By JAMES DAWSON
The Paper Mario series has served as an outlet for developer Intelligent Systems’ wacky take on the Mario series since the first game was released on the Nintendo 64 a decade ago. Despite a few minor shortcomings, “Paper Mario: Sticker Star” for the Nintendo 3DS continues to deliver a humorous take on everyone’s favorite plumber.
As the name suggests, “Paper Mario: Sticker Star” is all about stickers. They’re scattered everywhere in the paperized Mushroom Kingdom, and they’re also Mario’s chief method of defense.
Like previous entries in the series, “Sticker Star” forgoes the platforming of the mainline Mario series in favor of RPG-like, turn- based battles. These battles are where the stickers see their main use. Every time Mario attacks, he uses up a sticker. Of course, while this means players have a limited number of attacks each battle, it’s rare to run out of stickers outside of boss battles.
The battle system has a mixture of elements from the mainline series, as well as features that are commonplace in more traditional RPGs like “Final Fantasy” or “Pokémon”. This means that, while the gameplay is entirely turn-based, the player is still able to increase the effect of each attack with a well-timed button press.Of course this doesn’t sound like much, but it’s just enough to turn what could have been a game of “pick-the-best-sticker” into a much more engaging experience. However, the game’s battle system does have its flaws.
For instance, because of lack of basic RPG mechanics like experience and leveling, it’s usually better to run from most battles. This wouldn’t be the case if they rewarded players in some other way, but they don’t. And to make matters worse, each random battle with Bowser’s grunts use up stickers that could otherwise be saved for bosses.
With that tidbit aside, however, the battle system is still a blast, and the game’s dialog is as witty as ever. Nevertheless, fans of past titles may find the game’s story to be lacking.
While “Sticker Star” is full of clever one-liners that are sure to put a smirk on anyone’s face, it doesn’t emphasize story like previous titles in the series did. In fact, the story really isn’t any more fleshed out than Mario’s platforming titles, and that’s a pity for a game that’s marketed as a role-playing game.
However, what it lacks in story, it makes up for in challenge. “Sticker Star” isn’t a hard game in the traditional sense, but players must think outside of the box in order to progress through the game’s six worlds, as puzzles litter the land. And like the game’s battle system, these puzzles are all completed using various special stickers.
The special stickers used for puzzles differ, however, as they began life as “things,” or non-paperized objects. Once you have a “thing,” you can then turn it into a powerful sticker that can be used in puzzles, or in battles for greater effects. However, they can be tricky to find and require the player to pay careful attention to the surrounding areas.
For what it’s worth, “Paper Mario: Sticker Star” is a wonderful addition to the 3DS’s library. However, fans of past entries may find its emphasis on gameplay over story disheartening, while less patient players may opt to use a walkthrough rather than spend time confused at the game’s many sticker-based puzzles.