Paper Mario Sticker Star
Interaction has always been a key selling point in Mario's role-playing adventures. Whereas traditional turn-based RPGs force you to watch battles unfold, Nintendo throws a welcome layer of strategy into its games, as players tap buttons in rhythm to maximize attacks and reduce damage from enemies. This basic foundation is alive and well in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and there's plenty more to love about this charming 3DS title.
In a cool twist, Mario doesn't come with pre-set moves. Instead, you set off through this imaginative paper and cardboard world in search of stickers; you can also purchase stickers in shops using gold coins. These come in a variety of types, from boots that stomp foes, to hammers, Fire Flowers and boomerangs, to name a few. It's a neat concept, largely because it gives you complete control over Mario's arsenal, and this goes beyond filling the plumber's sticker book with old shoes. Some stickers are ineffective against certain foes, while others pack a bigger punch, like scissors that cut baddies to pieces, or an oversized fan that blows them away. You learn through trial and error, so it's tantamount that you choose the right stickers before heading into a particular level, or squaring off against a boss. In fact, there exists the possibility of running out of stickers, leaving you at the mercy of Bowser's minions if you can't run away.
Meanwhile, tapping the A button boosts a sticker's effectiveness if timed correctly. Not only that, but you can spend a modest number of coins during Mario's turn to match up to three like symbols, whereupon which you can execute a maximum of three attacks, one after the other. Considering most battles involve at least two opponents, this is a gamble worth taking.
Presentation-wise, Paper Mario: Sticker Star shines, with a colorful cartoon-style world with impressive paper effects. Little things, like peeling a sticker off a wall, or switching to glasses free 3D to admire different layers of depth, really set this title apart from anything else we've seen on 3DS. If you need proof, whip out that aforementioned fan during a battle, and watch as it blows goombas, koopa troopas and shy guys all over the place. It may not be the most visually arresting game on the system, but it proves that a little Nintendo magic does wonders. The light-hearted soundtrack, comprised of catchy tunes, only serves to enhance the overall package.
As for the plot, expect Bowser to run amok and Princess Peach to go missing. No big surprise. On that note, we were somewhat letdown by the writing, which pales in comparison to the hilarious and witty Mario & Luigi series. Here, some of the jokes fall flat. Of course, this may have more to do with us being in our 30s, playing a game for all ages, so there's a great chance you'll enjoy the story. It definitely has its moments.
Even if you don't, though, Paper Mario: Sticker Star has more than enough positives to warrant a purchase. From the wealth of stickers to the challenging levels and creatures, it's one of the 3DS' more enjoyable RPGs, with adorable characters, catchy music and subtle yet effective 3D graphics. Our advice? "Stick" with it.
Review code provided by Nintendo.
What's Hot: Stickers let you build Mario's arsenal from the ground up, a variety of paper-crafted worlds, tricky puzzles, "depth-defying" 3D effects, catchy tunes.
What's Not: Dialogue pales in comparison to previous Mario RPGs.