Deep stories aren’t necessarily needed to make video games enjoyable, but engaging stories are one of the areas in which titles in the Paper Mario series excel. That is… until Paper Mario: Sticker Star.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star has an overtly simple story. In the game, Bowser scatters the six Royal Stickers across the very paper-y Mushroom Kingdom. The main protagonist, Mario, of course, has to retrieve all six stickers and is accompanied by the short-tempered sticker fairy Kersti.
Super Paper Mario, for example, isn’t the best title in the series, but at least it had an entertaining story, unlike Paper Mario: Sticker Star.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star’s visuals are fantastic. Mushroom Kingdom looks very much like a huge arts and crafts project. The game boasts the best visual style in the series to date. Almost everything in the game looks and sounds like paper. In-game characters know they are made up of paper, which is adorable.
For example, toward the beginning of the game, you need to rescue a bunch of Toads – some of which who’ve been stacked away, bent, crumpled and hidden under doormats by Bowser and his minions. Hence the title “Paper Mario: Sticker Star,” designs of the characters, worlds and levels feel appropriate.
The use of stereoscopic 3D in the game is one of the best on the Nintendo 3DS. It easily compares to Super Mario 3D Land’s 3D effects and adds a significant amount of depth to environments.
From the beginning to end, the game’s music is catchy albeit a bit repetitive; separate levels within a world have the same background music. Unfortunately, characters in the game don’t have voices. For example, Mario doesn’t say ‘Oh, no!,’ and Toads don’t make their annoying grumble sounds. The entire narrative is based on text, which, expectedly, is well-written and humorous.
The game revolves around stickers, which are scattered throughout the Mushroom Kingdom. Want to stomp an enemy? Select a Jump sticker. Want to strike a foe with a hammer? Select a Hammer sticker. Want to recover your health? Select a Mushroom sticker. Without stickers, Mario is defenseless. Players must make sure they are stocked with stickers. Stickers may be purchased from Toads and peeled directly from surrounding objects.
There are numerous frustrating levels within the game. Many times, you’ll return to a level – you thought you’ve completed – to look for crucial items in order to progress on your journey. For example, in one level, I searched for a vital item in every visible area; I eventually (and accidentally) found it by slipping off a cliff.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star doesn’t exactly feel like a role-playing game, compared to other titles in the series, which is a bummer. To expand your health meter, you must search for HP-Up Hearts, some of which are hidden extremely well. There are tons of enemies in each world, but players don’t level up after defeating them. This is unfortunate, because you aren’t getting much incentive for battling all the enemies in your way. This also urges you to attempt to runaway during battles. But you can’t, however, runaway each time – your attempt to do so will inevitably fail multiple times.
It’s very different from its predecessors, and although it strips away several fundamental RPG elements, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is one of the best Nintendo 3DS titles of the year and a perfect fit for a handheld game.