Paper Mario: Sticker Star Review

Paper Mario: Sticker Star's many charms make it a sweet and worthwhile adventure, though a few flaws interfere with its feel-good attitude.

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Mario has had many incarnations over the years, but Paper Mario is perhaps the pluckiest of all the portly plumber's personas. The way he moves, his feet cheerily kicking up dust, suggests an unflappable willingness to face any challenge. He never talks, but his steady demeanor speaks volumes; he is a happy hero and a faithful friend. One look at that mustachioed visage and you know that he is good and kind and true right down to his papery core. It's a pleasure to be reunited with this incredibly charming character and to explore the lovely papercraft world of Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Mario's cheery outlook is contagious, and you'll often be happy to accompany him on his latest adventure, but it's easy to find yourself stuck for extended periods, during which the joy gives way to frustration. In the end, however, happiness triumphs over all else; it's worth sticking through the tough spots with Paper Mario and seeing this adventure reach its cheery conclusion.

Seriously, isn't he just the cutest?

Sticker Star begins during the annual Mushroom Kingdom holiday of Sticker Fest. People gather at the festival grounds in the hamlet of Decalburg to celebrate stickers, and to make wishes on the powerful sticker comet that comes to visit the town each year. Alas, this year, Bowser ruins everybody's fun by leaping for the comet, absorbing some of its power himself, and scattering five wish-granting royal stickers far and wide across the kingdom in a maelstrom of sticker-fueled malice. Bowser makes off with Princess Peach (of course), and Mario joins up with the feisty caretaker of the royal stickers, who is herself a crown-shaped sticker named Kersti.

The story isn't special, but the writing sure is. Sticker Star possesses the smart, witty humor that's typical of the Paper Mario games. It's just a shame there isn't more of it. Though Kersti is almost always with you, Sticker Star can feel a bit lonely at times, and where games like the outstanding Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door were brimming over with memorable characters and funny moments, Sticker Star could have used more of both. But this land of papery forests, deserts, caves, and oceans is nonetheless a treat to explore. Smiling koopas, goofy goombas, and other enemies shuffle happily around each stage, bringing the world to joyous (if slightly dangerous) life. And the flat characters are particularly striking in 3D; at times, you can almost believe that you're gazing at an actual papercraft display.

In the wake of the Sticker Fest disaster, it's not just royal stickers that were sent far and wide across the land. Stickers of all sorts are now stuck to surfaces just waiting to be peeled off, which is lucky for you, because you're gonna need 'em. Early on, you get a sticker album, and as you peel stickers from walls, knock them out of blocks, or purchase them with coins, they get placed in your album. Ordinary stickers have names like jump, hammer, and fire flower, and only by spending these stickers can you attack your enemies during Sticker Star's turn-based combat.

Peel, Mario! Peel like you've never peeled before!

It's an unusual system that encourages you to think about your attacks in a way that you don't have to in a typical role-playing game. When confronted with a group of weak enemies, do you finish them off in one turn by using a somewhat-rare shiny shell sticker, or do you take a few turns to do it, using run-of-the-mill stickers like worn-out jump and saving that shiny shell for later? Stickers are plentiful throughout the world, so it's unlikely--though possible--to find yourself running out; the trick is learning to use the right sticker in every situation. There's a steady curve as you progress through the game; you start finding rarer, shinier, more powerful stickers, which are also often larger, taking up more of the finite space in your album. It's satisfying to start harnessing the power of these stronger stickers and to become more skilled and efficient in your use of stickers as you advance.

The whole idea of spending stickers may seem wrong; after all, anyone who was ever a kid with a sticker album knows that stickers are meant to be collected and carefully smoothed into place. Fear not! In Decalburg, there is a sticker museum that is just waiting for one of each type of sticker to be added to its permanent collection. Once you've placed a sticker in its frame on the wall, you can gaze at it to your heart's content, and read a bit of information about it in the "sticky wiki." Having a permanent home for your stickers gives you a reason to hunt down one of each type, and the rarity and elusiveness of some stickers give you incentive to poke your nose into every corner of Sticker Star's charming world to find them.

Not every sticker you can slap in your album starts out as a flat object with adhesive on it. Certain three-dimensional objects have made their way into this papery land. An enterprising Toad in Decalburg takes advantage of this phenomenon by setting up a stand where Mario can take these so-called "things" and fling them against a wall, flattening the objects and creating what the Toad cleverly refers to as "thing stickers." (He's "a bit of a marketing genius," you see.) It's amusing to see Mario hold aloft the more mundane things--tape dispensers, air conditioners, vacuum cleaners, and the like--the way heroes in other games might triumphantly hold up a powerful new sword or a sacred artifact.

