Paper Mario: Sticker Star – Nintendo’s LucasArts Adventure Meets RPG Experiment
The short story is Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a blend of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and one of LucasArts adventure games. The long story begins at the Sticker Fest.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star takes place when the Sticker Comet sails over the Mushroom Kingdom. Princess Peach waves to an an audience of awestruck Toadstools when Bowser suddenly crashes the party. Bowser touches the Sticker Comet and turns into a shiny sticker that crumples poor Mario. Guided by Kersti, a crown-shaped sticker, Mario sets out to collect the royal stickers before the world goes, well in the words of Paper Mario, KERBLAMMO!
Stickers are weapons – Mario’s only weapons – in Paper Mario: Sticker Star. When you run into a Goomba or a Spiny the game switches into battle mode. You can pick a sticker like hammer to whack an enemy or jump on them by using a sticker with a giant shoe on it. While you don’t select commands from a menu in this Paper Mario game, Sticker Star still has action commands. If you press A at the right time you can keep bouncing on Dry Bones or recover more health when eating a mushroom. Paper Mario: Sticker Star follows the rules of the Mario universe so if you jump on a Koopa on the field it will turn into a shell when the battle starts. Jump on it again and you’ll send the shell flying towards all of the other enemies. There are little strategies like this that make battles a breeze. Nintendo also added familiar power ups like Fire Flowers and much to my surprise the Frog Suit. Equip the Frog Suit and you can hop over enemy attacks.
After you use a sticker it’s gone, but I never ran into a situation where Mario had an empty album. Stickers are everywhere. Mario can peel them off the ground, find them in ? mark blocks use coins to buy them. Coins are almost as plentiful and you can amass a small fortune by earning bonus coins for finishing a fight without taking a scratch. Paper Mario: Sticker Star drops conventional RPG mechanics like experience points, so you might be wondering how Mario grows. Mario can gain more life by picking up heart containers hidden in levels. You also get more sticker pages as the game progresses. If you miss grinding you can revisit levels and peel all of the rare shiny stickers as many times as you want. I guess the Goombas fill up the ? mark blocks and replace all of the stickers when Mario isn’t around.
The most powerful stickers are… amusingly everyday junk. Somehow 3D objects like cans and faucets dropped into the world of Paper Mario: Sticker Star. The Toadstools call these "things" and one shop in town lets Mario fling things at a wall to turn them into stickers. 3D objects are essentially summons with elaborate cutscenes like flying scissors cutting the screen or a giant fan that blows enemies away. The downside about "things" is out of place objects take up more room in Mario’s album and cost a pretty penny to buy again.
Mario also uses stickers to solve puzzles. Remember that fan sticker? Maybe you can use it to spin a windmill and those jump stickers might be able to plug a pipe. Kersti’s special ability lets Mario "paperize" the world, which flattens the screen and allows Mario to stick stickers in certain spots. While modern games spell out puzzle solutions, Paper Mario: Sticker Star doesn’t give players obvious clues. I think most players will have to resort to trial and error at some point in the game. Alone, that’s not an issue, but you may not have the right sticker with you in the first place. So, you’ll have to search stages you already beat for something you don’t know you need. Or you might waste precious and pricey "thing" stickers hoping that a fortune cat will move the game forward. Boss battles are another roadblock in Paper Mario: Sticker Star and not because they’re overly difficult. The problem with boss battles is they’re essentially puzzles too. Bring the right sticker and you can defeat a boss easily, but if you don’t have the right combination of things Mario might hit a wall.
Since enemy fights didn’t reward Mario with much, I actively avoided battles by running away from enemies. Goombas and Koopa Paratroopas became a nuisance for exploring and that’s what Paper Mario: Sticker Star is about. Like Super Mario World, levels have multiple exits and you can open routes to hidden stages. You can even play levels out of order since Paper Mario: Sticker Star gives Mario access to three different worlds when the game begins. I hopped from World 2′s desert to World 3′s dark forest while playing Paper Mario.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario were wordy games. Even the Mario & Luigi RPG titles had a fair amount of dialogue. In comparison, Paper Mario: Sticker Star doesn’t have as much story to it. Bowser Jr. and Kamek sneak in a few jokes, but most of the gags in Paper Mario: Sticker Star are visual. You’ll watch as Toadstools turn themselves into a staircase and see a Yoshi sphinx. I kept playing Paper Mario: Sticker Star because I wanted to see what wacky thing was around the corner.
Super Paper Mario was in a genre of its own as an experimental side-scrolling action RPG. Paper Mario: Sticker Star isn’t quite a role playing game either. It’s a puzzle game with a RPG battle system. It’s interesting and witty, but also frustrating at times with unnecessary battles and vague puzzles. Paper Mario: Sticker Star is worth a look because it’s different, but don’t expect an epic quest like the first two Paper Mario titles.