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Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS) review:

Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS)

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The Good Paper Mario is a charming character in a charming world
Smart, funny writing
Good puzzles
Sticker system makes you carefully consider your attacks

The Bad Getting stuck is no fun at all
Combat can seem pointless at times

The Bottom Line Paper Mario: Sticker Star's many charms make it a sweet and worthwhile adventure, though a few flaws interfere with its feel-good attitude.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.5 Overall

Mario has had many incarnations over the years, but Paper Mario is perhaps the pluckiest of all the portly plumber's personas. The way he moves, his feet cheerily kicking up dust, suggests an unflappable willingness to face any challenge. He never talks, but his steady demeanor speaks volumes; he is a happy hero and a faithful friend. One look at that mustachioed visage and you know that he is good and kind and true right down to his papery core. It's a pleasure to be reunited with this incredibly charming character and to explore the lovely papercraft world of Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Mario's cheery outlook is contagious, and you'll often be happy to accompany him on his latest adventure, but it's easy to find yourself stuck for extended periods, during which the joy gives way to frustration. In the end, however, happiness triumphs over all else; it's worth sticking through the tough spots with Paper Mario and seeing this adventure reach its cheery conclusion.

Seriously, isn't he just the cutest?

Sticker Star begins during the annual Mushroom Kingdom holiday of Sticker Fest. People gather at the festival grounds in the hamlet of Decalburg to celebrate stickers, and to make wishes on the powerful sticker comet that comes to visit the town each year. Alas, this year, Bowser ruins everybody's fun by leaping for the comet, absorbing some of its power himself, and scattering five wish-granting royal stickers far and wide across the kingdom in a maelstrom of sticker-fueled malice. Bowser makes off with Princess Peach (of course), and Mario joins up with the feisty caretaker of the royal stickers, who is herself a crown-shaped sticker named Kersti.

The story isn't special, but the writing sure is. Sticker Star possesses the smart, witty humor that's typical of the Paper Mario games. It's just a shame there isn't more of it. Though Kersti is almost always with you, Sticker Star can feel a bit lonely at times, and where games like the outstanding Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door were brimming over with memorable characters and funny moments, Sticker Star could have used more of both. But this land of papery forests, deserts, caves, and oceans is nonetheless a treat to explore. Smiling koopas, goofy goombas, and other enemies shuffle happily around each stage, bringing the world to joyous (if slightly dangerous) life. And the flat characters are particularly striking in 3D; at times, you can almost believe that you're gazing at an actual papercraft display.

In the wake of the Sticker Fest disaster, it's not just royal stickers that were sent far and wide across the land. Stickers of all sorts are now stuck to surfaces just waiting to be peeled off, which is lucky for you, because you're gonna need 'em. Early on, you get a sticker album, and as you peel stickers from walls, knock them out of blocks, or purchase them with coins, they get placed in your album. Ordinary stickers have names like jump, hammer, and fire flower, and only by spending these stickers can you attack your enemies during Sticker Star's turn-based combat.

Seriously, isn't he just the cutest?

It's an unusual system that encourages you to think about your attacks in a way that you don't have to in a typical role-playing game. When confronted with a group of weak enemies, do you finish them off in one turn by using a somewhat-rare shiny shell sticker, or do you take a few turns to do it, using run-of-the-mill stickers like worn-out jump and saving that shiny shell for later? Stickers are plentiful throughout the world, so it's unlikely--though possible--to find yourself running out; the trick is learning to use the right sticker in every situation. There's a steady curve as you progress through the game; you start finding rarer, shinier, more powerful stickers, which are also often larger, taking up more of the finite space in your album. It's satisfying to start harnessing the power of these stronger stickers and to become more skilled and efficient in your use of stickers as you advance.

The whole idea of spending stickers may seem wrong; after all, anyone who was ever a kid with a sticker album knows that stickers are meant to be collected and carefully smoothed into place. Fear not! In Decalburg, there is a sticker museum that is just waiting for one of each type of sticker to be added to its permanent collection. Once you've placed a sticker in its frame on the wall, you can gaze at it to your heart's content, and read a bit of information about it in the "sticky wiki." Having a permanent home for your stickers gives you a reason to hunt down one of each type, and the rarity and elusiveness of some stickers give you incentive to poke your nose into every corner of Sticker Star's charming world to find them.

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