Mario's sticky situation

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Entertainment,Ryan Vogt

"Paper Mario: Sticker Star" is the video-game equivalent of a beach read: nothing too demanding, nothing too memorable, but engaging enough to keep you going.

This has become a tradition for the series, which seems to strive above all for pleasantness. Like the first "Paper Mario," which hit the Nintendo 64 way back in 2001, "Sticker Star" takes us to a Mushroom Kingdom where everything -- even Mario -- is made of flat paper cut-outs. It's a charming art style that hearkens back to the plumber's two-dimensional roots, and allows for all kinds of ridiculous stuff, like enemies folding themselves into paper airplanes to attack you. Another difference from traditional Mario games is that the focus isn't on running and jumping in real time, but attacking enemies in turn-based battles, in the manner of role-playing games.

"Sticker Star" plops Mario down in the town of Decalburg, which is celebrating its Sticker Fest when, of course, Bowser strikes. The stickers that are scattered all over this game's levels aren't just for decoration; they're what allow you to attack bad guys and defend yourself. Whereas in previous "Paper Mario" games, you would just choose the attack "Fireball," and Mario would subsequently shoot fireballs, in "Sticker Star" you choose a Fire Flower sticker, which disappears forever after the attack.

Being restricted in your attacks to the stickers you collect as you traverse the game's world sounds like a hassle, but it makes the proceedings more strategic. Managing which stickers to use when keeps things interesting, and frequent pops of humor -- along with the art style, which looks great in 3-D -- keep things charming.

'Paper Mario: Sticker Star'
» System: 3DS
» Price: $39.99
» Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In the end, playing "Sticker Star" may be an exercise in going through the motions. But when the motions are this pleasant, you won't care.

rvogt@washingtonexaminer.com

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