Paper MarioThe latest game in my 3DS collection is Paper Mario: Sticker Star.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a title worth dropping everything in order to play and so after trawling several stores (HMV’s distribution ballsed up) and maintaining my steadfast refusal to shop on Amazon or eBay (nothing to do with this tax issue, just my inherent dislike of online retailers), I managed to brave the unholy crowds at Hamley’s Toy Store on Regent Street to pick up a copy.

So, what’s the deal with Paper Mario?  It’s the fourth Paper Mario title: in this universe, Mario and every thing else exists as if it were two dimensional and made of paper/cardboard.  The scenery is somewhat 3D but the characters are flat as the proverbial pancake.  Unlike other games in the Mario series, all our hero can do here is jump and use his hammer to defeat his enemies.  Granted, that’s a gross over-simplification but fairly accurate nonetheless.

Plot-wise, nothing is new – you know who has been kidnapped yet again by…well, you know who.  Only this time, it was during the Sticker Fest in the town of Decalburg.  Bower’s attack scatted hundreds of stickers around the Mushroom Kingdom and Mario must use these stickers in order to get closer to the goal.  Stickers are used in combat, to reveal hidden secrets and certain items are “stickerised” and used to aid progress; a tap sticker on a pipe will allow the draining of water and divert its flow so a new pathway is revealed.

Being an RPG game, there are plenty of sidequests and secondary activities to take part in and enjoy, not least as Mario will power up his abilities through their completion which makes the harder villains easy to defeat.  There is however, little customisation of the main character as the badges from the earlier game have been removed which allowed Mario to enhance attacks, defense, speed etc.  At the beginning of the game, Mario’s inventory is quite limited in size but as he progresses, he earns pages for the sticker album allowing him to carry more – vital as the item stickers take much more space in the albums reducing the space for battle stickers.

The music is faithful and jolly – mostly a new soundtrack although the developers have snuck in a few familiar riffs as a salute to the traditional series. And the usual sound effects are there too, it really does feel like “home”.  But this title, possibly owing to limitations of the machine or hurried development, feels like a cut-down version of a Paper Mario game.  There is only one ally in the game and she is more of an advisor rather than an active participant.  Luigi has been reduced to a handful of cameo appearances whilst (thus far) there doesn’t appear to be a pit of 100 Trials.  Granted, I’m only on world 3-7 thus far and there could be way more to come.

I’ve always enjoyed the Paper Mario Games but we don’t have a 1000 Year Door beater on our hands (now that’s a game that sets the Paper Mario Standards).  Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable romp with plenty to do.  Detractors will enjoy the lack of extended conversations which are another hallmark of the series, you get straight into the action, bish-boshing your way through the levels.  Another worthy 3DS purchase.