Guess my family pays attention when I say what video games I’m interested in. Probably should have increased the depth of the list a tad. Anyway, so I took one of the two back to the store and picked up a copy of the latest adventure of Paper Mario: Sticker Star.
I had seen my brother play a couple of the Paper Mario series before. I’m not really sure which ones exactly, but needless to say they looked like games I would enjoy playing. As far as Mario games on RPG platforms go, I’ve played a few. I never beat Super Mario RPG back in the day, but I’m sure I’ll get another shot to play it on Virtual Console if I ever get around to it. I liked the various Mario and Luigi games on GBA and DS. So bring it on, Paper Mario, lets see what you got.
My initial response was… This game sucks. I haven’t really gotten over that initial disappointment, either, and I imagine I’m a little less than halfway through the game.
Let me explain – there is one thing in common that all of the above Mario RPGs have, and that is the story is fairly linear and you generally have a good idea of where you need to be heading next. You’d think that with the traditional-style Super Mario 3 world map added that there would be an even more linear progression than previous examples. That is no where near the case for Sticker Star.
It gets worse. You are going to have to go back to levels you already beat and you’ll have no idea why until you find the one thing you missed, that in some cases, even CSI Las Vegas would have missed. That’s right, Gil Grissom himself, bad-ass as he may be would be thwarted. Having no idea why you’re backtracking, or where you’re backtracking to, has actually meant that I have played through entire worlds twice (i.e. played through all of 2-1, 2-2, and so on, in entirety). Oh, but wait, you don’t start the game with the Blue Door sticker? Guess I’ll be playing through all of them, yet again.
Just one question: in a level full of waterfalls, why is only one of the waterfalls THE Water’s Edge Waterfall? And why is it the one in the middle of a series of waterfalls from the same source? Wouldn’t it be especially easy to make the mistake of assuming the uppermost waterfall, with a comet sticker in plain sight right next to it, is the one all the Toads are talking about? Also, why is it suddenly okay for paper to touch water? Okay, that was obviously way more than one question.
Additionally, unless you’re paying close attention to detail you’re going to get to a certain point that you’ll be clueless as to why you can’t proceed, and your magnanimous tour guide is going to offer so much help. (By “help,” I mean she is going to be equally baffled.) Yes, you read that right, you’re going to get to a stage in the game where you are lost, and the ONE person you were told to count on for advice…
The battle system doesn’t save the game either. I seem to recall from watching previous entries that Mario had better options for defending himself from enemy attacks. I do recall from the Mario and Luigi series that I could choose between jumping or using my hammer while defending, and often timing it well could result in damaging the enemy. This time around, you have the option of a well-timed “block,” which is basically Mario bracing himself for what is about to hit him. You could choose to use a defense sticker, like the spike hat if you want to damage your enemy on their turn, but that means you forfeit an attack spot to do so.
The visuals have their moments. There is a scene where Mario is standing on piles of trash searching through it for various things that uses the 3D fairly well, but otherwise there isn’t much for the 3D. This is understandable since the characters are obviously meant to be 2D by design. I haven’t seen much that makes me say, “Wow!” as far as scenery goes yet, but there is a very well designed level in the first world, if you can figure out how to unlock it (see the rant about the waterfalls above).
I feel like as a fanboy of games by Nintendo I really should say that my expectations of this game were probably a bit unrealistic. After all, this game is my introduction to a series and I am using other series as a North Star.
My conclusion is that while I do enjoy a puzzle aspect in games, having my expectations taken out back and beaten with an aluminum bat wrapped with barbed wire and a rubber ducky… puts a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve played some bad portable games before, and while this isn’t as bad as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for DS, it has been a frustrating experience. RPGamer gave this game a 3 of 5. So far, I’m giving it a generous 2. I hope that by the time I finish this game I can update this review for the better.