That is a shyguy wearing a sombrero. His name is sombrero guy.

The uses of stickers aren't limited to combat, either. With Kersti's help, Mario can "paperize" any environment. Paperizing causes Mario's three-dimensional papercraft surroundings to fall flat like a Polaroid. It's a neat-looking effect that, in certain places, reveals a spot where you can place a sticker, or a loose scrap of the world--a cave entrance, for instance--that you can peel off and put in its proper place. Some of the game's puzzles require you to use the right thing sticker in the right spot, and working out the solutions to these puzzles results in some of the game's most rewarding and memorable moments. (What thing do you need to clear away mountains of crumpled paper? The answer is both logical and delightful.)

But the hunt for the right thing sticker can also bring the game to a halt. To defeat a boss, for instance, you might need the aid of a specific thing sticker, but it's entirely possible that you missed the thing you need when you passed through the stage where it's located. Kersti has basic advice to offer you in some situations, but in dilemmas like this, she has nothing useful to say. This leaves you with no option but to return to stages you've already completed, playing them again and again, trying to be sure to leave no rock unhammered and no screen unpaperized, lest you miss the thing you so desperately need.

Exploring stages in search of things and secrets as you make your way through the game is enjoyable. There are many well-hidden rooms, and stumbling upon them carries with it a pleasing sense of discovery. But hitting a brick wall in your progress and needing to find a thing that could be in a number of places makes this normally cheerful adventure an irritating exercise. The joys of your quest outweigh its frustrations, but blemishes like this do hold Sticker Star back from greatness.

Paperizing lets you stick stickers onto the world itself.

Aside from the focus on stickers, the combat in Sticker Star is similar to that in earlier Mario RPGs, and that's a good thing. With well-timed button presses, you can increase the strength of a hammer strike, squeeze in a few more jumps on an enemy's noggin, or otherwise improve your attacks. When you're on the defensive, you can press a button to block briefly, potentially reducing the damage of incoming attacks. It is now, as ever, a fun battle system that keeps you engaged in combat from one moment to the next. Fights move along at a breezy pace, and the cute characters and papercraft playset backdrops in which clouds might hang from the ceiling on visible pieces of string help to make these battles cheerful. And by spending a few coins, you can fire up the battle spinner, a slot machine that gives you a chance to use two or three stickers in a single turn. This is a whimsical way to try to get an edge on your tougher foes.

However, one aspect of Sticker Star's structure makes combat feel less meaningful here than it often does in RPGs. Unlike in other Paper Mario games, there are no experience points to be earned here, no levels to acquire. Hearts you periodically find increase your maximum number of hit points, but aside from this, Mario's power never goes up. Defeating an enemy might reward you with some coins and maybe a sticker or two, but it also costs you stickers. As a result, there's often little incentive to fight those enemies who aren't directly in your path, aside from the fun of fighting, and that can wear off when you're fighting koopa paratroopas for the 25th time and could nail the attack timing with your eyes closed. You can always try avoiding enemies if you don't fancy a fight--they typically dash at you when they spot you but can be eluded--but you still find yourself in too many battles with enemies who are no longer interesting to fight, and without the reward of XP, these interludes can feel like pointless interruptions of your progress.

It's not all smooth sailing, but Sticker Star is still a ride worth taking.

Thankfully, making your way through stages is otherwise enjoyable. This isn't a platformer, but there's enough leaping on swinging platforms and avoiding deadly hazards to give Sticker Star's gameplay a pleasant Mario feel. Nods to memorable stages from early Mario games pop up from time to time, and the quest keeps you on your toes by throwing you into a number of unexpected situations. Mario finds himself in one fix after another, and before all is said and done, you'll have completed all sorts of death-defying feats, like riding a raft down a treacherous river, busting some ghosts, and even competing on a game show. Sticker Star falls into a rut at times and may even drive you crazy, but in the end, Paper Mario's unwaveringly cheerful attitude, and fond memories of the game's many great moments, will be what stays with you.

