Whilst playing through this year's big Wii U game, Paper Mario: Colour Splash, I was surprised by how huge it was. It took me more than 30 hours to finish. It's not challenging in the conventional sense; I rarely lost a battle, or ran out of HP during a level. But I did sometimes end up replaying long sections of the game or stalling because I'd entered a level unprepared, or couldn't figure out quite what to do next.
I'm here to save you from that pain. Here are a few quick tips for getting the most out of this surreal, loveable adventure.
Before You Go Anywhere, Visit The Know-It-All Toad
The latest Paper Mario revolves around Things – weird interloper 3D objects found around the colourful cardboard world, which can be squeezed into card form and played during boss battles or to make something cool happen in a level. You will need particular Thing cards to make progress every few levels. Thankfully, there's a way to find out exactly what you need.
In the harbour area of Port Prisma, the hub town, there's a Toad who lives in a bin. Speak to him and he'll tell you where to find the next Thing you need – but not where to use it, so there's still some fun in working that out. Speak to him every time you use a Thing card, and you'll always be prepared for the next puzzle you come across.
What to Do When You Need Things
Once you've found a Thing once, you can buy Thing cards from the shady dude who lives in a barrel near the Know-it-All Toad in the harbour area of Port Prisma. No need to go trekking all the way back to where you first found it.
In Battle, Unused Cards Don't Return to Your Hand
My biggest problem in Colour Splash was running out of cards near the end of long levels, or because I hadn't been bothered to buy in some extras from the shop in Port Prisma. This improved once I realised that you don't have to play two or three cards at a time. Say you play a Jump and a Hammer card on a Koopa, and the Jump card kills it off: you've still lost the unused Hammer card forever. Most of the enemies in Paper Mario are weak and don't do much damage, so one attack will dispatch most of them – and if it takes an extra turn to kill 'em, it's no big deal. Be conservative with your cards rather than throwing everything you've got at basic enemies to get them out of the way.
I might be wrong about this, but despite searching, I couldn't find a way to heal Mario outside of battle. This meant that I'd be wandering around dangerous levels in the second half of the game, where spikes or other environmental hazards might lop 8 or 16HP off if I accidentally stepped on them, with very low HP. Twice I died and had to restart from save points ages before, which was very annoying. Keep an eye on your HP and play a Mushroom card against basic enemies every now and then when it gets below half, and you'll never have to retread.
When You Know A Big Battle is Coming, Buy Cards
You always know when there's going to be a mildly challenging boss battle in Paper Mario. They're always at the end of the Big Paint Star levels, which are clearly marked on the map. If you ever die during these fights, it will either be because you ran out of good cards while working your way towards the end of the level, or because you don't have the right Thing card. You already know how to cover yourself on the Things front, so here's another tip: pop into the card shop in Port Prisma and stock up on basic hammers, jumps etc before every long journey to a boss.
Enemy Cards Don't Work on Bosses
I once ended up at a boss with nothing but a few basic attack cards. No bother, I thought: I have all these unused Enemy Cards that'll take 'em out! None of them work on bosses, it turns out. You don't want to end up having to rely on the card roulette system to do damage.
Do Not Waste Time in the Coliseum
A tip for you: when you get the the Coliseum, where the yellow Big Paint Star resides, do NOT waste an hour and all your damn cards engaging in the battles. You're not supposed to. Before the boss shows up, there's an item hidden nearby that will help you out. After the boss shows up, get them down to half health, at which point it will become clear that you can't progress any further. After that, RUN AWAY, and you'll find another part of the level has unlocked and you can get what you need.
Winning The Snifit or Whiffit Game Show
There's a game-show interlude in Colour Splash that's really fun the first time around, but not so fun the second time you encounter it, where you'll have to get a perfect score. It's extremely annoying to click through all the dialogue etc over and over again after making one mistake. Two tips: first, you can buy 30 cards that will contain everything you need for 500 coins, from a Snifit hiding to the right of the screen outside the base. Second: remember you can pause the game with the Wii U Home button to write things down
If You Get Stuck on the Pirate Ship...
... be comforted by the knowledge that the game will make things super easy for you if you keep failing.
Read The Manual
Characters in Colour Splash will occasionally refer you to the in-game manual for maps and information. You can access it by pressing an icon on the Gamepad, and it takes a while to load the document. This might seem weird and unnecessary, but it turns out that not only is the manual full of maps and helpful tips for defeating special enemies, it's also fantastically well-designed, well-written, and peppered with wonderful behind-the-scenes info about the making of the game. I had a super time reading it, and it enhanced my appreciation of the game.