The sticker gimmick seems to run dry pretty quickly in this not-RPG follow up in the Paper Mario universe; however, it does have its good points, and would be a worthwhile purchase if not for its full-release $44.99 price tag.
+Sticker gimmick is cool when using it to solve puzzles
+Graphically very nice-looking
-Touch screen is very under-used
-3D gets boring for the style
-Sticker gimmick gets very old quickly for everything except puzzles
Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS is, in two words, vastly underwhelming. The core concept, which might have been very cool, was jumbled and confused in spite of its simplicity: it's not an RPG, but it retains a turn-based battle system; it's a platformer with a turn-based battle system, but it's also a puzzle-solving adventure game at its core; you paste stickers on everything but you don't even use the touch screen to do so, instead relying on the analog stick or D-pad.
I started off playing this game actually having fun. I definitely missed the acquired attacks and level-up system of a traditional RPG, but the eight-year-old girl in me remembers collecting whole books full of stickers (especially the shiny ones, don't pretend that you don't know what I'm talking about) so I thought the concept would be really cool. I quickly learned how tedious the battle system is when I have to go through my sticker sheets to pick out an appropriate attack sticker to use against certain enemies. You really have to figure out what works and what doesn't quickly, because once you use a sticker it's gone. The battles don't actually gain you anything besides coins that you use to purchase new stickers, a special enemy attack sticker once in a while or passage, if it's a boss fight. But you certainly don't raise your HP or acquire higher stats. I find the battles inherently pointless and choose to avoid them and solve the level puzzles instead, since the game seems to just drown you in coins anyway.
The puzzles in the game are the only real high point for me. In Sticker Star, you find these mysterious "things" (real-world 3D objects that exist in a paper world, for example a high heel or vacuum cleaner) that you can then "stickerize" in order to progress through the world. For example, you can stickerize a pair of scissors in order to cut a rope, or stickerize a trumpet in order to wake up a sleeping character. They also have an application in battle, and will usually do pretty massive damage. But this is the part of the game I actually enjoyed, seeing how they work and where. Even this, though, seems mistreated, as I would expect when it's time to stick a sticker on something, the screen would shift down to the touchscreen portion and I would wave my stylus back and forth to stick it on. It's a little annoying to use the D-Pad to do so when they released the game on a touch-based system.
All in all, while Paper Mario: Sticker Star does have its decent points; it seems to wholly miss the mark on a good, solid Paper Mario release. Ignore the $44.99 download price point and pick up a better platformer/RPG instead.
This review is based on a review code provided by the publisher.