One of the many benefits of owning a Nintendo console is to see what they’re going to do next with Mario. There have been several iterations of Mario and one that really stood out was Paper Mario, a paper-thin version of Mario. A new version called Paper Mario: Sticker Star is now available on the 3DS. Is this a next step for Paper Mario or is it paper thin?
The story starts off with a ceremony celebrating the comet sticker; the town of Decalburg get together at a Sticker Fest. The comet sticker that will eventually show up grants and apparently grants wishes do anyone. During the celebration who else other than Bowser makes an appearance and clumsily ruins everything shredding pieces and causing chaos while granting himself new powers thanks to the wish. Now it’s Mario’s job along with a new character and sidekick, Kersti an ambassador to the royal sticker, to collect the comet pieces that have been scattered throughout the land and save the day.
Mario no longer just jumps on goons as the game is actually an RPG, sort of, bringing the series back to its roots. You attack with stickers that you collect on your adventure. This can mean anything from a Boot-sticker (jump attack) to a Firepower-sticker (fire balls). Once you use a sticker from the bottom screen you can use timing to make them stronger. These attacks can result in repetitive and devastating attacks on your foes. You only have a set number of pages in your sticker book for items (with more pages becoming available as you progress in the story.) and the game makes it really hard to start by only giving you about 3 pages at first while asking you to stick it out and start your journeys. It sound a lot more complicated than it actually is, especially when you first start. You can have up to three slots at once thanks due to a slot machine minigame which not only grants you more spots for the attack but also rewards you if you line up 3 items, e.g. 3 mushrooms gives you 3 more attacks and a health boost.
You can select levels via a map (Think Super Mario Bros. 3) that don’t necessarily go in order of world 1-1 to world 1-2. Believe it or not Sticker Star is actually sort of like a Metroid title, now relax, I mean that there are certain levels you can’t access until you’ve got the right pieces in your hands. You’ll find yourself scratching your head to a problem and figure it out the next day. When you eventually have the piece you think you need, you’ll go back (Metroid style) and move on.
The game has a big focus on puzzles, and when I say puzzles I use that word very carefully as the puzzles aren’t really tricky or really puzzles. Just vague and usually without real explanation as to what you’re supposed to do. You’ll find yourself in from of a twister for days until you try every sticker you can, until a Vacuum, a frikkin’ Vacuum sucks the twister up. Where was the clue? There wasn’t one. It’s all trial and error which really affects the smooth gameplay as you find yourself going in circles aimlessly trying to figure out what you missed. Which sadly bring the game to a screeching halt. When the game is actually being played it works great but the puzzles slow everything down. It’s really due to the lack of explanation and fear of what you can and cannot due.
Most puzzles rely on the games new mechanic called Paperizarion. Paperizarion is ultimately placing sticker to make them become useful in the game’s world. It requires Mario to flatten the selected screen and place stickers on it. For example, if there is a vent blowing you off a bridge in the background you can literally place stickers on the vents to stop this from happening, or if a door is sideways and doesn’t look right, you can pull off the sticker and rearrange to give you a new opening. It’s a great idea that makes the player look at a puzzle from a different perspective. Most puzzles would have you peel stickers off the wall to rearrange them, but if it’s your first time in the world you just assume that the door is supposed to be on its side. It’s a Mario title, think outside the box if you can.
Paper Mario has been very successful this far not only because of the unique design choice but also for the writing. Paper Mario features some of the most funny and sharply written dialogue in a game. Some lines will have you snicker while others will make you wonder. It’s the writing that makes the world really come alive.
Of course the writing is aided with the visuals. Putting a 2D image on a 3D system in a 3D environment is an off-putting idea. But everything is just…well…cute. And because the characters are aware that they are made of paper it makes sense that some are stuck to a wall or crumbled or soggy thanks to water, or if an enemy throws a paper clip at Mario to stop his movements, it’s adorable really. The 3D effect is used a lot, which for a game where the characters are made of paper – was unexpected. There are some great moments when the game uses depth-of-field so you’ll want to keep the slider up all the time for it. The music consists of remix of old classic tunes along with a couple of home hitters while the sound effects are retro heaven.
There was one aspect I wondered why wasn’t includes and it’s that there was no Streetpass to enable, although it is small part of the 3DS system, it’s something that up to this point, every game has had enabled. You should have the ability to pass on rare stickers to those around you or even just have a sticker book for whenever you pass a stranger on the street, but no, no Streetpass whatsoever, it doesn’t hurt the game in anyway, it’s just odd it was missing as it would have been a nice idea.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a game that should’ve flourished with the words “Kids only” all over it; instead, thanks to its near-perfect rep sheet it continues to strive on the Paper Mario series. Everyone can enjoy this game (given that you put time into actually learning how to play it since the learning-curve is a little bit steep at the beginning) It’s sharply written, funny, with a new unique gameplay mechanic along with some puzzles that will have you scratching your head. If you miss the times of collecting stickers as a kid than pick up Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Collecting stickers have never been this good.
Great graphics and 3D effects
Unique and clever ways to use attacks
Puzzles are very vague
Not really easy at the beginning No Streetpass? Really?