Man, I’m really torn on Paper Mario: Sticker Star. After twenty-two hours of saved game time (and maybe an hour or two of lost progress after succumbing to tricky, obtuse boss fights), I still can’t decide if I really liked it or really disliked it. Certainly, I’m lingering somewhere in the middle, and that’s extremely frustrating, as the charm is absolutely there, but other aspects fall short, and I truly can’t recall another game that I had to look up so many solutions for via an online walkthrough.
In total, there are five-and-a-half worlds (forest world, desert world, ice world, you know the drill) to journey through, but none are particularly exciting. Strangely, there is one level within each world that is balls-out charming and stands apart from the others in terms of uniqueness and design, such as the haunted mansion (4-3, The Enigmansion) or the trivia game show level. I really enjoyed these and wished that the thought that went into them was spread out more across all the levels, as some come across feeling highly linear and, more or less, sticker-wasters.
Despite no EXP to gain, I really enjoyed the combat in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, though without timed button presses for bonus damage/defense it’d be fairly boring. I got really good at timing my jumps for Boot stickers, sort of okay with Hammers, and awesome at Fire/Ice Flowers. Those were the mainstays of my attacks, with the occasional Thing sticker when in a…ahem sticky situation. The Thing stickers are quite absurd upon initial pick up, and the only way to learn how they work is to use them in battle. However, re-purchasing some from the secret store could be expensive, and so I’d say I only ever used maybe 30% to 40% of the ones I discovered, such as the Electric Guitar, Soda Can, and Bowling Ball. Oh, and I used the Pillow by accident in the final boss fight, thinking it would put Bowser to sleep only to learn it puts Mario to sleep so that he can heal some HP each turn. In short, go me!
Lastly, the game is forever gorgeous to look at. Its diorama appearance makes turning on the 3D option actually viable, and every level is brimming with color. The larger-than-life bosses are great, and you truly never know what to expect when you use a Thing sticker, such as instant replays on the Bowling Ball.
Okay, no on to the bad–sadly. That whole “paperize” the world and peel parts away gimmick? Totally not used enough in the second half of the game, and when it is, it’s defiantly very straightforward. You literally just peel a part of the wall off, watch it flip itself upside-down in your book, paperize again, and stick it back on the wall. Consider yourself a real genius. I was hoping there would be more secrets to unearth via peeling, but there were only a few early on in the game.
Probably the most infuriating aspect of Paper Mario: Sticker Star are the boss fights, which require specific stickers or a combination of specific stickers to defeat. Now, you might think you have the right one, but you are generally wrong, and so you have to dig deep into your 1990s point-and-click adventure game logic to figure out what sticker is the right one for the job. This basically requires a lot of trial and error, which ultimately lead to me looking up answers via an online walkthrough. Not the most fun way to defeat the final boss of a videogame. Here’s a hint: Stapler, Scissors, Shaved Ice, and Tail; then as many shiny hammers you can use.
And speaking of the ending…well, I’m not exactly sure why I expected something grand or even fulfilling.. After you piece back the Wiggler’s body segments, there’s very few story beats in the ice and jungle worlds, which meant I completely forgot the what and why of Mario’s mission until the end credits scenes began playing. The story is basically this: Bowser ruins the Sticker Fest, you go collect the Royal Stickers, you defeat Bowser, and you start up the Sticker Fest again. That’s it. You get a wee joke from Kersti, and everyone laughs. Even Bowser. The end. Your progress gets saved at the end, but you’re dropped back into your pre-boss fight save slot; you can, however, visit a special Toad in Decalburg to watch the credits again, if you care to.
I guess the only reason I’d go back into Paper Mario: Sticker Star is for the museum, and maybe to complete those “Achievement”-like flags, which require some serious grinding and coin spending. Not ideal. Though filling out the museum is fun, but I have no idea if you get anything for doing it. Considering I’ve already now beat the game, I should just go give the museum all my special stickers and see what comes of it. And maybe I’ll hop back into Super Paper Mario, just for kicks…
But yeah, Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Love it, hate it–a combination of both.