Admittedly, I’m a little jealous about the vast number of wholesome games aimed at the younger generation nowadays. Growing up in the ‘90s, choices were limited – if you asked a game store clerk for “something wholesome” they’d probably suggest pre-ordering The California Raisins on NES. The good news is that most modern wholesome games are put together with enough care and attention that adults can enjoy them too, especially when they feature playful gameplay mechanics.
A Tiny Sticker Tale is one fine example – it’s aimed at younger gamers but there’s still scope to experiment, and it has a poignant story to tell too. A small donkey arrives on an island in search of their father, clutching a magical sticker book that they’ve inherited. As they journey across sand and snow, helping others along the way, written notes are found from father to son, encouraging them to carry on the journey as they draw closer to revealing their location. Strong morale values are exercised throughout, teaching compassion, helpfulness, and more.
The magical sticker book is, of course, the attraction here. Items and, amusingly, the island’s animal inhabitants can be plucked from the environments and stuck onto a small square page, which acts as an inventory of sorts. This essentially allows you to carry all manner of equipment and objects from one location to the next. One early situation requires a tree to be grabbed, stuck into the book, and brought to the island’s carpenter to create a bridge. With the bridge sticker now in the album, our donkey chum can place it into the environment whenever it’s needed. A bucket, a fishing rod, a ladder, and more are soon added and must be used (and reused) appropriately. As album space is limited, sticker adjustment (read: inventory management) may be called for occasionally.
The game map is split into single screen locations, loosely resembling jigsaw pieces and reminiscent of the earlier Zelda games, with most having only one or two exits. Every screen features either an obstacle to overcome or an inhabitant in need of a hand – there are no empty wildernesses. Tasks include returning an egg to its mountain nest, reuniting a dog with its owner, and coaxing a shy turtle musician out of their shell. There’s a mischievous raccoon causing trouble too, with your magical stickers able to undo some of their meddling. Not everyone is looking for help, either – there’s a miner who’s willing to destroy large boulders, but only if they have enough daylight, which adds a new layer to puzzle solving by introducing day and night stickers.
The carpenter can also produce furniture upon being brought a tree, with a Tardis-style tent becoming available around halfway. This living space can be customised freely, with the furniture collecting aspect playing a part in achieving a full sticker catalogue. Helpfully, the catalogue also highlights the location of stickers, preventing aimless wandering if you accidentally leave one behind.
Progression is pretty straightforward – the game world can be traversed quickly, removing the tedium usually associated with backtracking, and shortcuts unlock regularly. And while there’s no active quest log, one character – who can be yanked from their home and stuck in your album – has the role of informing of your main objective. One puzzle, around an hour in, did leave me stumped, however, with a peculiar design choice to blame. A statue needed to be reallocated to block the breeze of the wind, but there was nothing to suggest this particular statue could be turned into a sticker – all of the others in the area, which appeared similar, couldn’t be grabbed.
A Tiny Sticker Tale’s runtime sits at 2-3 hours, with the small map and simple nature of the puzzles playing a part in this. A solution to a problem is never more than a few screens away, and there’s nothing in the way of ‘freestyling’ creative solutions, a la Scribblenauts. A ladder is a ladder, and that’s that.
There are a few reasons to return, thankfully. Not every quest must be completed to see the ending, leaving potential loose ends, and there’s the previously mentioned sticker catalogue to fill. If a younger gamer becomes englamoured with the cutesy game world, chances are they’ll want to ‘stick around’ a little longer too.
Ogre Pixel’s A Tiny Sticker Tale is out 4th Oct on PC and Switch.