The mustachioed plumbers from the Bronx are back in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and this time they have brought a whole new dimension with them along for the ride. This is the fifth entry in the RPG saga Mario & Luigi and it features a mash up with that other Super Mario RPG series, Paper Mario.
A major challenge for a series by the time it reaches its fifth entry is how to keep the game fresh, yet maintain the classic touches that have made the series popular to begin with. Paper Jam tackles this issue head on and is a better game for it. Paper Jam is full of the same sharp writing and clever wit that has permeated the series and this might have some of the best dialogue in the series yet. Luigi maintains his role as a bumbling fool of a brother and the butt of most jokes and is the one who unwittingly unleashes the Paper world upon the Mushroom Kingdom.
The game still focuses on turn based battles with timed button pushing to either enhance your character’s attacks or to defend against enemy attacks. While some of these are rather simple others can be quite challenging. One of the main features of combat in the previous games are Bros attacks. Mario and Luigi combinations that you can unleash against the enemies for devastating effect, if timed correctly. Those are still present but now that Paper Mario is along for the ride there are also Trio attacks. These up the hijinks exponentially and play to Paper Mario’s 2d theme.
Another new feature to the series is the addition of paper craft battles. You will fight with giant 3d cardboard paper craft of either Mario or Luigi against some of the most notorious bad guys on team bowser. These battles match the theme of the game and capture the spirit of the series. Fun, cheesy humor, and fun.
This is also the first entry into the series that takes advantage of the compatibility of the Nintendo 3DS and Amiibos. You know Amiibos, those toy to life statues that you either love, hate, or love to hate. There are roughly 15 different Amiibos compatible with this title that all deal with the Mario franchise. Either from the Smash Brothers series, 30th Anniversary Marios, or the Mario Party series. You can use these Amiibo to collect cards in the game that you can then use to power up your characters during battle. Ultimately there are other cards you can use even if you do not have Amiibo. So while Amiibo can affect the gameplay slightly they are mostly just a novelty and you are not really missing out if you do not already have a few laying around.
The only real downside to the game is the overly difficult boss encounters along the way. It’s not a problem that they are difficult. It’s just odd that they are so much stronger than the other enemies you will face. In most RPGs the early enemies in a zone will build you up to the boss. That’s not the case here. However if you repeatedly fail to beat the boss the game will give you hints or you can even play them on easy mode. If neither of those work you can eventually just skip them and continue on with the story. You just won’t get the item rewards or experience. So for those of you concerned that this might be too frustrating for younger children, don’t be, the game will give them a pass. There are also puzzle challenges you can skip after a number of failed attempts and progress the story with an option to play the challenges later if you want to. One thing I would like to see them add to the series is local co-op play. This game would benefit greatly if players could team up and one person could control Mario, another Luigi, and a third Paper Mario.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is a smashingly good entry into this long running RPG series. The visuals are charming and the new 2d characters as well as paper craft environments are used to great effect. This title also makes nice use of the 3d visuals on the 3ds. If you love the Mario & Luigi series you won’t want to miss this one. If you are new to the series this is as good a place as any to jump right in.
This game was reviewed on a New Nintendo 3DS XL with an advanced copy of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam provided by Nintendo’s PR firm.
- GAMEPLAY: 8 Over world maps with known enemy encounters. Turn based battle with timed button pushing for additional effects.
- VISUALS AND SOUND: 9 Charming mashup of 3d and 2d characters and papercraft environments. Great use of the Nintendo 3ds’ 3d capabilities.
- POLISH: 8 Interesting puzzles. Fun Bros and Trio attacks. Nice use of Trio abilities on over world map to unlock new areas. Game runs well.
- LONGEVITY: 7 These games are fun but generally lack replay-ability. Doubling back to early zones with new abilities later in game to unlock hidden items.
- VALUE: 8 $39.99 is the standard first party Nintendo 3DS price. Quality game for a reasonable price.
Overall Score - 8.0
- Classic Mario & Luigi humor
- Great use of 3d Visuals
- Paper Mario Mash Up
- Game would benefit from optional Local Co-op
- Random overpowered boss encounters