Paper Mario: Color Splash
At PAX West 2016, I had a hands-on session with the upcoming Wii U title Paper Mario: Color Splash, taking on an arena full of koopas, shyguys, and goombas.
While the arena itself had plenty of characters to talk to and secrets to find in hidden areas, the core draw was the combat. Using a collection of colorful cards to set up attacks isn't anything new, but integrating timing mechanics as the battle plays out ensures that every jump and hammer smash keeps the player invested and active throughout the "turn-based" action.
If you press the button at the right time, your attacks are much more powerful and can crush entire groups of enemies in a single blow. Each attack has different timing to master, so you won't just have one catch-all to memorize, the timing execution at the top of a jump and the windup of a hammer are vastly different, and this extends to enemy turns as well - you have to block incoming attacks by tapping the button at the right time to prevent taking massive damage. You can get away without blocking during regular fights, but it's absolutely essential to get your timing down for boss fights or they can take you down in just a few hits. All of the combat mechanics are focused on keeping the player engaged with proper timing, so things never stagnate even when you're just going through the motions crushing smaller enemies as you work your way up to bosses.
In addition to hammers, fire flowers, jumps, and healing mushrooms - the bread and butter abilities - players also have access to powerful real world items that often play out hilariously when used in combat. These one use cards represent things like plungers, bones, or pigs, and have rather epic animated sequences that play out as their area-of-effect attacks clean up entire groups of enemies in a single blow. It's important to conserve these cards so you have them available during boss encounters, but you collect enough of them that you can splurge a little bit to smash through a common pack of foes now and then.
Cards can be powered up by painting them before you flick them out into combat, and most enemies will drop dollops of paint and sometimes additional cards. Special items like super stars can show up in crates, allowing you to lay waste to swarms of enemies without ever entering combat. Exploring the environment pays off, as you can paint in walls and other unpainted pockets to collect additional and often powerful cards.
Paper Mario: Color Splash lands on October 7, and I'm interested in seeing more of what the game has to offer. If the combat is any indicator, it's shaping up to be a really cool take on the classic turn-based RPG.