As one draws near the close of Nintendo's Paper Mario: Sticker Star, one comes to the realization that they've just played one of the more charming handheld video games in recent memory. The 3DS game has a certain feel and appeal that stays consistent throughout its entire play and could be considered near-perfect, were it not for a few design flaws here and there.
Unlike most other Mario games where everybody and everything is presumed to exist in a 3D world, Nintendo's Paper Mario series relishes itself on the concept that everything exists as 2D in a 3D world instead. The flat nature of things not only give nearly every object and character in the game a charming, unique look, it also provides a good level of depth-of-field eye candy on the 3DS' display.
Technically an RPG, Paper Mario: Sticker Star offers a very simplified and accessible role-playing game experience that (at times) doesn't feel RPG-ish at all. Those expecting something of the depth of the SNES game Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars will be left wanting, but Sticker Star still provides an entertaining RPG-light experience. The game world is easily navigated, the turn-based combat is very simple to master, and Sticker Star doesn't worry itself with giving the player an overwhelming number of side quests to complete. Furthermore, Sticker Star shy's away from introducing a myriad of new characters, instead relying on the already-established cast of Mario characters.
There is one key mechanic unique to this game: the stickers themselves after which this Paper Mario game is titled. These stickers, which are found throughout the game, dictate what Mario can do and the manner in which he does these actions.
While some may expect the process of gathering and using the game's various stickers would be a tedious one, it's actually (and surprisingly) the opposite. The use of single-use stickers makes up the backbone of the game's combat system and, rather than being a hindrance, ends up being a helpful mechanic in the end. It is too bad, however, than nearly every action Mario takes -- including his iconic stomping upon bad guys -- requires a sticker. They can be plentiful, yes, but too much of the game depends upon them.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star is, by all accounts, an enjoyable 3DS game. Charming and entertaining, it's probably one of the better ones on the handheld console. What it's not, however, is overly challenging -- a characteristic many find desirable in a RPG. The sticker mechanics are novel and interesting, but one has but to wonder if they'll lose their adhesiveness over time.
Final Game Guys grade: B+
(Nintendo provided a copy of this game for review.)