When you play a game and dislike it, that’s disappointing. When it’s a game you wanted to love, in one of your favorite series, it’s devastating. That’s how I feel about Paper Mario: Sticker Star – devastated.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star does not deserve the ‰ÛÏPaper Mario‰Û name. The characters and environments are made of paper, but that is where the similarities end. The first two Paper Mario games were traditional turn-based RPGs with solid stories and memorable characters, especially the companions that joined your party. The third game in the series, Super Paper Mario, was an action RPG with a stronger focus on platforming, but it still had a fantastic story and characters.
Then there’s Sticker Star. Supposedly, it was patterned like the previous Paper Mario games, until higher-ups in the company decided the story was unnecessary. And so, Sticker Star became a game without a story or notable characters. There’s a basic premise to send Mario on his quest, but that’s it. His new companion, Kersti, is a character, but I found her annoying. All the other story elements have been stripped from the game. Even Bowser, who always had memorable dialogue and character development in the Paper Mario series, is reduced to a one-dimensional villain who doesn’t say a word.
Sticker Star sacrificed its story for gameplay, and I might still have forgiven it if that gameplay was solid. Unfortunately, the gameplay is the most painful part of the experience.
It isn’t an RPG, though for some reason it retained turn-based combat. And unless you really enjoy the combat, battles are useless. In Sticker Star, every combat action is tied to a one-use sticker. For example, you’ll use a jump sticker for a jump attack, and then that sticker will be gone. When you win a battle, you’ll be rewarded with coins. Coins can be used to buy stickers. Those stickers will be used in battle to earn more coins, to buy more stickers‰Û_ and so on.
When the sticker system was first shown before the game’s release, I was excited. I expected inventory management to add a new level of strategy. Sadly, it ended up being tedious rather than strategic. And the puzzles were even more tedious still.
As you travel through the areas in Sticker Star (it is divided into individual levels, rather than the interconnected world of the previous Paper Mario games), you’ll find three-dimensional objects. These can be turned into stickers that have special effects and are used to solve puzzles. The problem is that the items are often located far from the puzzles they solve, and the puzzle solutions are often so unintuitive, you won’t know where to look.
What item do you need to stop the sandstorm blocking your path? Why, the vacuum cleaner, of course!
This frustration extends into boss fights, where bosses are incredibly overpowered unless you know which special sticker you need to use against them. And those stickers take up quite a bit of space in your limited inventory, so don’t expect to take everything with you just in case.
When you first start playing Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s very charming. However, this charm fades fast, and it isn’t enough to overcome its lack of story and characters, tedious gameplay, and frustrating features. Paper Mario was once one of my favorite series. Now I can only hope it leaves Sticker Star far behind.