Paper Mario Sticker Star is Nintendo’s newest outing in the Paper Mario series. Will it fail to captivate the magic the past games held so dear.
The game has a simple story, Princess Peach is having a sticker festival to welcome the Sticker comet. Bowser quickly intervenes and breaks the comet into pieces before grabbing the princess and running away to his castle. While the story for Mario games was never the highlight, the Paper Mario series prided itself on having dark and twisted stories that often broke the forth wall and challenged what a game rated E could get away with. While the story to Sticker Star isn’t bad, it’s nowhere near as good as what it could have been. The comedic and mature writing of the previous games has been replaced with a simple and childish humour and the only character that really stood out was the underground sticker dealer.
Sticker Star is not a free roaming adventure like its previous instalments, but instead involves Mario traveling to small confined areas on a map that involves a problem Mario must overcome. This makes the game feel like it has confined mini adventures as each level can be as short as 10 minutes. For a portable game it works well, however, the game often wants you to constantly revisit levels you have already cleared to collect stickers and here is where the big problem lies.
The game play is a downgrade from previous Paper Mario games, in the original games you would battle enemies with different forms of attack to level up and increase your stat points. In Sticker Star there is no levelling up and the only upgrades you can get are health upgrades hidden throughout the levels. Without the need to level up battles become a chore, you choose a sticker from the bottom screen to hurt the enemies and with timed button presses you deal damage with it. Once a sticker is used it is gone. When the battle is over you receive coins to buy more stickers, but since stickers can be found in the levels for free, it makes the coins worthless. Without levelling and without a worthwhile reward from battling, typical battles become a bore as you waste your stickers to kill an enemy that will respawn if you leave the area and you will need to leave the area to buy more stickers because you wasted them on the fight. It becomes a continuous and tedious loop.
Boss battles in the game are just as poorly executed. During the first boss the game outright tells you that if you use the correct sticker on the right boss, you can win the fight in moments. This makes you feel that you have to carry around a multitude of stickers with you at all times. The reason is that nearly every boss has a weakness to a certain sticker, and once you use that sticker the fight is over. This lack of challenge never makes the game put up a fight, considering that hammering the A button repeatedly wins a fight.
The graphics in the game are some of the best on the system, the characters look like real paper models and the worlds look like they were made from parts of a cardboard box and patches of coloured paper. The world looks like a living and breathing place with trees blowing in the wind, waves brushing against the sand and enemies that fit the location. The idea of a mariachi Shy Guy with a sombrero and guitar alone in the desert is genius. The one strange idea was to have important puzzle items and stickers look like they are from the real world, they stick out like a sore thumb and really drag you out of the experience. Needless to say, this game should be played with the 3D slider all the way up.
The games music is a blend of smooth jazz and upbeat swing music. At first it seems a little out of place compared to the previous games but once you get into the game it becomes some of the most entertaining music a Mario game has had in a long time. The music on the world select screen stands out the most as it is the same tune constantly but as you change to different areas of the map, the song changes mood with it. The contrast between the snowy breezy tune and the desert tune is a joy to the ears.
While Paper Mario Sticker Star fails to captivate the magic the previous games in the series had, it seems to be a fresh start for the series
designed for younger gamers to be introduced to Paper Mario. The game has a good idea of what it wants to be but it just wasn’t used to its full potential.