Paper Mario: Sticker Star (Nintendo 3DS) - Review by Andrew
This 3DS version of Paper Mario is one of a handful of games which feel like they were originally announced an eternity ago along with the likes of Luigi's Mansion which itself has been bushed back to early 2013. Now were not saying that there's a shortage of Mario games for the system and the 3DS now boasts a number of quality 'plumber themed' titles. The fact is though Paper Mario is slightly different and while the series is not without it's critics, ever since the first 2D incarnation of the Nintendo mascot, way back in the days of the N64, fans have greeted each new release with anticipation and excitement. What Sticker Stars does represent is the first outing on a handheld but is the 3DS up to the job?
If you have played any of the Paper Mario games before then you're in for a bit of a surprise because this is not the platformer you were expecting but instead an RPG with battles and puzzles elements. The game is set over a variety of different themed lands all of which require extensive exploration to uncover stickers. It's these that lay at the heart of the gameplay and are essential in puzzle solving and battles but we'll talk more about that later. Pressing the 'Y' button anywhere in the game will allow you to 'paperize' your current location, freezing and flattening the action. This allows you to place stickers on the area in order to solve puzzles and uncover extras. It can be a little random at times but actually discovering something useful is very satisfying indeed. You'll also need this feature to 'replace' missing objects, which have been nabbed by pretty much anyone trying to slow you down. We can't really go into this an awful lot because it will spoil some of the puzzles but it's yet another ingenious piece of game design Sticker Stars offers.
Actually getting around is both simple and intuitive and it's easy to become comfortable with the controls without even looking at the manual. The collision detection is also very good and you'll need to be directly facing a character to either chat to them or enter into battle. As we've already mentioned though, this is more or an RPG that the classic platformer so that need to edge up to a ledge in order to pull of a perfectly timed jump is just not required here.
The visual presentation here is just wonderful and it's difficult to criticise any part of the game either in 2 or 3D. In fact the whole thing is like a rather large theatre set with props scattered everywhere most on which can be fully interacted with. The various character animation is also spot on with Mario running around the levels at a frantic pace complete with dust flying from his boots as he makes his way to the next puzzle. This is the kind of attention to detail that games should be expecting from every title and future Nintendo outings will have a lot to live up to in the coming months.
As with the visuals the music is also of a very high standard and long standing Nintendo fans will be pleased to learn that the game is packed with a familiar musical score and suitable sound effects as and when required.
The stylus comes into use once you enter one of the many battles and the touch-screen below is crammed with your extensive sticker collection. With a bit of luck you will amassed these as you've navigated the various levels and your inventory should be full of a variety hammers, boots and the odd 'jump attack'. Once you enter the battle arena you'll quickly discover that the arcade style gaming, which you have been enjoying, has now been replaced by a turn based RPG system where you must use your various weapons to beat the current Koopa Troopa or indeed anything else which is stopping you from progressing. You'll also have to employ an element of timing too and it's essential to get your attacks in just at the right moment although blocking them is just as important here.
All of this can be a little challenging at first but managing your inventories and pushing up your experience level does making the going a little easier. The majority of these battles are over very quickly indeed so they'll never really get in the way of the main game. Boss Battles can be a little longer although 'special stickers' can make things a lot easier on you, as long as you can manage to find them of course.
There haven't been many games, which really benefit from the 3D but Paper Mario stands out as an example of just how this extra dimension should be used in games. The slow pace of the levels combined with the paper-thin visuals allow the 3D to shine though enhancing the players experience. It also manages to bring a wonderful illusion of depth and items tucked into the background really do appear to be some distance away.
While this is a departure from what you'd normally expect from a Paper Mario title the mixture of RPG and puzzle elements, all wrapped up in a wonderful light hearted and occasionally humorous plot, should win over even the most cynical gamers. The sticker collecting adds a genuinely engaging secondary element to the proceedings too although it's debatable if everyone is going to trawl around the game to find absolutely everything. Sticker Stars also offers hours of gameplay and you're not going to complete this in a single weekend which is a plus given it's questionable replay value. In short Paper Mario is a delight and if you did get a shiny new 3DS over the festive season then you should probably pick this up on you next shopping trip.
Pro: Great Sound and Visuals, Wonderful Use of the 3D, Genuinely Entertaining to Play
Con: Some Frustrating Puzzles and Backtracking.
Final score: 8.3