The resource management aspect adds an extra level of strategy to consider above and beyond the traditional RPG trappings, and within the confines of the battle screen it's logical, fun and well-implemented. Unfortunately, in the wider context of the game structure it makes so little sense as to actually prove counter-productive to the enjoyment of the game.
See, since there's no levelling-up involved, there isn't a lot of incentive to get actually get involved in the battles in the first place. Defeated enemies drop stickers, true, and winning battles earns Mazza a cash reward (which he can spend on more stickers, or gamble away during fights in the hope of winning extra turns), but the outlay almost always outstrips the reward.
Once we wised up to this we spent much of our time sprinting through levels as though they were some kind of goomba-laden assault course, actively avoiding fights to ensure we were well stocked for the boss battles - where the difficulty tends to spike inexplicably.
The level structure has also been pared down to accommodate the format, and again it proves to the game's detriment. There's no over-arcing game world here - instead, levels are split into bite-sized chunks, navigated via the kind of world map you'd more often associated with the Mario's 2D platforming adventures.
Most levels feature some kind of insurmountable obstacle that requires Mario to find an object from somewhere (often from a different level entirely), and 'stick' it on top of problem. An early example is a snoozing wiggler who'll only shift his thorax if you trumpet its ears off with a brass instrument sourced from an earlier stage.
This means Sticker Star's structure is reminiscent of classic point and click adventures, complete with all that negatives that brings to the table. Extensive, aimless backtracking over old ground for vital stickers is a common requirement, a problem exacerbated by some very ropey, very un-Nintendo signposting.
A flawed combat system and an infuriatingly vague progression structure; it doesn't sound like a perfect recipe for a killer handheld RPG, does it? And indeed it isn't. Unlike Super Mario 3D Land, which was pruned to perfection, Nintendo has hacked away at Paper Mario's template wildly and indiscriminately, leaving behind a stumpy, overly-simplified RPG which fails to hit the highs of the first two Paper Mario titles.
But that's not to say that Sticker Star is as bad as it sounds on (ahem) paper. The quality of the writing, the eclecticness of its colourful cast and the glee of trying out a brand new sticker for the first time on an unsuspected victim are all positive factors that help keep the player plugging away merrily.
It moves along at a fair rate, you can always count on something whimsical or fascinating lurking on the next page, and it never gets boring - at least until you get pegged back by one of its cryptic puzzles, at least. We enjoyed our time with it.
But it never threatened to truly catch fire either, and considering the game's rich heritage, that means the disappointment is pulpable.
Packed full of wit and invention, but way too lightweight to enthrall like a good RPG should. We fold.
- Collecting stickers is addictive and fun
- Great characters and sights
- Punchy, lively combat
- No real incentive to get involved in scraps
- Irritating amount of backtracking
- Not the longest - little replay value.