A simplified plot, constant item management, and a world-map level structure – This isn’t the “Paper Mario” you’re used to. “Paper Mario” has typically been known for a having an engrossing plot with new worlds, characters, and never being short on humor. “Sticker Star” drops all of this, asides from the humor, but does it work?
“Paper Mario: Sticker Star” isn’t quite what I expected out of a “Paper Mario” game. While I’m used to the loose RPG elements of the franchise, “Sticker Star” completely changes the dynamic of the way battles work in the use of its stickers. It’s not like anything else out there.
“Sticker Star” is presented as a combination of RPG and platforming elements. The world map is stylized similar to a typical Mario game, with worlds and stages of the “1-5” variety. The stages increasingly involve, and encourage, more-and-more exploration. The game has a well-balanced difficulty, and just as the gameplay starts to grow stagnant, the developer throws new and varied challenges at you that will keep you interested.
As the name implies, stickers are the key gameplay element to “Paper Mario: Sticker Star”. You will use your stickers for various tasks. It could be to hang up in a museum as you try to collect them all, it could be in order to advance in the game, or, and most frequently, they are used in battle. Stickers are kept within a sticker album you carry along, which has a limited amount of space. Several of the more powerful stickers take up more space in your album, forcing you to consider if they’re worth taking along. You cannot attack in “Sticker Star” without using a sticker - And – There’s a catch. Once you use a sticker, it’s gone.
But, while you plow through your stickers in battle, you will find stickers splattered everywhere throughout the game, so you don’t need to worry too much about running out. Enemies present you with no form of ‘exp’, making defeating them more of a choice. What you end up with is a unique battle system that makes you think about which stickers you utilize in battle, and will also make you consider dodging enemies instead of fighting them.
Within “Sticker Star” there are two types of stickers. Battle stickers and “Things” stickers. Battle stickers are used while fighting enemies, and essentially replace general attack and defense commands. “Things” can be used both for battles and to solve puzzles within the game. Every boss is weak to a “Thing” sticker, and you will need to utilize the “Things” in order to actually progress in the game. This is where the game shows its flaws.
You can only carry one of each “Things” sticker at a time within your sticker album. They typically take up a large amount of space in your album, which will discourage you from carrying extra. Often times there is no indication as to which “Things” sticker will help you to defeat a boss, of which are practically impossible to defeat without the proper “Thing”. This becomes frustrating quickly and seems to be an easy fix by simply placing in-game hints. The puzzles in the game largely revolve around using “Thing” stickers, and placing these on the environment in order to cause it to change. Again, the game usually gives no indication as to which “Things” sticker is needed. While not game-breaking, these bumps in the road are discouraging, and feel as-if they could have been avoided.
One shining star of a plus side to the game is the writing. While I missed the grandiose adventure of past “Paper Mario” titles, and the depth they presented, the writing still maintained the fun and accessible humor of the previous installments. Meeting new characters is a pleasure, and certain dialogue sequences are downright hilarious.
GraphicsThe graphics are crisp and the 3D works well. “Sticker Star” presents the bright and colorful world of Mario with no mars and is always a sight to see. Everything in the game is made to look and act like paper, and the graphics perfectly compliment this.
One visual flaw I do feel worth pointing out is in the “Things” stickers. These are ordinary, run-of-the-mill items which you will interact with in the game. This includes scissors, radiators, and birthday cake. You are essentially reading a storybook, and these “Things” are mystical items to the characters of the storybook with magic powers. Such as scissors, which can cut up paper! The developer seems to have used this to add humor and adapt a feel of real-world items being out of place in this world, but they end up both feeling and looking out of place to the game. In such a colorful world, the bland “Things” ended up being more of a miss.
The music is fitting to the Mario world. It’s fairly light-hearted and themed appropriately to the stages they are part of. Like any Mario game, “Sticker Star” draws from and utilizes previous Mario themes. Regardless of this, asides from one boss battle, there really wasn’t any memorable music. It sits inoffensively in the background, neither hindering nor particularly enhancing the experience. The sound FX all work, and add to the feel of the game. Be it the familiar Mario jump or the unfolding of stickers.
The sticker system goes completely contrary to my nature as a completionist. I rarely use items when I play RPGs, as I constantly wonder: “What if I need this for later?” So, stepping into this was difficult for me, and it was a process that I had to get used to, but it did grow on me. What I ended up finding was a charming and original, albeit flawed game.
For those new to the “Paper Mario” franchise, this is a good introduction to a series filled with several gems. If you’re a fan of previous “Paper Mario” titles, you should still get a kick out of this, as long as you level your expectations regarding the story and RPG depth. In a time full of repetitive sequels, “Sticker Star” presents a fresh new take on combat unlike anything we’ve seen before.