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Paper Mario: Sticker Star

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Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Image © Nintendo
Super Mario is a travellin’ man. He began life on the 2D plane, leapt into 3D, and has retreated back into a two-dimensional world whenever it’s suited him. Some fans argue that the second dimension is Mario’s element, and no series demonstrates this point as literally as the long-running Paper Mario series by Intelligent Systems, including Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the Nintendo 3DS.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is another entry in the Paper Mario line of role-playing games (RPGs), though it exchanges many traditional RPG elements for a more action-centric battle system that executes commands through stickers. The end product is very clever and moves far more quickly than 2007’s chatty Super Paper Mario for the Wii, which is nice. Even so, fans of the series will be disappointed to learn that Paper Mario: Sticker Star isn’t quite as bright, energetic, or player-friendly as 2004’s Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door for the GameCube.

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action/RPG
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS


GOOD: Great graphics and sound. Funny dialogue and script. Sticker-based battle system is unique, but easy to learn.

BAD: Far less story than previous Paper Mario games. Sometimes the game is frustratingly vague about what you need to do next.

THE BASICS: Stick it to Mario

Paper Mario games take place in a universe wherein Mario, his pals, and his enemies all exist as two-dimensional paper cut-outs. While the unique design choice was born as a way to surmount processing limitations (the first Paper Mario game was on the N64), the games’ paper angle has since implemented itself into the gameplay. Paper Mario characters fold, float, peel, rip, and tear. They also burn real good.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star takes the paper thing one step further by introducing stickers as items of immense power. The game begins with the people of the Mushroom Kingdom celebrating Sticker Fest, which climaxes with the appearance of the heavenly Sticker Comet. Bowser, being his bad ol’ self, steals the Comet for himself and begins to wreak havoc. It’s up to Mario to save the day.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star combines traditional Mario action like jumping and hammer-swinging with special attacks and tactics that are executed via the collection and usage of stickers.

GAMEPLAY: A-Peeling

The sticker system that drives battles in Paper Mario: Sticker Star is unique. Almost every move Mario makes against an enemy, including jumping, using a hammer, or flinging fireballs, is conducted only after the relevant stickers are selected in each round. Stickers can be bought, but they can also be peeled off the landscape or earned after battles. While the system sounds like a nightmare for players who are paranoid about using consumable items in role-playing games (you all know who you are), stickers are plentiful and you shouldn’t have much problem with supply.

Unlike previous Paper Mario games, Mario has no allies to help him fight through Sticker Star. However, he can feed coins into a slot game at the start of each round, which wins him the chance to use two or three stickers in one turn. He can even pay additional coins to “fix” the slots and guarantee a victory. Beware: The more often you turn to the slots in a single battle, the more expensive it gets. Still, it’s worth spending a few coins to get the edge against tougher enemies.

Mario is also aided in battle with extra-special stickers referred to as “Things”—household objects (plus one goat) that can be transformed into sticker form. “Things” deliver a wallop during a fight, and/or create effects that are necessary for winning boss battles.

The implementation of “Things” highlights a major problem with Sticker Star: the game can be maddeningly vague about what you’re supposed to do, and where you’re supposed to go. You might wind up wandering the same territory over and over while you search (usually without the aid of a solid clue) for a hidden item, or else you might chew on your nails in frustration as you sort through your “Things” and figure out which one will smack a particular boss in its Achilles heel. Thankfully, you begin to get a feel for how the game thinks as you progress, which means less staggering around.

Another Sticker Star shortcoming might be a major disappointment to the series’ fans in particular: The game’s story is extremely thin. Banter from bad guy Bowser, for instance, is nonexistent. That said, the non-player characters (NPC’s) still have lots to say, and the dialogue that’s present is funny and tightly-written.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND: A Pretty Picture

Like its predecessors, Sticker Star takes two-dimensional graphics to a literal level. Mario, his friends, his enemies, and many of his environments are paper-thin—in fact, they’re made out of paper and cardboard. Mario can slip, flip, and fold in Sticker Star with more fluidity than is possible in even the traditional Mario universe. It takes some getting used to if you’ve never played a Paper Mario game before, but the style is charming, colorful, and distinctive—an important trait, given that game visuals strive for realism and have become a bit homogenized for it.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star has a great soundtrack, from the upbeat tones of Toad Town to the ominous trumpet blats that accompany you through the poisoned woods. The sound effects are standard Mario fare (lots of “boink” and “doink”), and lend a classic feel to the game’s aesthetics. There’s no voice acting to speak of, and even Mario is completely silent. Even if you’re a fan of the “Woo-Hoos!” and “Wah-haaas!” voiced by actor Charles Martinet, it’s nice to travel with a quiet Mario for once.

CONCLUSION: Two-Dimensional, But Fun

Sticker Star is sometimes light on directions, and it’s definitely light on story, which is kind of a bummer. That said, the sticker-based battle system is innovative and is remarkably fun to toy with. The NPC’s are a trip to converse with, and the paper motif is as compelling as ever. Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a quicker, more streamlined play than either Thousand Year Door or Super Paper Mario. It’s a unique, fun game, but it might not topple your favorites and grab the top shelf in your heart.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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