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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Paper Mario: Sticker Star.

TranscriptEdit

I'm very fond of the Paper Mario series, not just for being fun games but for being my secret weapon. I say that Final Fantasy games are now essentially the same as gluing kaleidoscopes to your eyes and spending 20 hours in the queue at a Brazilian sex change clinic, and then, say, a dolphin or a stoat materializes behind me and goes, "Bwah, you just don't like RPGs." Or I point out that ever since Galaxy the entire Mario franchise has just been rolling back and forth on the floor of a public bathroom trying to catch spiders in its mouth, and I get, "Bwah, you just don't like Nintendo, Mario games, or fun." But then I can go, "Have I mentioned how much I like the Paper Mario series? They're RPGs that are also Mario games, developed by Nintendo, and are fun! Eat your devastated argument on a crusty bap, Flipper! Fwopah!" And then I dance in the rain of their exploded head. Or rather, that's how it used to go. More recently, they then get to say, "So, does this mean you really like Paper Mario: Sticker Star on the 3DS?" at which point I have to fall upon my secondary master stroke, which is to smash a bottle over their head and run away.

So the game opens with Mario and the Princess holding some kind of open-air festival for stickers, which just goes to show how exciting life gets during Mushroom Kingdom peace time. Stick around, guys, 'cause next week, it's Hole Punch Mardi Gras! Then Bowser shows up, and nature takes its fucking course, and now Mario must recover five magical artifacts from all across the land in order to fill his rescue quota for the day, only this time he has to do it entirely with stickers 'cause he's been doing this so long he has to come up with arbitrary conditions just to keep his interest in the world alive. Next week he has to save the Princess with one arm and balancing a book on his head.

The idea is that there are stickers absolutely everywhere, you collect them in your touch screen album, and each one represents a single use of an attack Mario can use in the turn-based combat, which makes Mario the worst sticker collector ever because half his stickers are the same exact picture of a shoe. And for me, this fails to capture the most important aspect of sticker collecting, which was standing around in the school playground, going, "Got, got, got, need, need, got," like hipster robots trying to reinvent binary. When Theodore Creativeman at Nintendo says, "We've got an idea for a new, unproven core game mechanic and a team with nothing much to do," Conrad Bossperson replies, "Better make a Paper Mario game! Here's the keys to the skip where we keep the art assets." Then Theodore jangles the noticeably rusty and odd-smelling keys for a second and tentatively asks, "Could we maybe have a small budget to make some new art assets?" "Fuck no! What do you think this is, some kind of multinational entertainment corporation?"

Hence why Super Paper Mario was based around shifting perspective mechanics and all the new characters were made by randomly smashing Photoshop shape functions together, and now we've got all this sticker business and no new characters at all, just reused sprites of the usual crowd. Oh, and several random household objects that someone made for their evening 3D modeling classes. I'm not one to condemn laziness, 'cause I spent my entire Christmas week lying on the sofa, calling all my friends and trying to persuade them to build a conveyor belt leading from the fridge, but my problem is that this isn't a Paper Mario game. It looks like one, it's wearing the skin of one, but that doesn't make it one. I'm not a fat woman, even though I've... I've just been advised not to finish this sentence.

You see, being a Paper Mario is more than just arts and crafts lessons with 10-year-old sprites. It was a series that ran entirely on anarchic imagination. Every other Mario game has used pretty much the same roadmap: grasslands; desert; forest; jungle; ice world; fire world; boss. You could make a fucking remix out of it. Meanwhile, Paper Mario 2 has chapters in which Mario solves Agatha Christie mysteries, or joins a wrestling federation, and Princess Peach gets sexually harassed by a computer because it caught a glimpse of her juggle buns. Even Super Paper Mario managed to have a chapter where you have to find bog-roll for a space monster. You come into Paper Mario: Sticker Star and it's grasslands, desert, forest, jungle, ice world, fire world, boss, nn-ch-nn-ch-nn-ch-nn. No partners, no subplots, no sidequesting, 'cause it's barely an RPG anymore. Your combat ability is based entirely around what single-use stickers you've amassed, so there's very little sidequesting could do to help develop your skills, besides maybe grant money, but for no particular reason the game fucking showers you with coins at the end of every level, like Mario's a registered charity and it's the last week of the financial year. 

Are stickers a big thing with you young people now? I vaguely remember people at school used to put them on their pencil cases, but they were never a big fad thing, like Pokemon cards or pushing people on the railway track behind the playing fields. I ask 'cause it seems an odd thing to base all your gameplay around. As well the combat thing, you can apply stickers to the outside world to solve inventory puzzles. For example, there's a exit blocked by a bunch of bowling pins and I have a bowling ball sticker. Better give the Riddler a call for some advice on this fucking brain teaser! And there are a couple of puzzle boss fights where you get your stumpy little Italian buttocks handed to you if you forgot bring the one really big sticker with no other purpose you wouldn't have thought to bring until this very moment, nn-ch-nn-ch-nn-ch-nn.

I'm left wondering, if this is barely an RPG and barely a platformer, 'cause by usual Mario standards his jumping in this game would qualify him to use the disabled parking space, then what the hell is it? A walk-around-'em-up? A walk-around-sticking-things-to-other-things-'em-up? That's not a game, that's how I kill time in a pet shop.

In the interest of objectivity, I feel I must reveal the following: what with 2D sprites in the 3D environment, when there was platforming, I was having the River City Ransom problem of it being hard to figure out Mario's vertical positioning, and on these occasions I found it useful to turn the 3D on, so I suppose the 3DS can feel free to stand on my desk and rub its buttocks on my face, making really satisfied noises like this: "Mmmmmm, mmmmmmmmmm." I turned it straight off afterwards, though, before I started feeling the first two itchy specks of eyeball cancer.

On the whole, Sticker Star is an exercise in phoning it in, and I'm left with yet another way to feel disappointed in Nintendo. Every time we come over, they insist that we stand in a creepy white room and take turns hitting really old Mario and Link inflatables with a succession of increasingly awkward-to-hold sticks. But I always felt there was hope, as long as they still had that one weird cupboard under the stairs where the Paper Mario games came from. But with Paper Mario: Sticker Star, they're not letting us into the cupboard under the stairs. They're making us stand outside the cupboard and play with the things being pushed under the crack under the door. I just want to play in the fucking cupboard, Nintendo. I know you're keeping WarioWare in there, too.

AddendaEdit

Gonna get sticky: Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw

They were keeping Conker in that cupboard as well but I think somebody killed him for food.

This is what happens when you base the social calendar around stationery

ScreenshotsEdit

PMSS1

Stick around, guys, 'cause next week it's Hole Punch Mardi Gras!

PMSS2

I've just been advised not to finish this sentence.

PMSS3

That's not a game, that's how I kill time at a pet shop.

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
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2008
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2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
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Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
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Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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