Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Review
Paper Mario games are great, although have been trending downwards since the release of The Thousand Year Door on the GameCube. The last release, Sticker Star, was lackluster to say the least, borrowing heavily from the 2D Super Mario games heavily by removing the ‘open world’ and replacing it with Worlds and Levels, i.e. World 1-Level 1. On the other hand, Mario and Luigi games have always been strong titles, and even Dream Team – despite its various faults and pacing issues – was still an excellent release. I have to assume that Paper Mario fans were intrigued by Paper Jam while Mario and Luigi fans were disappointed. There was nowhere to go but up for the Paper Mario series, and seemingly nowhere but down for Mario and Luigi. Fortunately, Nintendo and the developers of Paper Jam pulled it off!
The story is, well…the Princess gets captured and taken away to Bowsers castle. In a small twist, the Princesses – yes, two of them. One real, one made of paper – move around the Mushroom Kingdom thanks to Bowser Jr. and Paper Bowser Jr. Where the game shines, and where the Mario and Luigi franchise really shines through, is in the writing. It is spectacular, playing on things that have happened in previous games as well as characters personal traits. For example, I have never seen a single Mario game make fun of Luigi as much as this one does. It is hilarious, it is well written, and it really works. Overall, the writing in this title is excellent, some of the best I’ve seen from a Mario and Luigi game in a long time.
Visually and audibly, the game stands on its own. While things look a little rough around the edges when played with the 3D off, it is clean and smooth when played with the 3D on, which is our personal recommendation. Regardless of how you decide to play, there is SO much to do in this title, that at times it boarders on the absurd. While having lots of options is not necessarily bad, I find the game doesn’t always use them in the best possible way. Here are a few of the things you can do in Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam.
Special Moves in the World: This is nothing new in Mario and Luigi titles, as Mario and Luigi have always been able to team up with each other to perform various tasks and complete various puzzles. However, with the addition of Paper Mario, things change slightly. Rest assured, the controls are flawless, even though you are dealing with 3 characters instead of two. During the game you will learn to dash – used extensively in the first area – destroy large blocks using a the strength of three hammers – used extensively in the second area – and create a tall tower of Bros. – used extensively in the third area. I’ve highlighted where each move is predominantly used to show you one minor flaw: you learn something, use it a lot for the next hour or two, and then rarely use it again going forward. Ideally, I would have liked to see these moves being used far more often, and more consistently, throughout the game.
Paper Craft Battles: These are actually a lot more fun than I ever thought they would be. During your playtime, you will engage in a paper craft battle on a number of occasions. Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario sit atop a giant cardboard Mario and fight various enemies using specially crafted tools. Fights are done in a ‘battle arena’ type setting with obstacles and charge up stations. Depending on the battle, Paper Craft Mario will have a number of abilities ranging from the ability to ram enemy paper crafts to using a paper craft hammer. These battles take you out of the traditional Mario and Luigi mechanic and give you something fresh and different.
Mini Games: The world of Paper Jam is littered with little mini games, which generally revolve around collecting Paper Toads. Paper Toads are the ‘currency’ needed to construct Paper Craft versions of Mario, and therefore collecting them becomes important. Each area has a number of Toads to collect, and the mini games can be played – and replayed – via the Lakitu Huts spread around the kingdom. Again, these are nice asides to the main quest.
Star Points: Star Points are more of a Paper Mario invention than anything else. Unlike previous Paper Mario games – where Star points were attributed to special characters – this time around the Mario’s and Luigi are using Star Cards. Star Cards are pretty interesting and using them wisely could mean the difference between winning and losing. Each card, depending on what it does, will cost a different number of Star Points. Personally, I like using the cards that grant extra XP or coins when the fight is over, but have often used cards that deal a specific amount of damage to certain enemies. Card decks can only be comprised of 20 cards, so choosing which ones to add to the deck is half the challenge. Again, this allows players to step away from traditional Mario and Luigi mechanics, and enjoy something different and refreshing.
There is so much more to talk about, but won’t for sake of avoiding potential spoilers. The bottom line is that I have not enjoyed a Mario and Luigi AND Paper Mario title in a fairly long time, and even though we are getting two franchises in one – instead of a dedicated game for each, which would be more preferable – it is an excellent game to keep you busy on your 3DS in early 2016. Frankly, reviews for this title have been all over the place, and one negative issues seems to pop up again and again: pacing. I personally enjoy the ‘distractions’ from the main quest line as it gives the title for depth and things to do, but most people are finding them disruptive. To each their own I suppose. Despite not arriving on the handheld with much fan fare – which often is a telltale sign that Nintendo doesn’t think the game will go over well – Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam should not be overlooked. It could easily be one of the best 3DS games this year.