Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Review by Drizzy_Drizake
"Strip away everything that makes Paper Mario what it is and you get this"
I am a huge Paper Mario fan so naturally I was extremely excited to get my hands on Sticker Star. But after playing through it for a while it was clear this was not going to be like the series I know and love.
One of the things that makes a Paper Mario game so great is its story. Now I'll admit the overall plot of any of the games is nothing special. It's always been pretty bland. But when you get into the chapters and start meeting all the wonderful characters along with the fun moments the worlds bring the games really shine. Some of my favorite PM moments are sneaking into the home of Tubba Blubba trying to find out just what makes him so invincible, or solving the mystery of what's going on behind the scenes of the Glitz Pit. I'm sad to say you won't find anything like that here. Sticker Star begins by introducing to the sticker comet which rains down stickers upon its visit and grants wishes. Naturally Bowser shows up to wreck the party and splits the comet into several crown stickers that Mario needs to collect. The story starts and stops there with chapters giving little to do along the way.
You won't find any unique characters here besides Mario's one and only partner Kersti who only pops up to tell you how cool stickers are now and then. Bowser himself, who past PM games have given a pretty hilarious personality, is a complete mute that only appears at the beginning and end of the game without a word. No Peach segments or any such thing here. Each chapter is split into multiple stages where you mostly do nothing, but fight enemies until reaching the goal at the end. Occasionally you will hit a roadblock requiring you to place a specific sticker to advance, but other than a few rare exceptions that's pretty much the only unique moments these worlds give you. No plot for any world and no build up at all to the boss waiting at the end. Bosses are just as lifeless as Bowser is in this game as well. They lack any real personality and are all basically just giant versions of a standard enemy with no unique design whatsoever. Considering the really great boss characters the series is known for this is another big letdown. Worlds are your typical desert, jungle, meadow type of thing nothing special. It's really hard to be motivated by such lackluster presentation when past games have made every chapter full of such unique experiences.
There is no experience system in Sticker Star. You health can still increase by finding HP-UP hearts from hidden locations in a world or from mini bosses. But there is no flower points or any such thing. The only reward battles give you are money and stickers. Stickers are the foundation of the battle system. The world is covered with them everywhere you look. You pluck them off the walls and they are added to your album for use in battle. Every action in battle requires a sticker and every sticker can only be used once so make it count. Stickers come in many different variations from dull to shiny to flashy etc increasing in power as you go. You are only allowed one per turn unless you use some coins to activate the battle spinner which can allow you up to three stickers in a turn. This is primarily what you will be using your money for. So basically you are fighting enemies so that you can earn more money and stickers to be able to fight more enemies. The battle system is very unique and it works. It's never unfair, you always have plenty of stickers at your disposal, but the lack of any real reward for your fighting makes battles a bit boring after a while and it can be easy to want to skip them all together.
Aside from the battle stickers you also have thing stickers. These are normal household items, such as scissors or a fan, that you can find lying around the world and later turn into a sticker. These are mostly used to solve a quick puzzle or for boss fights. For example, in one of the early stages you come across a windmill with part of the wing blocking the entrance. So you use a fan sticker to blow the windmill and let you enter. These are the moments I mentioned earlier that you will come across in the worlds. Some stages do have a few fun distractions from all the fighting that try to be like past games, but mostly this is the only kind of unique thing the worlds will have for you. Boss battles also are where these thing stickers come in handy. Each boss has a pretty ridiculous amount of HP and while not technically required, it will be a big help to have whatever specific thing sticker the boss is weak to that will deal some serious damage. Without the thing stickers you will probably find your album completely depleted long before a boss falls. Still once you figure out what that weakness is the boss battles are a lot of fun and give you a nice challenge.
Worlds are accessed by the games map which splits everything into the chapters and stages. As I mentioned each stage just requires you to reach a comet piece waiting at the end. Other than a thing puzzle or a baddie putting up a temporary roadblock you are pretty much just moving from point A to point B in each level with nothing particularly of interest going on besides waves of enemies to fight if you so choose. There are a few exceptions to this as I've said, but they are few and far between. Once you have made some progress the worlds do open up to a bit more exploration as there are plenty of hidden things and battle stickers to find. Some stages contain hidden pathways to other stages that could be missed as well. The main hub contains a sticker museum where you can try to collect every battle and thing sticker though you will probably be disappointed when you see what the reward for all your hard work is.
The game does look fantastic. The 3D works very well with the diorama like appearance of each world. The paper aspect is used in some very creative ways. Coins made of cardboard, injured toads with parts of the body bent down, clouds hanging from string the whole game looks like a very unique Mario themed art project and it works very well. Animations are all very smooth and while not the most unique locations, the worlds have a ton of detail that really bring them to life. It's really enjoyable seeing all the clever ways paper is used to make up the world. In that aspect I would say Sticker Star makes use of the gimmick even better than past titles in the series.
Sticker Star just doesn't feel like a Paper Mario game. It's got the look down wonderfully, better than past games in some ways I would even say, but the soul of the series is sadly missing. If you are willing to forgive this game for throwing away virtually all of what made the past entries great it is still worth your time. The sticker themed battle system is fun, the worlds heavily encourage exploration, the visuals are wonderful, and the bosses, while bland, give you a real challenge and are still entertaining. The game just could use some better motivation to keep you going. I give Paper Mario Sticker Star a 6/10 and if you've got the money I recommend going ahead and picking it up.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/22/12
Game Release: Paper Mario: Sticker Star (US, 11/11/12)
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