Thursday, 4 June 2015

Memory Review 1: Paper Mario Sticker Star

A key part of the EyeMoustaches mission statement is "reviewing games that came out years ago", an admiral goal definitely not born out of reluctance to spend money on new games. However, as I've mentioned before, within weeks of starting this blog I ran into a serious problem: I could hardly remember some of the games I'd long since sold off, which would make writing a useful review quite challenging.
What's more, it's difficult to trust a reviewer with a small back catalogue. You might be thinking, "this Moustache thing is telling me how good Kid Icarus is, but I can't trust it. I need references, a track record, I need to know it can tell a good game from a bad game. That it didn't just like it because Palutena has a voice like melted cheese.... in a good way (this may not have been your exact wording)".
But where others might see a problem, I see the potential for a series of gimmick articles. I intend to write a number of weekly smaller reviews of these games, with the twist that they'll be arranged in the order of release, from the most recent onward. Each week, you the lucky reader will be taken on a thrilling journey into increasingly foggy memories! Watch with amazement as the flowery prose, coherent arguments and confident statements of facts become short descriptions, half forgotten opinions and hesitant statements of questionable accuracy! Truly exciting stuff!
In addition, to boost the readership, I had an intern/figment of my imagination get some contributions from Miiverse super star Miister X about the games on the list. It may appear as though not many of them relate to the game in question but hii's an artist, operating on another level, so perhaps the true meaning and relevance of his statements is hidden, waiting to be discovered by a greater mind than mine.
So without further adieu, I give the first review in the series: Paper Mario Sticker Star

Paper Mario Sticker Star

Super Paper Mario on the Wii was divisive because it mixed classic Mario with the RPG elements of the Paper Mario series. While I did miss the turn based combat of the previous games, the wit and style of the series lived on. The story, characters and companions carried me through the adjustment to the new combat scheme as well as some of the game's faults (for example: a dependence on backtracking, and the underused rotation mechanic). Sticker Star attempts a different mixture of those two game types and falls flat. It takes the story and minimal dialogue from traditional Mario games (Bowser, of all people, has kidnapped, who'd-have-guessed, Princess Peach) as well as the map structure of Super Mario Bros 3 and World and mixes these elements with the 3D environments, visual style and turn based combat of the Paper Mario series.
Removing the story and character elements takes with it the colourful dust jacket of Paper Mario, revealing the simplistic, functional hardback cover of exploration beneath. In this game your objectives are quite similar to those seen in previous games and as before you are accompanied by a companion who does the talking. However because of the reduced focus on writing these are the least interesting environments in the series. Whereas previous games were set backstage at wrestling matches, in abstract wastelands, nerd fortresses and toyboxs and tasked you with solving murder and stew pot mysteries in this game you explore the forests and rolling hills and forests that are standards of Mario games. Mario's companion, the floating-crown-person-lady, is another staple, specifically the straight-man/woman that Mario partners up with at the start of Paper Mario game who is quickly replaced with someone more interesting (dull companions were also a problem with Super Paper Mario, but as I recall in that game your alternate characters, particularly Bowser picked up the slack). In Sticker Star however, that initial companion accompanies you throughout the game. The crown gives Mario the power to peel off parts of the world and reposition them elsewhere but this ability is never used in an interesting way and does little but facilitate fetch quests.
All that being said, dialogue and setting isn't everything, and on first glance the game's combat appears to have gone back to the series' turn based roots. Closer inspection reveals, however, that slight changes have been made which, at the risk of sounding like everyone who has ever talked about games on the internet ever make everything worse. As mentioned earlier, Mario only has one companion throughout the whole game, so the extra layer of strategy provided by companions is gone, leaving the whole system resting on Mario's wafer then shoulders. In this game, all moves are tied to stickers bought and collected in the world. This change has its merits, different stickers take up more space in Mario's collection than others depending on their power, so some resource management is necessary. For instance, you need to stock up on hammers if you expect to encounter spiky enemies. The most powerful and visually interesting moves are sometimes used to solve puzzles in the environment such as blowing things away with a giant fan, which on paper (PAPER) is an interesting mechanic. In practice though, this means you rarely use these abilities in combat, out of fear that they will be needed to solve a puzzle later on in which case you would have to retreat and buy a new copy. To use the ever fertile toybox metaphor, it's like being given the keys to a toybox, but you can't tell which toys can actually be played with and which ones will be needed to knock over giant bowling pins later on.

As a result, most battles consist of using the staple moves on staple enemies in staple environments to further a staple Mario story filled with bland staple characters. Paper Mario Sticker Star is perhaps an odd game to start this memory review series with because it is not that I've forgotten details of the game over  time but that so little of it was interesting enough to stick(er) in my memory to begin with.


This game

And know the comment from Miister X

"As my client, Miister X made clear when he signed our deal with you, you may use his likeness for a fee, but he wants "nothing to do with your damn blog". He went on to say that he doesn't know what a sticker star is but that if you attempt to obtain another free opinion from him he will "shove a packet of match attack stickers so far down your throat that your intestines will look like a Man U fan's bedroom wall" Please don't call this number again unless you are in a position to make a cash offer. [Dictated but not read]"

Next review: Pilotwings Resort

1 comment:

  1. An interesting look at how what I would call the more contentious decisions in the game were made