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Scene, Sunday, May 6, 2007

Rudimentary graphics. Predictable story line. All-too-familiar characters. Is high-leaping Mario going lame?

No way! "Super Paper Mario" might have a retro look and feel, but it’s highly addictive.

The mustachioed Mario has been a Nintendo standard-bearer for ages, so it was only a matter of time before he appeared in a game for the Wii console.

"Super Paper Mario" is a sequel in a series of side-scrolling platformers that eschew high-end graphics in favor of paper-thin characters and simple, two-dimensional settings. However, they also pack plenty of fun.

The game opens with the nefarious Count Bleck kidnapping Princess Peach, Mario’s brother Luigi and the evil dragon/turtle/lizard Bowser. That leaves only Mario to prevent Bleck from destroying all worlds so he can create a new world. Although Count Bleck is a new villain, every Mario fan knows where this story is heading.

Mario must collect Pure Hearts and Pixis, which enable him to perform different tasks and attacks. Along the way, his pals escape Bleck’s clutches and become playable characters. Each has different strengths and abilities, such as Bowser’s flaming breath of death.

However, only Mario has the special ability that makes this game "super."

The bulk of the game consists of 2-D side-scrolling action — leaping over obstacles and pouncing on foes. However, with the press of a button, Mario switches into 3-D mode, which allows him to go around objects, find hidden objects and discover secret passages. In fact, it’s necessary to make the 3-D conversion quite often in order to grab all of the goodies and upgrades available.

Gameplay doesn’t really take advantage of the Wii’s motion-sensitive controller. Aside from a bit of shaking, wiggling and pointing, most of the action involves pressing buttons.

However, "Super Paper Mario" proves that you don’t necessarily need next-generation controllers or graphics to create a fun experience.

The characters and their actions are quirky and entertaining. The puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, but they’re challenging enough to require some thought. In addition, the game’s quests, character interactions and hefty cut scenes help it feel much more like a role-playing game and give it more depth than might be expected. It all combines to keep you going back for "one more level."

A high-end Mario title is still in the works, but "Super Paper Mario" will be more then enough to keep addicts leaping.

Platform: WiiOn the Web:http://wii.nintendo.com/site/spm/

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