If you only saw screenshots like the one above, you'd be forgiven for mistaking Super Paper Mario for an All-stars-style update of the original Super Mario Bros. When you see the 95 percent complete build on the GDC show floor, though, it's easy to see that the game is a true continuation of the Paper Mario series, with a few significant changes thrown in.
Everything you remember from Intelligent Systems' two Paper Mario games is here -- the irreverent writing style, the smoothly animated flat characters set in a detailed polygonal world and the items and leveling structure will all be familiar to Paper Mario fans. The now-familiar Paper Mario sidekicks also return in the form of Pixls -- little hovering companions that can perform specialized functions like turning into bombs or grabbing nearby enemies.
What's changed is how you interact with the enemies -- through platform-style jumps instead of turn-based battles. It's amazing how the lack of jarring, momentum-stealing battles every 30 seconds transforms the game into a more fluid and much more enjoyable experience.
The other major change, as has already been shown in countless online videos, is the ability to switch between a 2D side-view and a 3D over the shoulder view with a tap of the A button. It's interesting to see the familiar 2D environments converted into sometimes-complex, layered 3D environments, though the puzzles that used this mechanic in the demo seemed pretty facile.
The Wii's motion-sensitive controls allow for some occasional aerial acrobatics, but for the most part, the game brings back the simple run and jump control scheme of the NES Mario games with little embellishment. Which is just fine by us. Just because the Wii allows for motion-sensitive controls doesn't mean they should be shoehorned in when other, simpler controls work just as well or better.