Mario Paint
  • Genre:
    • Miscellaneous
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 07/14/1992
    • US 08/01/1992
    • UK 12/10/1992
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/28/2015.

Mario Paint is a video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in Japan on July 14, 1992, North America on August 1, 1992, and Europe on December 10, 1992. This game came packaged with a mouse peripheral that hooks into the controller port of the SNES console to make point-and-click interfaces easier, though only certain games support it, like this one. Anyway, Mario Paint is essentially a Mario themed Microsoft Paint for the SNES with a few additional features. Not only is Mario a heroic plumber that saves damsels in distress, but now he's a painter, too. He never ceases to amaze. The game is far more intuitive than Microsoft Paint and, at the time, was a fairly powerful multimedia creation tool. It was a brilliant idea, because Mario Paint acted as a creative outlet for kids that grew tired of playing with their Lego sets. Obviously, Mario Paint is no match for professional software, but the easy interface makes it an excellent tool for beginners.

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The most basic feature of Mario Paint is, as its name clearly implies, the ability to paint. You have a pencil tool with various levels of thickness, a spray tool, a paintbrush tool that replicates the function of the bucket tool in other popular art software by filling the screen with a single color, a line tool to draw straight lines and angles, a tool to draw perfect squares and circles, a text tool, an eraser, and more. An assortment of colors is available for use with most of these tools, and there are even patterns, like a fabulous rainbow pattern, a sparkle pattern, and even different wallpaper patterns. Most of the tools work pretty well, but some of them are a bit slow, like how the paintbrush tool takes forever to completely fill the entire screen, and the shape tools are a little sluggish. Similarly, being that the SNES is a 16-bit system, it doesn't have access to the full color range. Having said all that, the countless options make it easy to get lost in Mario Paint, doodling for hours on end.

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Since you have a mouse and hopefully no cat, clicking through the menus in Mario Paint is super easy. The interface is incredibly intuitive, with almost every option being represented by obvious icons instead of boring text, and there are also unique sounds for the different options. Some of the icons aren't as obvious, but they're still easy to figure out and easy to remember once you do. In a way, the unobvious icons have an alluring mysteriousness to them, as if they beckon you to check them out. That's some good menu design right there, as it inspires adventurous experimentation. A nice touch is how there's different animations for erasing the whole screen, which exist merely to entertain. However, a slight snag is that some of the submenus don't have a way of going to a previous page, forcing you to flip through unnecessary stuff before you can get back to the option you missed. Other than that minor annoyance, the menus are both wonderfully intuitive and brimming with personality. Nintendo really went the extra mile here. Modern software designers could learn a thing or two from Mario Paint's intuitive interface.

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One of the coolest features of Mario Paint is stamps. A stamp is really just this game's way of saying sprites. In case you don't know the definition of a sprite, it's basically any object in a 2-D video game, such as characters, enemies, etc. There are a wide variety of sprites available, many of which were created specifically for this game. Some of the sprites are taken directly from Super Mario World, featuring iconic characters like Mario, Yoshi, and baddies like Koopa Troopas, Goombas, and Bob-ombs. What's truly great is that you can create your very own. The game has a utility that lets you create custom sprites right down to the pixel, which while nowhere near as good as what professional pixel artists use, it's still pretty neat. So if you want to put Sonic into this game, you can, provided you're a good enough pixel artist. Unfortunately, due to the limited space on an SNES cart, you can't save too many custom sprites. Also, the color palette available to you when creating sprites is very limited, much more than when painting normally. Still, the fact that they let you create your own sprites at all is awesome.

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There's more to this game than just painting, because you can also compose music. That should be music to your ears. Each sound is represented by an icon of some kind, like Mario's disembodied head, a cat, a dog, a plane, a Game Boy, etc. For the most part, the sounds will match their icons; the cat meows, the dog makes a woof sound, the Game Boy beeps, and so on. There are a few odd ones that don't make any sense, but they're all memorable sound effects nonetheless. Placing the icons higher or lower will change the tone slightly, and you get to hear the sound as soon as it's placed. Three built in songs are already available for demonstrative purposes, and you can customize them if you don't want to start from scratch. The tools for making music, while limited, couldn't be any easier to use. You'll still have to know a thing or two about music theory to actually make anything good, though. It's surprisingly versatile, in that sense. If the music making options were more advanced, Nintendo could have called this game Mario Music.

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Creating your very own animations is a very real possibility in Mario Paint. This is, by far, the most complex part of Mario Paint, but it's also the most satisfying. Firstly, you create a background for your animation. After that, you choose between four, six, or nine frames of animation. The sizes of each frame decreases or increases depending on how many frames there are; the more frames there are, the smaller their size. Frames are presented via panels, kind of like a comic book, and all the frames you're working with are visible on the same screen, which is awfully convenient. The strangest part about animating is creating a path, though it's still quite simple. Basically, you draw a path on the screen for your animation to move around in. For example, you can make a looping animation of Mario walking from the right side of the screen to the left. Once done with your animation, you can add music to it, then save the results and load it later. Sadly, only a single animation can be saved at a time, and saving also takes forever. This all takes a lot of work, but even with such a basic toolset, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

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As cool as Mario Paint is, it really isn't much of a game. It does, however, contain an actual game within it. That game is called Gnat Attack. It's a game about swatting bugs. You control a disembodied hand that wields a fly swatter and your mission is to swat insects. The controls are simple, as all you have to do is point and click, just like everything else in the game. There are different types of bugs that show up; some are completely harmless, but others will attack your hand with harmful projectiles and the like. Your life meter is represented by hand icons and can be replenished by picking up spare hands. Each level contains exactly 100 insects, with a giant bug boss at the end. Only three levels total are available, but they're all incredibly challenging, and you start back on level one if you lose just once. Besides, the game would get repetitive if there were more levels. Gnat Attack may very well be the best part of Mario Paint, and it's not even the main focus of the game.

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Mario Paint is an exquisite work of art, not unlike a beautiful painting. There is so much to do in this 16-bit cartridge. You can paint, draw, compose music, animate, and even play a bug swatting mini-game that's way more fun than it ought to be. It's like a toy box of limitless fun. Aside from the slightly complex nature of creating animations, the remarkably intuitive interface and obscenely simple controls make this a creative tool anyone can enjoy. You can even make some truly impressive stuff if you're talented. Of course, being that this isn't professional software and that it's running on ancient hardware, it has many limitations. It does do a ton for what it is, though, and it's still plenty of fun to play around with. Those with a creative itch will get a lot out of this game.

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