This is an important title for the moustachioed maestro. As the first 'proper' Mario title on the Wii, Super Paper Mario is the game Mario fans have all been waiting for, and should it fail to deliver, it's going to be a blow that will take a while to recover from.
Thankfully, for the most part, these concerns aren't an issue. As an overall package, Super Paper Mario is a clever, colourful, funny title that Mario fans will lap up with joy. However, there are still a few niggles that are annoying enough to potentially become an issue.
Before looking at these though, let's focus on the good points, of which there are thankfully many. First and foremost, the game looks incredible from start to finish. From the huge crowd scene in the intro sequence, to the way the game 'draws in' each level before starting, to the fantastically clever and much-hyped '2D to 3D' ability, everything is so artistically stylish that you'll be tempted to pause the game at times and place a picture frame around your telly.
You're Having A Laugh!
Ultimately though, it's not the graphics that'll win you over, it's the dialogue. Simply put, Super Paper Mario has one of the wittiest and funniest scripts you'll ever come across in a game. It's one of the most referential games we've ever played and it's constantly poking fun at itself, its characters, other games and even other gamers, the key example of this being the level set in the mansion of a giant frog named Francis who happens to be a huge gaming geek. Francis loves collecting anime video tapes, has programmed robots to fetch him his latest manga issues, and loves going on the internet to criticise games he's never played (a clever little dig at the online anti-Nintendo fanboys there), and his level is the clear highlight of the game for any hardcore gamers who will get all the in-jokes.
As a result of this witty dialogue, the game feels more like the Mario & Luigi games on the DS and GBA in terms of comedy. Whether it's Mario being told he has a "level 5 moustache" or some Goombas asking Bowser to join Mario and Peach to save the day, whereas in reality they just want him out of the castle so they can have a party, the whole game will have you chuckling like a loon throughout its 20-or-so hour duration.
There are also heaps of old-school Mario references for die-hard Nintendo fans, such as the Starman which turns your character into a huge 2D sprite, or the stage which perfectly replicates World 1-2 of Super Mario Bros. The game feels more like a celebration of all things Mario, and it's a treat to play at times.
Of course, a funny and nostalgic game's no use if it plays like a dog, so thankfully there aren't too many problems in this area either, mainly thanks to the countless innovative gameplay twists thrown into the mix. Among the most initially impressive moves (and the one you'll use the most) is the much-touted ability to flip the screen from 2D to 3D, allowing you to see the stage from a whole new perspective and uncover hidden passageways and clues. The first time you do this, we guarantee you'll be grinning from ear to ear, since it's such a simple idea yet, at the same time, such a revolutionary one in terms of Mario platforming. Suddenly you realise you'll have to rethink the way you handle the game's puzzles.
Tearing Up The Rulebook
Unfortunately, while there are many other abilities to be unlocked, none of them match this in terms of originality or innovation. Instead, most of it is standard platform fare, such as the ability to place bombs, the ability to grab and throw enemies, or the ability to jump and perform a ground smash. While this is no bad thing, it's still a slight disappointment when you meet a new Pixl (the floating little sprites that give you these abilities) only to realise you're only being given the ability to run quicker (something which, this being a Mario game after all, should have been available from the start).