The Paper Mario series has been one of constant change, a very uncommon quality to see in Nintendo games, but developer Intelligent Systems has managed to garner favorable reviews in the past. This time around, stickers replace the badges and party members of prior paper-thin Mario titles. Now the plumber must peel and stick his way to defeat Bowser if he wants to save the inept Princess Peach once more.
Despite 25 years of braving Bowser, his minions, and plenty lakes of fire, Mario still wears a smile.
Sticker Star's story tells the tale of the Sticker Fest, a yearly holiday celebrated by the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom. When the Sticker Comet arrives, Bowser's entrance cuts the festivities short. As he touches the comet, it explodes, sending the meteorite's pieces and Royal Stickers flying. With the help of Kersti, the last remaining Royal Sticker, Mario agrees to help reunite the other Royal Stickers and the comet pieces, and save Princess Peach.
Although Super Paper Mario featured both two-dimensional and three-dimensional levels in real-time battles, Sticker Star returns to 3D side-scrolling laden between the turn-based combat. Rather than select attacks from a list of moves, Mario must use battle stickers or "thing" stickers made from objects found in levels to defeat enemies. Here, some of the more apparent problems show up. Stickers can only be used once. While not inherently bad, running out of adhesive items becomes an issue if you're not careful, forcing you to return to the shop to buy more. Of course, dozens of weaker boot and hammer stickers populate the scenery, but they do negligible damage to the weakest of Goombas unless you time the attack for an extra power boost. With the experience and leveling systems now gone, fighting enemies turns into something worth avoiding when hoarding precious stickers. Boss battles also grow tedious, often requiring rarer, harder-hitting thing stickers to take down.
The roulette system increases the number of usable stickers for one turn, if you have the coins.
Stickers are also important outside of battle. Using Kersti's power, Mario has the ability to "paperize" the world, allowing him to to solve puzzles with select stickers – for example, laying down a bridge sticker to cross a gap. Early on this is a small annoyance, as it's easy to forget about the power completely, but eventually it becomes second nature. Unfortunately, more problems arise when cracking the paperized puzzles. If you have not found the specific thing sticker you need, you'll have to backtrack and find it; otherwise you're stuck.
But the music, art, and tone are the clear standouts in what make Sticker Star great. The catchy tunes always have an upbeat sound, even when exploring occasional dark, cavernous locales. The two-dimensional characters stand out well in their three-dimensional environs too, and the 3D effect provides a simple, yet not overpowering, depth of field. Denizens of Decalburg are constantly cracking wise to their situations, ever aware that they and their homes are flimsy paper designs.
Despite its flaws, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is still an enjoyable entry in the franchise. Boss battles and puzzles that require paperizing can be a chore, but the game's humor and charm definitely outweigh these negatives. As long as you don't mind the fact that Sticker Star is essentially an RPG with very few RPG elements, this is a great title to spend some time with on your 3DS.
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: November 11, 2012
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS (Reviewed)