Somewhere around the end of "Super Mario: Sticker Star," I realized that it was the most beautiful handheld game I've ever played. "Sticker Star" has a consistently charming design that keeps the surprises coming even late into the campaign, but unfortunately suffers from one or two key level design flaws that may mar your experience.
In the world of Paper Mario, all characters and surfaces are made from paper, stickers and cardboard, their flat nature making for clever, eye-pleasing, layered foregrounds and backgrounds. The game represents a fantastic use of 3D, and although I tend to play Nintendo 3DS with the third dimension slider turned off, I found myself flipping the 3D switch often to appreciate the shoe-box dioramas that Nintendo had created.
The Paper Mario games are RPGs (role-playing games) that have always worked to simplify the turn-based fighting experience, and this Nintendo 3DS offering simplifies RPG gameplay even further. The world can be navigated quickly and easily, there are not an overwhelming number of side quests to complete and there is a lack of emphasis on HP stats, taking away the complications that may have kept kids from previous incarnations. The game also avoids introducing many new characters, instead using Mario's classic cast in new ways.
One big note on "Sticker Star"; you are going to need to play this game with Google by your side. While the game plays intuitively for 95 percent of its run, getting stuck on just one puzzle can stop your entire adventure dead in its tracks. There is a help system built into the game, but I found that it would not provide the desired advice in the majority of situations where "Sticker Star" left me stuck. Here are the top 5 sticker stumpers I found as I played…
World 1-3: How do you get that faucet to stop pumping water? I tried cutting the cord with scissors, slamming my hammer down, stomping the hose, striking Bowser with the hammer. The solution? This is the only puzzle in the game that actually requires you to jump up and down. Climb to the top of the faucet and do just that.
World 2-4: That's not a sticker indicator spot, it's a plug. Didn't mind this one as much, but it sure went against intuition.
World 4-1: I felt stupid when I spent an hour trying to bypass snowball-throwers. You can hammer their snowballs with precise timing to pass them, but if you've tried this a few times and failed, you might think it impossible. Keep at it.
World 4-3: The ghost house room with the floating furniture threw me for a loop. At first it seemed one might be able to jump from table to chair in mid-air. Then it made sense that if the final bookcase could be found, it might bridge to the desired area. Instead, click the candle off on the upper level of the moving furniture room to reveal your way forward.
World 5-5: Jump the jungle flower. I'm convinced there is no official way to get over the last jungle flower. Luckily, the hive-mind of global trouble shooters has figured out a way to jump on an invisible leaf ledge and make your way up to the final crumpled piece of paper. Then again, the best item in the game is accessible after this jump, so I'm thinking the game's designers knew just how maddening the puzzle would be. Still, I could have used a lawnmower or a ladder sticker at the end of this level.
Final Bowser Battle: I didn't have the patience to keep entering battle with Bowser in order to figure out how to knock his bodyguard Whomp down and cut up its clearly vulnerable back. I tried putting him to sleep with a Baahammer and was weary of using a bed as it put Mario to sleep on an earlier test run. I found it was easier to use an infinite jump sticker, as long as you have the patience to mash buttons for a full minute's time.
This game finally answers the burning question, why are the forest rivers in Mario's world filled with poison?
So now Nintendo's handhelds are juggling two RPGs at once. The question is, will the Mario and Luigi series continue when Paper Mario is now in the mix??
"Paper Mario: Sticker Star" is now available in the United States for digital download and physical purchase.