out how to beat a boss. Just going through the game and with no backtracking, I had 55 hp at the end of the game. Even the end game boss was a complete cake walk. Was the 2 whole damage Count Bleck was doing to me supposed to scare me? I had 4 or 5 items that gave me 50hp back at any time, none of which I'd bought and I didn't even use any during the final fights. The puzzles in this game are incredibly simple most of the time, though they do get better towards the end and there was one or two that took me a minute or two to figure out.
Length - I ended up somewhere around 19 hours. I'd say expect anywhere from 17 hours - 21 hours. Longer if you're doing the side quests and such. I guess there is some sort of after game stuff you can do but I didn't bother with it.
Thoughts pro - There are some fun and interesting levels. Having to work off my debt in world 2 was a unique experience. There's an item that spawns a bunch of miniature NES versions of Mario or Luigi that surround you and follow you. They'll hop on enemies and hurt them for you or if they walk into an enemy they'll hurt the enemy and die off. Always enjoyed finding those little fellows, especially for the old school jumping sound effect that plays each time they jump.
Thoughts con - There are some absolutely tedious levels in this game. 6-1 immediately springs to mind. In this level you run into one enemy on a stage, talk to him, fight him, then go through a door. Repeat this 23 times. It's the same exact background and everything each time. I just starting skipping the dialogue for each enemy you fight as it just became annoying. It's just a terrible level to play through. World 7 is also slightly annoying as well.
In order to access the next world, you have to go back to Flipside and place a heart into a heart pillar. I understand the reasons for doing this but it occasionally got annoying. The heart pillars are all in the same area generally, you just have to know which route to take and which one you can actually get to. Doing this gets somewhat more tedious once you access the other town known as Flopside, which is mostly a mirror of Flipside.
Not a lot of interesting things to do with your money or for doing sidequests. Some of the pixls are absolutely worthless. You need the cudgel one for one section of the game and then never touch it again and there's one that you use to cross some spikes a whole whopping 2 times.
Final thoughts - I enjoyed the game and found it fun. The dialogue for the most part is entertaining and everything generally works well together. The actual gameplay is mostly satisfying. That said, I also found it annoying and tedious at times. The game is a complete cakewalk to get through which I don't like. I want a challenge, I want to die a couple times along the way and have to get better. I enjoyed the game while I was playing it but I could only take so much at a time. I never had the craving to play it like the other ones and it took some willpower to actually turn it on to play. It's a fine game in spite of itself but I hope this isn't the direction the series keeps going. Overall I'd give it a 7/10.