Paper Mario has always been very different from the main Mario series. Starting with Paper Mario on the N64 this turn based RPG series has delivered top notch games ever since and this newest title is not different, though it is worth noting that this games is different in some ways.
Fans of the series relax! The game still has all the Paper Mario aspects we know and love, the aesthetic paper style makes a glorious return in 3D as well as the humour we have come to enjoy from these games, even the turn based RPG battles have returned, but not in the way you would expect…
I have to mention to combat first; it’s the biggest change by far. The battles play like a normal turn based battle system except there are no experience points, no stats and no levels, instead you use stickers of varying powers to attack enemies and lower their HP to 0. The stickers can be bought, won, found or even made in some cases and they all can be used in battle for different effects. Some stickers allow Mario to unleash his basic attack, such as Jumping on enemies or hitting them with a hammer, made stronger by the quality of the sticker, a shiny sticker for example will do much more damage than a worn out one. Other stickers can help Mario get a boost or help him defend against attacks in various ways.
This is something that I LOVE in these Mario games, being able to defend yourself. Instead of just letting a enemy hit you, by pressing A at the right time in battle, Mario will block some of the damage he receive thus making sure the player is always active while in battles, the same holds true when you attack monsters. Pressing A at the right time can turn your attack from a NICE to an EXCELLENT! to deal much more damage allowing you to better utilise stickers more effectively.
You will want to get the most out of your stickers because when you use them in battle they are gone! Resource management is key in some harder battles making you think about what stickers to use and in what amount adds another level of enjoyment to the gameplay, making you collect every sticker you can because you never know when it will come in handy.
Instead of an open world like your normal RPG games, Paper Mario Sticker Star brings back the multiple courses for Mario to complete, 6 in all, with varying amounts of levels in them. Each level is different and contains new enemies puzzles and secrets for you to find and are all completed by finding part of the Sticker Star which will unlock the next part of the course. This system is much better then I initially expected it to be; it makes the game more streamlined but also allows you to see your progression throughout the game.
While in the courses, Mario, using the power of his new sticker friend Kersti, can un-stick various parts of the game scenery and place it either in its proper place in the world allowing Mario to access new areas, progress in the game and find special secrets. This give yet another level of exploration as the player must always be looking out for instances to re arrange the world around them.
The music is some of the best a Mario game has ever produced; it’s catchy and well made and really gets you involved. Not to mention the numerous remixes of older Mario tunes that fans of the series will really enjoy and will want to listen to over and over, the whole game is a pleasure to listen to and I doubt you will ever get irritated by any of the tracks in the game.
There is however an overlying problem with Paper Mario Sticker Star, its gameplay is all over the place. The only real reason to enter into battles is get coins (and sometimes stickers); coins are mainly used to buy stickers to fight with in battles. This gives battles no real reason to be there as they become more of a blockade rather than a part of the overall gameplay. After you get the hang of them and work out your enemies weaknesses they do become easier, but this is where a jarring change occurs.
The boss battles are ridiculously hard, not only do you need to use the correct stickers, you have to use them at the correct time and in the correct way or the boss will destroy you and that is a great shame as those amazing battles can become infuriating fast. Along the same vein, some of the puzzles in the courses are needlessly complicated and can become very confusing for younger players to understand.