In what's turned out to be one of Nintendo's best games for 2012, players will guide Mario through the paper craft world of Paper Mario: Sticker Star in order to, you guessed it, save Mushroom Kingdom.This turn-based, classic RPG-esque game, tasks players to use logic, timing and a little inventive thinking to beat the challenges set forth by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. It isn't perfect, but Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a whole lot of fun.

Paced for smiles and charm

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is probably one of the most charming games I've played in a long time. From the paper craft look to the wonderful characters and dialogue, this whole experience will force a smile on your face at a constant clip.

Paper Mario is a series that, wait for it, takes the Mushroom Kingdom and rebuilds it in paper form. Crazy, right? Sticker Star stands as an evolution of that idea. What goes well with paper? Stickers, of course. As children, a lot of us probably had a phase where we completely obsessed over stickers. Big stickers, small stickers, shiny stickers, whatever. We collected them, and this game takes that idea and turns it into a mechanic.

Sticker Star serves as a collector's dream. You'll find stickers everywhere in the game world. You'll even find real world items, like giant fans, baseball bats, lucky cats, soda cans, boom boxes, high heels and trumpets, scattered throughout the game that you'll need to turn into stickers in order to advance or win a fight.

The mechanics of this game are built entirely around collecting stickers. You'll use stickers in combat as you fight foes in turn-based format. You'll use stickers to solve puzzles in order to progress the plot of the game. You'll also have the power to "paperize" the world and peel and place stickers when you need to. Stickers make this version of the Mushroom Kingdom go 'round, and that love of something so simple is part of the reason why the game is so charming.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is also packed with little things and subtle nods that work towards creating a sense of wonder and youth. Remember shiny stickers? They were, of course, special. They're special in Sticker Star, too. What's more, when you have a shiny sticker in your sticker album on the bottom screen, it glistens and gleans depending on how you tilt your Nintendo 3DS.

That's attention to detail.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is probably one of the most charming games I've played in a long time.

A word about difficulty.

You will get stuck.

Maybe Nintendo and Intelligent Systems were playing a little too hard with the sticker puns for Paper Mario: Sticker Star, but this game had me stuck on puzzles and hurdles early and often.

I wasn't the only one running into brick walls that blocked progress. Throughout the review period, several critics mentioned getting stuck at certain parts of the game through private dialogues. I even spent the better part of the weekend chatting with one friend and peer about an entire section of the game that neither of us could figure out.

This problem will change, of course, as the Internet gets peppered with FAQs and guides; but, for someone trying to play the game independently and without help from others, prepare to get stuck a lot.

Getting stuck means that you'll backtrack to old levels, hoping to collect stickers you may have missed or randomly paperizing the world around you in order to find a secret item. All of that backtracking and re-treading will make the once charming and enjoyable combat feel like a bit of a chore.

It's never a good thing when mechanics turn into chores. Were it not for the randomness of some puzzles, this game would have been a complete joyride from start to finish.

To be fair, this series has always been about challenge. While the game design here might hinge on a little too challenging, the spirit of difficulty for Paper Mario remains intact. And, again, the internet will be there to help you…unlike the state of the web for us critics. We were on an island of frustration.

The joy of music and color.

In typical Nintendo fashion, the style of the world in Paper Mario: Sticker Star is exceptionally sharp and vibrant. Nintendo's always been known for making games that absolutely pop in terms of brilliance. They might not be the most graphically realistic or sophisticated experiences on the market, but Nintendo's host of software tends to do what it does exceptionally well. Sticker Star continues that tradition; it's a joy to look at.

In fact, I'd argue that Paper Mario: Sticker Star is perhaps the only reason to use the 3D illusion on the Nintendo 3DS. I tried the 3D on the system out when it first launched. I found it both disorienting and completely useless. Since that opening window, the 3D slider on my handheld has been set to the off position constantly. With Paper Mario: Sticker Star, the diorama-style world works perfectly with the 3D effect.

If you've been dying for a game that properly makes use of the Nintendo 3DS' capabilities, this one does the trick.

It doesn't hurt that this game packs an outstanding soundtrack. I'll leave you with this from the early goings in the campaign.

One of the best games the Nintendo 3DS has to offer.

The only negative thing I have to throw at Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the odd frustration that comes from some of the puzzles. I'm not sure if this immense difficulty was a design decision or something that Nintendo simply didn't notice. The game can be really tough, and it rarely offers advice or cues worth investigating.

But, like I said, you won't hit the same hurdle of not having guides online to help you past moments of mental fog. A thirty second Google search will clear up problems that I wrestled with for hours on end.

With that in mind, I wholeheartedly recommend Paper Mario: Sticker Star to anyone with a love of fun and charm.

We received a digital copy of Paper Mario: Sticker Star from Nintendo. We played the game from start to finish on the Nintendo 3DS XL before starting this review. We were held to an embargo of 9:00am Pacific Time on November 6th, 2012.

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4.5 out of 5

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