Columbus (OH) - As the first entry for the iconic plumber on Nintendo's new platform, Super Paper Mario comes through in a big way. In addition to new Wii controls, the game pulls together some of the best elements of Mario games from the past 22 years.
Super Paper Mario is a fun-filled RPG at its core, but a lot of it plays through like an old-school Mario platformer. In some areas, Mario will be running around an area that's reminiscent of NES games, but at the same time he'll head into real-time battles and perform moves that haven't been seen on a console platform game since the Super NES. There are even some nice touches in the form of classic landscapes brought back from the first Super Mario Bros, as well as a modified soundtrack from former Mario games.
One of the coolest game elements is the ability to switch from a side-scrolling 2D view to a full 3D mode. This means that the entire game was built twice to accommodate both views, showing just how much commitment there was in making this game. The dimension flipping is required to find hidden items, solve puzzles, and unlock new areas. Surprisingly, all the controls related to this function very intuitively.
The game also makes use of "pixls", interchangeable power-ups that allow Mario to shrink to microscopic size, perform the infamous ground pound, hover over beds of needles, and a couple of the paper-shifting effects that the Gamecube Paper Mario first brought forth.
What's really interesting about this game is that it was originally planned for the Gamecube. As a result, much of the game is played without the Wii-specific features. This proves that the Wii Remote can be used just like a normal, button-centric controller, adding the motion sensing as more of an after thought for sparingly used in-game controls.
The entire game runs together smoothly. Unlike many rigid RPGs I've played, I never got burned out from running through seemingly identical dungeons. I was, however, somewhat annoyed at the underlying story, which is convoluted and uninteresting, taking a bit of a step back from previous Paper Mario titles.
All in all, though, Super Paper Mario does exactly what it needed to - provide a killer app for the premiere of Nintendo's defining video game mascot.