Now, I say proper adventure, but really Super Paper Mario is something new, something different and something you've never played before. Essentially the game looks like any other classic Mario game, however there is one big twist, it's flippin' 3D!
For once it isn't Bowser that's causing problems in the Mushroom Kingdom, its the evil Count Bleck and his band of gruesome minions. Count Bleck is a true believer of the "Dark Prognosticus", his dastardly schemes to forefill the prophecy; according to his beliefs getting Peach and Bowser to marry will cause a dimensional rift that will engulf the universe, peachy!
Mario isn't alone in this game, he's first teamed up with Tippi, a "Pixl" which acts as your guide throughout the adventure. Along the way you will meet a bunch of Pixl creatures; each joining your adventure and giving you a new skills such as bombs, hammer and item throwing.
Mario is not only joined by Pixls; the "Light Prognosticus" talks of four heroes that are needed to save the kingdom, enter Luigi, Peach and Bowser! You meet up with your team mates as the game progresses, each bringing a different skill to the table. Bowser is stronger than the others and can breathe fire, Peach has a long floating jump, and Luigi has an extra high jump. It's worth noting that only Mario can flip into 3D, that's his "skill"; the best way to explain this is if you think back to a classic Mario Bros level, what would you do if you couldn't jump over a pipe? Now its simple, you flip into 3D and walk around it!
Now, at first glance Super Paper Mario looks like a classic 2D platformer- you couldn't be more wrong. The developers have ingeniously merged and twisted this relatively simple premise with a whole heap of RPG elements. For starters your life is measured in HP ("Heart Points"); you won't instantly die getting hit by a Gomba, you'll just loose some HP. Different enemies will drain your HP meter more than others, much like an "attack power" in an RPG. Similarly, your different characters also have different attack power, obviously with Bowsers being the strongest.
As you progress through the game your skill level and HP meter increases, allowing you to take larger hits before dying. Classic Mario elements such as Mushrooms, Flowers and Stars remain but take on a new role. Instead of making you large Mushrooms will replenish your HP by 10, Flowers activate a Coin Shower and Stars turn you into a giant pixelated Mario straight from the NES game. This effect is very similar to that in New Mario Bros and allows you to smash through everything in your path. There is also a whole host of items you can collect through the game; items that for example would double your attack power briefly or freeze enemies around you.
Nintendo have been accused of making Mario games too simple of late, Super Paper Mario sets the record straight; some of the puzzles will tax your grey matter and take a while to work out! The level design is simply superb and some of the best I've seen for a platformer. You have to constantly shift between different characters and Pixls- taking advantage of their individual skills in order to complete the puzzle.
The game is played out from a central region called Flipside and split into 8 chapters, all but one spanning 4 stages, with most chapters end with a boss fight. The aim of each chapter is to secure a "Pure Heart" which then has to be placed in Heart Pillars which are scattered throughout Flipside opening the next chapter. This central region contains its own host of mini puzzles and obstacles that makes opening the next chapter more difficult than you might imagine. With a decent amount of levels, we expect most gamers to be able to complete the game in roughly 15 to 20 hours; it depends how good you are at solving the puzzles.
Super Paper Mario has been a long time coming and, thankfully, its leap from Gamecube to Wii has been successful due to the games simple control style. You control the action with the Wiimote sideways in the "Classic" position with 2 being jump and 1 activating your current Pixl's action. Even though this game has been developed by a team not well known for recent platformers, the control system is absolutely perfect; it truly "feels" like the Mario we all know and love.
Everything about this game is suited to the Mario fanbase. The hilarious script contains a host of "in" jokes that all Nintendo fans and geeks around the world will appreciate- even the opening sequence plays jokes on the "classic" Mario storyline. You will find yourself in re-created levels from the original Mario Bros; being able to flip them into 3D is a total buzz.
It's really hard to pick faults in this game, the graphics are clean and crisp, the menu system and presentation is excellent, both the music and sound are superb. However one problem is present... there is simply too much text to read! This might actually suit some RPG addicts, but I did find myself skipping entire chunks of conversations just because I wanted to start playing the next level!
Personally, the most impressive part of the whole game is the dynamics of mixing 2D with 3D and platformer with RPG; I'm certain you will have never played anything like this before. It just goes to show that even with a franchise that has been reused so many times you can still create something entirely new and fresh 20 years after its original conception.
Super Paper Mario is a fantastic addition to the Mario universe, the puzzle and level design is simply breathtaking, a pure gaming pleasure. If you've enjoyed a Mario game before, the chances are you'll enjoy this one too. It's blend of classic platformer and RPG have worked wonders; adding a huge amount of depth to a normally shallow style of game. I'd recommended any Nintendo fan to buy this game, you won't be disappointed.