When reviewing a game like "Super Paper Mario," it's difficult to avoid comparing it to its predecessors. "SPM" is technically the sequel to the two "Paper Mario" games released on the N64 and Gamecube, which were loose continuations of "Super Mario RPG," a Square-made Super Nintendo gem. Despite this, "Super Paper Mario" is a whole new game, sharing only some of the elements of the original "trilogy." It's still a solid title, but the changes may be a bit much for a fan expecting the same kind of game.
"SPM" is basically one huge in-joke. Everything from the design of the characters to the plot itself pokes fun at the Mario series, the Nintendo universe and to a point, the entire gaming subculture. Satire aside, "SPM" is an innovative addition to the library of Mario games.
The gameplay is as straightforward as you could expect from a platform game. The player controls Mario or one of the other available characters and traverses through levels, jumping on enemies or otherwise fighting them to survive. Complexities come in the form of Pixls, floating companions that serve a variety of purposes, from grabbing objects, to revealing hidden objects, to blowing things up, and more. The different characters and Pixls alone give the player many ways to go through the game, but designers added a third element that really impresses. For the first time, Mario may "flip." With the press of a button, the player (who is referred to in-game as The Cosmic Being Watching Us) can switch the game from 2-D to 3-D. With this, the developers have turned the iconic first stage from "Mario Brothers" into the beginning of a new world "in between the lines."
There are many ways this affects the gameplay, most notably in that it gives the player an entirely new way to solve problems. Even several worlds into the storyline, the answers to puzzles are fairly simple and yet easy to miss if you don't look at them from the right perspective. Sometimes, the flip system can make things a bit too easy, though.
As always, the plotline is completely absurd. The game begins like most others in the Mario series. The plumber and his brother are at home, minding their own business, when a terrified Toad informs them of the Princess Peach's bi-weekly capture. Knowing exactly who would be stupid enough to try and steal away the princess again, Mario and Luigi hightail it to Bowser's Castle, only to find that the creature behind all the trouble is a lot more sinister. It would be interesting to see Nintendo try to put a more serious spin on the comical plumber, but until then, the story is of little importance.
The look of "Super Paper Mario" is one of its major selling points and for good reason. The game has a retro-Renaissance, old-school feel to it.
While "Super Paper Mario" is its own game, one can't help but note how much it relies on previous material. The game is certainly worth a purchase, but it's time Nintendo reinvented the franchise.