|Dev: Intelligent Systems|
|Release: November 11, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Cartoon Violence|
In fact, it’s the story you’ll notice before the gameplay starts to gnaw at you. Even for a Mario game, the plot is weak, with a brief introduction of an annual, sticker-themed celebration. Bowser appears and immediately makes a lunge for the titular Sticker Star, the MacGuffin that ends up empowering him and a bunch of other baddies who then wreak havoc off-screen (including kidnapping Peach, of course), and Mario is tasked with defeating them both by tradition and his latest companion. Paper Mario games in the past, though, have developed the story as they’ve gone along, building up the world they take place in as the action gets increasingly intense, Mario collects party members (or at least engages with interesting NPCs), and things draw to a climactic showdown. Here, anything other than Mario’s almost leisurely quest to collect the Royal Stickers is completely off-screen, and it’s kind of lonely, which is exacerbated by the hilarious dialogue one does encounter from time to time being juxtaposed with so much utter silence.
Eventually, though, you’ll stop hoping for the atmosphere to improve and just accept that it’s the depressing way of things. After that, though, you’ll quickly get fed up with the nearly pointless combat and a puzzle-solving system that punishes you for experimentation and demands excessive backtracking. Any time a sticker is used, even if that means it was placed in the environment in hopes of solving a puzzle, it is consumed. This applies to any sticker, whether a regular combat ability or a rare “thing” based sticker. This can quickly get expensive, which makes the trial-and-error methodology the game seems to demand (puzzles have exactly one solution and often lack context, since it’s not really clear what most special stickers will do).
It’s doubly infuriating since, often, solving a puzzle or defeating a boss means backtracking to town so you can create the special sticker you need (which is quite expensive), especially since most rare stickers take up a lot of inventory space and you almost never know which ones you’ll actually need.
The game’s superfluous combat and unforgiving puzzle-solving mechanics only serve to bog the experience down; I can only assume that, without them, Sticker Star would have been infinitely crisper and more enjoyable, but whether they’re an attempt to cater in some way to the “expectations” one has when playing a Paper Mario game or simply a fairly transparent means of padding the length of the game, they do a lot to tarnish what is otherwise a colorful, joyful experience.
Date: November 14, 2012