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Games of 2012: Paper Mario 3DS

2D or not 2D? Flat is the question...

Nintendo's playing it fairly safe when it comes to ol' Mazza at the moment.

Super Mario 3D Land took a step back from Galaxy's universe-conquering adventures to bring us something a little closer to home, and it seems Intelligent Systems are keen on stripping back some of the weirdness of their previous Mario RPGs.

In other words, it's all looking very Mushroom Kingdom-y so far, with Mario skipping across the greenest grass in all of videogaming, bopping Goombas and Koopas, bashing his head against blocks, collecting coins and saving distressed Toads. So far we've seen very familiar desert, jungle and mountain areas, and a snowy plain that resembles the original's Shiver Mountain.

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GameCube cracker The Thousand-Year Door got plenty of mileage taking us away from all that - who could forget the monochrome loveliness of Boggly Woods, the train ride on the Excess Express, the fight with skeletal pirate Cortez or the brilliant Glitzville wrestling tournament?

By comparison, Paper Mario 3DS seems a little unadventurous. Perhaps this is Nintendo's way of introducing Mario to a new generation of players, or simply a nostalgia trip for the benefit of veterans. Either way, the screen furniture is instantly recognisable, even with a papercraft makeover.

Of course, much of the fun in the Paper Mario games lies in the ways Mario interacts with the scenery. Here, most of the world has been covered in barrier tape by Bowser, and it's up to our newly svelte hero to tug aside these obstructions, at which point objects and even buildings spring into being like a pop-up book. Naturally, these effects look brilliant in 3D, and they're just the first of many treats.

Head into battle - as before, these are turn-based scraps with additional offensive and defensive bonuses for well-timed button presses - and you'll find plenty more graphical delights.

A huge pair of scissors snips away at a group of Spinies and the whole area peels away at the cuts, curling and falling off the bottom of the screen. A giganto-fan whisks around a group of Goombas, which seem to emerge from the screen as they near the camera before diving back in as the whirlwind circles.

In the field, there's a gawp-worthy moment as Mario walks behind and in front of a cascade of parachuting Bob-ombs, while a neat twist on the traditional block-nutting sees the square yellow wrapping simply drift away as Mario's head makes contact.

The wonky-eyed needn't fret too much - there's nothing that requires you to see 3D - but for the rest of us, these visual details help to bring the sort-of-2D-but-not world to life. Pulling open a cupboard to see several Toads cascade to the floor along with a bundle of loose documents is a guaranteed grin-raiser.

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If it's much closer to the first two Paper games than the more action-focused Super variety, there's still a little of the latter's platforming sequences, as Mario hops over lava and leaps onto a raft as it floats towards the camera. There's also a little minigame sequence where Mario plants some paper flowers, patting them in before they unfurl to reveal a bed of colourful blooms.

A nod to Okami's world-prettifying, perhaps? Not that the big M is alone in his clean-up operation. As is traditional, you'll be joined by a variety of partner characters with different abilities, including a green Toad and, erm, a crown with eyes. Mario is also joined at one stage by a former foe. A friendly Chain Chomp is the unlikely ally - let's hope, unlike a certain infamous NGamer inflatable, he's not a Wrong 'un.

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