Paper Mario: Sticker Star Review

Paper Mario: Sticker Star Review

Genre: Role Playing Game

Platform: 3DS

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Publisher: Nintendo

Released: November 11th 2012

Among all the games starring Mario, the Paper Mario series is one of the most unique not only for Nintendo, but in console gaming, not only for its peculiar presentation but also for how the games are played, often taking advantage of the paper-thin appearance to create original gameplay mechanics. Developer Intelligent Systems has always managed to make every game a fresh experience, sticking to some basic elements and constantly expanding them with a new take in each and every game. Did Intelligent Systems once again deliver or is the 3DS entry of the series as thin as its characters?

Stickers in the Mushroom Kingdom

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a Mario game so you can probably guess the general premise: Peach gets kidnapped. Again. Bowser is certainly to commend for his dedication, even though his evil plans always get thwarted by our beloved plumber.  This time, together with taking Peach away from the annual Sticker Fest in the Mushroom Kingdom, Bowser steals the Sticker Comet that passes over the Kingdom every year, scattering its fragments all over the world.  The “Stickers” spin on the usual Mario plot is used to justify the main objective of the game: gathering stickers!
Like in the other Paper Mario games, the plot is simply hilarious, full of comical moments, references to previous entries and small easter eggs with an excellent writing.
Funny times also come from the characters and objects behaviors which underline the fact that they’re made of papers: koopas fold before getting into their shells, blocks get divided into 6 pieces when hit by Mario’s hammer and so on. All the quirks of the series are present in Sticker Star and they look as great as they did before: it’s like one of those child’s book getting beautifully animated. And thanks to the 3DS capabilities the paper effect looks better than ever: I don’t usually have the 3D slider to the max when playing 3DS games but in Sticker Star it was right at the max for the whole time. Music wise, the game doesn’t stray far from the usual Mario tunes: they serve their purpose well and are quite catchy, if not somewhat generic sometimes.

Collector’s mania

Stickers have a central role during gameplay in both exploration and combat phases. The game plays like the other Paper Mario games: the game is divided into stages, each containing a fragment of the comet, usually obtained after a boss battle. While traveling players will have to solve puzzle and riddles with the help of the stickers and engage the usual array of Mario’s enemies like Goombas, Koopas and so on. The Battle system goes back to the roots of the first Paper Mario games: gone is the real time system used in Super Paper Mario. The way the game sets itself apart from the old games is the total absence of RPG management mechanics: no experience points, no stats, no leveling. The battles are fought through the use of stickers: each sticker can only be used a single time and once activated you’ll be able to use one of the many abilities like jumping, using the hammer, throwing fireballs and so on. Without experience points, gold coins become one of the most important things in the game since they’re used to buy new stickers and even to trigger a special slot machine which allows for extra attacks during the same turn.
Performing the attacks follows the tried Mario RPGs formula in having to press buttons at the right time for increased damage and it’s something that keeps the player engaged even during common encounters, avoiding the typical boredom coming from standard turn based battle systems.  The new system, however, has some flaws: there’s no real reason to fight common enemies since the golden coin rewards is usually really modest and you have to save stickers as much as you can. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only balancing problem in the game.

Look, scissors on the grass fields!

Even though the colorful presentation seems aimed at attracting all kinds of gamers, Sticker Star is not the most accessible game you can find: there’s almost no in-game explanation on how the game mechanics work. It’s up to the player understanding how battle and puzzle solving works and a newcomer may feel a bit confused in the beginning. It’s right during puzzle solving moments that the game shows some more problems: most of the times they’re tied to the new ability to create items by applying stickers. The main problem is that these stickers are scattered all over the world for no logical reason: you may reach a puzzle that needs a specific sticker to be solved and this sticker could be hidden in a totally different stage!  It’s simply frustrating sometimes and it’s an useless gimmick to lengthen the game time; also the puzzles are simply boring because you have to use that specific sticker for that specific puzzles: they could have required more creativity to solve but Intelligent Systems opted for a more “on rails” approach.
The same can be said about boss battles: most of the times they require a very specific strategy to be beaten, a strategy requiring another particular sticker! This trial and error approach only manages to make everything more frustrating and it’s a real shame because everything else in the game is simply well crafted and enjoyable, so much that players will be easily inclined to forgive and forget these balancing problems.

Final Thoughts

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a good entry of the series: I found the game better than Super Paper Mario but still not as good as Paper Mario: The Thousand Years Door which is my favorite Paper Mario game. It’s a charming game that makes the presentation and a simple yet fun storytelling its best features. A more balanced gameplay would have made it quite a bit better experience; still Intelligent System truly deserves praise for trying a new direction which just needs a few more tweaks to be really flawless. Paper Mario fans will really like Sticker Star since it has everything that makes Paper Mario games fun; newcomers may feel a little confused at first for the lack of tutorials and explanations but once they grasp everything, they’re gonna have love the game as well

PROS

  • Great presentation
  • Great 3D effect
  • Simple story with excellent execution and pacing
  • Great writing
  • Good game length

CONS

  • Lacking in-game explanations
  • Too much trial and error in boss battles
  • Sometimes frustrating puzzles
  • Sudden difficulty spikes

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

7.0 out of 10


Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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avatar Gamer since 1989, Japanese culture and gaming lover and former JRPG enthusiast, heavy metal musician. 24 hours a day are too little to balance gaming, studying, working and playing in band!