Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Review
This is the second game in the Paper Mario franchise and starts out like almost every other Mario game ever: Princess Peach is kidnapped and Mario is given a letter telling him to do something. In this case Princess Peach is kidnapped by aliens rather than Bowser, and Mario is given a map to the crystal stars and a hidden treasure. And while investigating the map it becomes clear to Mario that Princess Peach has yet again become kidnapped when talking to the locals. With the only way of rescuing her is to find all the crystal stars.
The beginning of the game is filled with a lot of dialogue that can get boring at times. But after a few hours of playing the game, then you actually get into the game. As it starts to build momentum and story line. So you're reading less and playing more. At times, there will be hundreds of characters on-screen and on occasions like these, it really does show the quirkiness of the series which I really enjoyed. The game not only follows the actions of Mario and friends, but the events led by the mysterious Lord Crump and his X-nauts, Princess Peach and her new-found 'relationship' with a computer not dissimilar to HAL, and Bowser as he plays catch-up to all the action. During these narrative tangents, the player takes control of these characters for a short time, seeing what they get up to. Such as when Bowser is in his castle waiting on a briefing to learn that someone other than himself has kidnapped Princess Peach.
Combat wise, you are joined by one other companion and you fight in a turn-based style. The companion can be switched out for different ones that each have their own abilities and attacks both normal and flower power. An element that was added for this game for combat is playing up the audience who award the player stars that can be used to level up Mario once you reach 100. Then you get the option of increasing either your health, flower power, or badge amount. You gain stars from the audience by appealing to the crowd and wow-ing them with well timed commands. Occasionally they might also throw you items. And the audience it's just something for the player, they are actual characters watching the game that bosses may also interact with. Example, Hookshot the first boss will eat the audience to regain health.
The areas in the game are interlocking through the main town, but also feel completely separate at the same time. Similar to Super Mario 64 and jumping into worlds through paintings. As you progress through the game, you will learn new skills that will help out in later parts of the game but also means there will be some back-tracking into order to get into new areas of the map. As this is Paper Mario, they take that name quite literally by turning Mario into a paper plane, tube, and boat in order to travel to certain places. I enjoyed this concept in the game but it doesn't play into puzzles as much as it probably could. Puzzles themselves are few and far between. And the areas in the map are drawn in a 2D manner but are actually 3D.
Sound development in the game is similar to any Mario game, it's one song played on a loop as you travel through the map until you run into a new situation like a fight or arrival to a new destination. Every area also has it's own unique sound that you don't necessarily play attention to but are subtle differences that make the game interesting.
Even after finishing the final chapter, players will be able to continue playing for as long as they want should they decide to find every single badge, star piece, dish recipe and enemy profile via Goombella's Tattle attack. In hindsight, the dish recipes in this game are much harder to discover than its sequel, Super Paper Mario, as players aren't told what ingredients are needed, making it a trial and error process. Although a much more challenging method, this offers players more satisfaction when recipes are stumbled upon. There's also an additional playable character not featured on the main title screen that can be found somewhere in the game. Like all partners, this character will possess a unique ability; one that will come in handy should you find yourself hunting all the collectibles. There are several side 'missions' available, offering players enough replay value to keep coming back to the game.
Overall, I really enjoyed Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Though it's very similar to all other Mario games with very little new content being added for the typical Mario formula.