The Good
Paper Mario is a charming character in a charming world
Smart, funny writing
Good puzzles
Sticker system makes you carefully consider your attacks
The Bad
Getting stuck is no fun at all
Combat can seem pointless at times
7.5
Good
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0 comments
dampflokfreund
dampflokfreund

Getting stuck is not fun.


WHAT? Oh my gosh, that's so a pointless negative point. Why not a real negative point like no story -_-

REVOLUTIONfreak
REVOLUTIONfreak

I love Nintendo, and I love Paper Mario, but this game deserves about a 6.0. The narrative is all but non-existent (which is a serious drawback for any RPG), and the battles have absolutely no point to them without the experience points and level-up mechanic. Really, it's like a 2D Mario game without the fast-paced fun.

Awful. I never thought I'd say that about a Paper Mario game. Heck, I even loved Super Paper Mario.

zen120
zen120

HOW did this not get the "great sountrack" emblem?

Rivboets7
Rivboets7

I really enjoyed The Thousand Year Door.  I didn't really like how Super Paper Mario played but I have to try this out.  I'm just hoping it plays like The Thousand Year Door.

The_Deepblue
The_Deepblue

Good game-just as charming as you'd want a Paper Mario, but if this game could be remembered by one word, I think it would be "pointless." Some of the game's central elements feel meaningless or forced, and it's disappointing that other elements that made the previous Mario RPGs so great have been completely stripped away. Still, I'm enjoying it.

so_hai
so_hai

Doesn't look all that aPEELing, hope I don't get STUCK with a copy of this game.

hangman000
hangman000

Just wanted an SMRPG!(or the old paper mario)

Cheddarchet
Cheddarchet

This seems about in line with what quite a few reviewers have already said, I guess. I'm a little bummed to hear about the lack of dialogue in some cases (seems the story is less of a focus in this game), but I'm admittedly still looking forward to playing it. Here's hoping for a grand old time, eh?

Hermiro
Hermiro

Didn't expect this one to be better than SPM2 but bet I'm gonna have some fun playing it anyway. Guess I'll buy right before next trip out of the country....

Nintyfan95
Nintyfan95

It just looks so plain...even Super Paper Mario had more content than this. 

nbajunior
nbajunior

Was going to buy it for my 3ds but am now having second thoughts

Jedi831
Jedi831

I'll agree whole heartedly that this game doesn't compare to the greatness that was the first two Paper Mario's (Thousand Year Door is still my favorite game of all time).  But honestly, the thing that gets me is that this game seems to be getting worse reviews than Super Paper Mario.  Sticker Star might not have nearly as many RPG elements as it should have, but at least it "feels" more like a PAPER Mario game.  Super Paper Mario had hardly any "paper like" elements.  The introduction of stickers in this new game just seems to fit the feel of the game SO much better.  And lets not forget that they went back to the beloved turned based battle system, no matter how useless it may seem.I went into this game realizing that it wasn't going to compare to the first two Paper Mario games. In my opinion, this is a solid Paper Mario game that is worthy of the title, and seems to be a step back in the right direction.

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

Lets not forget that this is the same person that reviewed Gravity Rush...

Heil68
Heil68

Another flop..lolz

 

64-bit
64-bit

GS, doesnt respect Nintendo, 3DS rearely gets a video reviews and on most cases no review at all, second thing always underrate their games, 7.5? For a paper mario game? And for god sake bring soneone familiar with paper mario series.

Wensea10
Wensea10

The review is understandable but I expected a game like this to have a higher score.

rushiosan
rushiosan

@dampflokfreund If you want an example about how "getting stuck" doesn't mean the end of the game, take Wind Waker as one of them. The triforce quest was very complex and easy to make people stuck, but if you start to chat NPCs and search for clues in towns, wander around and stuff like that, things start to make sense. Maybe this game didn't provide enough information to the player, neither room for trying to solve a puzzle or quest. Sometimes, this isn't just a difficulty factor. It's a design problem like @Zevvion said.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@dampflokfreund How is that pointless? 

Perhaps you've never played some older games where there were no such thing as mission markers or a map. But when it was still common to get stuck in games it was the number 1 reason to be pissed off at a game. 

