There are moments in life where giant oversized stickers could make everything easier such as, making your talkative pal from saying another word, stopping the dog from peeing on the carpet, patching up your umbrella for a terrible day of rain and other crafty uses that your devious mind could think of. While you may not have these giant oversized stickers at your everyday disposal the next Paper Mario title gives you all the sticky freedom you ever dreamed of. The Paper Mario series has been around ever since the latter days of the Nintendo 64. While the series did begin as an RPG and continued to hold a formidable title even in the days of the GameCube, Mario also reached different dimensions in Super Paper Mario for the Wii, a change of pace for the series that played similar to the original Mario Bros. with a twist of being able to switch views from the back of Mario to the side of Mario. But now Intelligent Systems has brought Paper Mario (almost) back to his RPG roots with Paper Mario: Sticker Star!
Sticker Star tells the story of a festival that happens every year where toads and toadstools come from all around to have their wishes granted by the magical Sticker Star. The festival goes as planned until the party is crashed by Bowser and his gang, who take the Sticker Star’s power and steal Princess Peach as well. This leaves Mario in a wasted town with Toads stuck to all sorts of places that you couldn’t imagine and with a special sticker named Kersti. This plot may all sound very familiar if you have played past Paper Mario games, and that’s because it is almost exactly the same as the original Paper Mario’s plot with a few character designs and name changes where needed. But Kersti does have some different abilities than the original’s character “Twink”.
Stickers are the game’s main mechanic, being used not only being used for battles but for solving puzzles and helping Mario out of a sticky situation. Because Kersti is a magical “sticker fairy” she helps mario use the stickers in ways that other inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom cannot. Now Mario has the abilities to lay down stickers on areas that may open up a door or possibly spawn an invisible block that could not have been seen in another way. These stickers cannot be laid down anywhere in the game, the stickers are used in more of a point and click adventure style so only certain objects are compatible with stickers and even then most objects are only compatible with one sticker. Mistakes are not forgiven when it comes to stickers because if you happen to misplace a sticker or place the incorrect sticker, even if it is a key item in the game it will be removed from your inventory. Kersti also makes mario’s battles easier by letting him use a sticker roulette that allows mario to use up to three moves if he can match up three of the famous mario objects in a row.
The one thing that you may find to be really frightening about this game is that there is no experience or leveling in this game. Sticker Star utilizes the sticker aspects by making Mario use the stickers he finds lying around town for his disposal in the midst of battle. Turn based battles are back as the games main combat system but it ends up becoming more of a hassle than anything else because you are never rewarded with anything worthwhile. You end the battle with gaining a couple of coins, possibly more if you can complete a battle faster but battles only end up wasting the stickers that you horde throughout the game for the tougher enemies. Coins are only used to purchase more stickers from the towns’ shops but they never become a problem because you are rewarded so much for everything you do, even if you avoid most of the games battles there will never be a point where you are lacking too many coins. In the end I found my self trying to avoid enemies at all cost just because I felt like I was losing more from a battle than achieving.
The game’s character is the main thing that will pull you through this game, while the battle system and the puzzles may not be at the top of their game there will still be many moments that you can laugh at a toad cracking a joke or a Shy Guy acting out some slapstick that will leave you howling. It’s a shame to see so much character by wasted by a games lack of actual fun but I felt the urge to go on just so I could see what Mario could get into next.
Overall the game just feels like an experiment that didn’t turn out too well. The sticker system isn’t totally terrible but it doesn’t give the player any senses of progression that an RPG is supposed to. The game could do well as a casual pick up and play title, because there is no worry about grinding or equipment but for core Paper Mario fans this game is very underwhelming. Hopefully this isn’t the last page for our papercrafted hero.