Or a lucky cat:

The most challenging part of Color Splash was figuring out what Thing cards were needed to thwart a boss or progress in a level. Things are the keys to boss battles: about halfway through, bosses will unleash a one-hit kill special attack that can only be prevented with the correct item. If you don’t have it, you’re screwed. There is a hint system to help with that, but it didn’t stop me from twice working through an entire dungeon and arriving at a boss battle that I couldn’t possibly win. My own impatience was to blame, though. I should have visited the Toad who lives in a trash-can in the hub town, and mysteriously knows exactly what it is you’ll need next.

The developers are proud enough of these Thing sequences to have included a little making-of section about them in the in-game manual (which is secretly awesome, by the way), full of great art and behind-the-scenes info on Paper Mario’s development. Along with the always-excellent localization, jokes, word-play, visual gags and delightful Nintendo cameos, they make Color Splash genuinely funny.

It’s also unexpectedly massive. I set aside a good 20 hours for Color Splash and finishing it took closer to twice that (30-35 hours). I was getting rather impatient with it in the second half. Some of the later-game plot twists feel like artificial roadblocks: once or twice it performs that unforgivable Skyward Sword trick of showing you the item you’re looking for, then “surprising” you with an extended detour before you’re allowed to actually get it. One irritating sticking point for me was a game-show level that wanted a perfect score before yielding the item I needed to progress. This game-show interlude was great fun when it was a one-off break from adventuring, but phenomenally irritating when it demanded perfection.

Color Splash’s pacing feels a little off at times. The puzzles and general wordiness slow things right down, but card combat and getting around the levels feels simple and snappy. This is just one way in which it feels caught between JRPG and action-adventure. It’s hard not to miss some of the role-playing elements, like levelling up and equipment-fiddling, that were present in the older Paper Mario games. There’s no compelling reason for them not to be there, and the simplistic card-battling could have been significantly improved by the depth that such systems might have offered. Despite its wit and surreal diversions, there were times when I just wanted it to move on.

Color Splash is so damned imaginative and beautiful, though, so colorful and confidently funny. Even when it annoyed me, it was only fleetingly. It makes the abstract world of Mario so personable. Its gentle, playful weirdness and irreverence contrast so positively with the prevailing seriousness of fall’s big games. It also has the kind of originality that I desperately wanted and never got from Paper Jam Bros. Apart from Zelda, it will be the last big Wii U game, and it embodies so much of what makes its host console lovable.

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles. Follow them on @Kotaku_UK.