One thing you can’t accuse a Mario game of is feeling a little flat. I think you know where this is going so I’ll cut to the chase when I say this one is flat but, (oh I’m so funny I’d laugh but I fear I may lose a rib) only because it’s the world of Paper Mario once again. Originally this was a canny concept when the first one appeared on the N64. The game delivered a game that was actually more of an RPG with dialogue and a story that was a bit more fleshed out than just the usual Princess Peach being captured and Mario jumping on heads over and over again until he can rescue her.
We’ve seen Mario enter the papery world since on more recent Nintendo consoles but he’s never appeared on handhelds until now. The 3DS is actually the perfect device for this game to appear on because not only do you get the 2D loveliness in the 3D world but also the illusion that the action is transcending the little screens and doing lots of lovely things near your eyes.
When it comes to story, as usual Bowser’s up to his old tricks and ruining everything and it’s up to you to collect all the Royal Stickers strewn around the many worlds in order to prepare for the inevitable final confrontation. The game actually plays like a cross between a platformer, a point and click adventure and an RPG. As you explore the land it’s immensely satisfying peeling stickers from walls, trees and behind bushes in order to collect them in your sticker album and save them for use on the Goombas and other usual nasties you’ve come to expect. When you bump into your enemies a turn-based encounter kicks in where you use stickers to attack and defend accordingly.
For example you can put on a spiked hat to kill off Goombas that try to jump on your head, hit enemies with mallets or fire shells at them. You can also hammer the A button at just the right moment to give your attacks some extra wellie or to defend yourself and limit the amount of damage taken. It’s a good system when it works and there’s some genuine strategy to it as well. For example, when a paper enemy rolls itself up into a spike it’s not a good idea to use a Boot sticker as you’ll actually take the damage as a big spike goes up your bottom! Where this system fails though is in the boss battles.
Most of the time it’s all too easy to win a battle against normal enemies but bosses require special stickers you may not have found yet if you want to get the upper hand, and can be near impossible to beat if you’ve used up all the stickers in your album. Still, prepare well and have an online FAQ at hand and you should be able to make it through.
You may also get stuck when just exploring the world. Like point and click adventures of old it’s also possible to not quite know where to go next, even with a helpful hint. Most of the time though a tap of the Y button can solve things as it triggers ‘Paperization’, a mode where you can use sticker you’ve found to literally paper over cracks and change the world around you in order to progress further.
Everything also looks great on the 3DS. Combat makes full use of 3D as enemies bounce around the screen if hit with a Slaphammer or cut to ribbons with a special Scissor sticker that’s one of many stickers that act like a sort of smart bomb.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a charming but sometimes frustrating game that is definitely worth a look if you’re a Mario fan or you want something that offers something a bit extra to a standard platformer. Be warned though, it does compromise on both so it gets a very good 7 out of 10.
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