My thoughts when I finally got the chance to play Sticker Star were easily summed up as: ‘This had better be worth it’. It’s been quite the wait for Paper Mario: Sticker Star (all the other entries in the franchise have been three years apart) and the relatively low billing it’s had compared to the upcoming Wii U meant I didn’t go into the demo knowing much about the game. However, I know what I liked about the previous titles in the series, so armed with that knowledge I’m happy to report that the paper plumber’s latest outing is shaping up to be fantastic.
Even though Paper Mario’s latest adventure may have been left out in the cold by the Wii U media circus, he’s still got plenty to offer 3DS owners!
The flippable planes of 2007’s Super Paper Mario have disappeared in favour of reinstating the graphical style of the original games. This is probably a welcome return to form for a lot of players, who felt that while the Wii game’s visuals were an interesting experiment, they didn’t make the most of the system’s power. The pop-up book look of the new game works wonderfully on 3DS, and the stages I played (a port town and a field level) were both very well laid out. The 3D is slightly hit-and-miss; sometimes it genuinely looks like a cardboard model, but for the most part Nintendo missed an opportunity to capitalise on the feature.
You’ll note I used the word “stages” and that’s because Paper Mario: Sticker Star eschews the usual open world in favour of a more linear level-based overworld similar to the kind of thing you’ll see in Super Mario Bros. 3. Whether you like your Paper Mario open-world or with larger but separate stages such as these will depend on taste, but it certainly does eliminate a good deal of the backtracking that was the one blemish on The Thousand Year Door.
The stages themselves seem largely self-contained but large and well-supplied with stickers and characters. The enemies Mario faced in the demo weren’t much more than goombas and koopas, but one hopes the finished product makes good use of the variety of creatures introduced over the years.
2.5D? Mario, you tease.
Speaking of the battle system, the replacement of both the platforming combat of Super Paper Mario and the typical turn-based style of the original game with a sticker-based battle framing actually works very nicely. The player selects a move from the touch screen, all of which are stickers found around the stages. This system does mean watching your sticker count, but they’re plentifully spread and, crucially, respawn, meaning it’s unlikely you’ll completely run out. What is interesting is the addition of high-powered stickers that are unique or hard to find, which take up extra space in Mario’s limited inventory but also deal good damage to bosses.
The key difference to this game, more so even than the dramatic shift in combat styles and the replacement of experience points with coins, is the overall stylistic tone. Sticker Star is not a Paper Mario game as you know it. While the previous titles made their impression through storytelling and writing genius, this game is primarily a platform puzzler with excellent writing as well.
Whether or not Paper Mario: Sticker Star stands or falls will depend on the finished product, but I had a lot of fun with it, and the extra mechanics were certainly a nice addition to the formula that kept me entertained more than a straight sequel would have. With well-designed levels, interesting combat and lovely visuals, let’s hope Mario gets back into the fold with a bang.
With Sticker Star out now in the US, many of you will have had a chance to get stuck in with the title! Do you agree with our early impressions? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to keep an eye out next week for our full review of the game!