Getting stuck seriously sucks and if it's a product of poor game design (which it most often is) than that is not a pointless negative to mention in a review.

vallan2
vallan2

 @mikezer0 

 

If you only played since GC, you missed some of the best that Nintendo has offered....I feel sorry for you.  But your unabashed defense of this game is admirable, if a bit too excited.

flarocque
flarocque

Next time you post, please disable the "Caps Lock" and perform a spell check!

vallan2
vallan2

 @Nintyfan95 

 

Granted, this game is pretty good, but its supposed to play like a handheld game though, not a console one.  That's why its on the 3DS, not the WiiU, and it's limitations as a handheld game is what you see.  Handheld games aren't meant to be a long, involved thing, but something you can pick up and play in bites, and sometimes for extended periods...It will still offer plenty for those looking for something enjoyable.

Durghy
Durghy

 @nbajunior Either buy it or don't, but certainly do not listen to one reviewer, look at them all.

64-bit
64-bit

@The_Last_Ride GS, is a bunch of fanboyz, who hates Nintendo, and loves COD.

kkxtrouble
kkxtrouble

 @Jedi831 The thing is we got our expectations too high, i personally was expecting something much more similar to the older ones. Granted i didn't really follow the game, but still. I like paper mario a lot, it's actually the only mario franchise i still enjoy BUT, i won't get a 3ds to play something that is not what i'm looking for. It's not to say that the game is bad but not nearly as good as many of us wanted , and expected, to be.

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

 @64-bit See, this is the kind of perspective I don't like: Because it's a Nintendo/Mario game, it should automatically be AAA.  Nothing like preceding yourself as a blind fanboy... 

grahamx
grahamx

 @64-bit It has more to do with it being an awful Paper Mario game, It has none of the elements that the other games do.Hell, this may be a but of a spoiler but Bowser doesn't even get any dialogue in the end of the game.

64-bit
64-bit

@Gelugon_baat @mikezer0 Who the f*ck are you, always relentless to defend GS. Disguise much? You even have an opinion for everything and everyone, dafaq?

siberian142
siberian142

@Gelugon_baat @mikezer0 If only people would respect that. A review is just a persons opinion. So long as they are rating the game fairly and honestly, people should not go into rage mode just because someone liked or did not like it.

rushiosan
rushiosan

@vallan2 @Nintyfan95 What about Pokemon B/W 1 and 2? It's probably the biggest games I have ever seen, even surpassing most part of console RPGs in a matter of content (I'm not talking about monster library - there are lots of items, collectibles, side-quests, game modes, places and stuff to do). Surprisingly, it's just a ~500MB DS game. 3DS cards are able to store 3 or 4 times more data, so there's absolutely no excuse. Handheld games are actually meant to last for a long time, it only depends on the developers. We're not in the GameBoy era anymore.

The_Last_Ride
The_Last_Ride

 @64-bit  COD did not get a good review this time. But yeah, there isn't a lot of love for Nintendo 

Jedi831
Jedi831

 @kkxtrouble Yeah, I totally understand what you mean.  I went into Bowser's Inside Story thinking that it would be really similar to Paper Mario and it didn't live up to my expectations at all.  It was after that that I think I accepted the fact that no game will ever top TTYD and so I started playing Sticker Star expecting it be a good game, but not nearly as good as the originals.

64-bit
64-bit

@JustPlainLucas Wut?

64-bit
64-bit

@grahamx Yah bowser doesnt speak, thus no video review for yah Nintendo.

siberian142
siberian142

@64-bit How is it unprofessional? She did not go around spouting lies in an attempt to wrongly discredit the game, she gave her honest opinion on it. According to MetaCritic, many other sites agrees that this game is in the 75 to 80 range (a score that is NOT bad), so the developers are more to blame for these scores for changing so much of the Paper Mario formula.

64-bit
64-bit

@siberian142 If its the reviewer opinion then dont rare it, as simple as that, but what you sont want to admit is that his crap unprofessional opinion is affecting the game, and it sales, so no.its not tjat simple.

64-bit
64-bit

@JustPlainLucas Can you fu*king explain why no video review? Dear analyst?

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

 @64-bit  @JustPlainLucas Exactly what I said.  They didn't underrate the game.  They gave the score they thought it deserved, which so far is spot on, but you can't grasp the fact that it's possible for Nintendo to make games that don't quite live up to your expectations... It's a good game, but it's disappointing.  Only blind fan boys can't see that... 

Paper Mario: Sticker Star

  • 3DS
Paper Mario: Sticker Star has players help Mario to recover the six Royal Stickers which are stuck onto Bowser and his underlings.
ESRB
Everyone
All Platforms
Mild Cartoon Violence
Check out even more info at the Paper Mario: Sticker Star Wiki on Giantbomb.com