Taking a leaf out of the adventurer’s book, Mario & Luigi return to Nintendo’s handheld with more than a few paper buddies in tow. Featuring a deeply engrossing storyline that’s both light-hearted and filled with emotion, the Paper Jam Bros. soar high rather than crumple under pressure.
From series’ developer AlphaDream, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. brings fans a heart-warming storyline with an intensely satisfying gameplay experience equal to its previous iteration on the 3DS. As the fifth title in the franchise, Paper Jam Bros. delivers a fresh take on the series with the arrival of a new character; and it’s one that slides seamlessly into battles. With more than 20 hours of gameplay and covering seven different areas, from the luscious Sunbeam Plains to the cold but beautiful Mount Brr, there are plenty of interesting puzzles to be solved, moves to be discovered and papercraft battles to enjoy.
Starting in Peach’s Castle, Luigi and Toad are trying to locate a strange disturbance in the library when our green-capped hero ends up tripping and knocking down a particularly special book. On its opening, the contents of the pages are ripped out causing many of Mushroom Kingdom’s paper residents to fall into Mario & Luigi’s world.
Amongst the scattering of Paper Toads, many paper enemies float into view, alongside Paper Mario, Peach and Bowser. But with two powerful Bowsers on the loose, both princesses are kidnapped before they can scream “Mario” and are caged, utterly helpless. With the Kingdom overrun with Bowser’s minions as well as their paper forms, Mario & Luigi team up with Paper Mario in order to return all of the paper residents back to their rightful home and save the princesses once again.
For those who are less familiar with the Mario & Luigi series, Paper Jam Bros. is a turn-based RPG adventure game. By controlling Mario and Luigi’s in-game sprites with the A and B buttons, players can traverse the land and solve a number of puzzles, defeat enemies in battles and take down bosses with special movesets.
Yet unlike any other game in the series, players will also be able to control Paper Mario and will have access to his fantastic copy ability. Use a turn in combat to copy up to a maximum of six Paper Marios to increase the damage to enemies ratio, whilst also using each paper copy as a shield to bear the brunt of an attack if you fail to dodge in time. As an inventive addition to the game, it puts a whole new spin on your battle strategy and timing, giving series’ fans exactly what they wished for.
Not only does Paper Mario have the ability to use his own attacks as an individual character, he can also team up with Mario and Luigi to perform trio attacks. Working in a similar fashion to Bros. attacks, trio attacks can range from simple squash to an energetic whirlpool air attack. Though these special moves aren’t quite as alluring to use as Dreamy Luigi’s in Dream Team Bros, they are deliciously inventive and can be quite tricky to master. With a range of new and familiar Bros and Trio attacks, battles are always lively and button-based, meaning there’s no chance of touchscreen error.
Using many of the same battle mechanics as Dream Team Bros, the game presents a few noticeable changes in its format. The addition of Paper Mario means players must press A, B and Y buttons to jump with all three characters, yet outside of battle you’ll be able to use X to jump with all three, removing the tedious platform climbing that bogged down previous iterations. Plus there’s a neat fast forward button which can be used freely in adventure mode – Starlow will even encourage you to use it when hearing an enemy’s pitiful story, oh the mockery of it all.
There are also new and refreshed trio movesets such as the hammer, trio grab, drill and glider to use when adventuring in order to keep gameplay invigorated. Of course, players can still purchase and equip gear and health items with the in-game coins found in question mark boxes, alongside levelling up all three characters with six rankings available and bonus stat boosting choices.
But in order to save the Kingdom from the shredder, players must find and recapture all of the missing Paper Toads. Head down to the Lakitu Info Centre – which also houses the mini-game arcade to rack up perfect scores in boss modes in exchange for special, unlockable gear – and take on Paper Toad missions. From finding them in hiding spots, battling enemies and recapturing them from bubbles with trio moves, the missions are yet another fun element to the deeply engrossing storyline. Even the Toad quizzes available in five of the game’s areas are another gem to add to Paper Jam’s glistening collection.
Though Paper Jam Bros. is absolutely adorable when it comes to representing its characters, the scene with Wiggler in particular had me in stitches and is arguably the best storytelling I’ve witnessed in the franchise to date, the game also has its blemishes.
Though minor nitpicks at best, the introduction of Battle Cards is hazy and doesn’t add any value to the gameplay – in fact it detracts from the animations entirely. Using them as ways to dish out enemy damage, give you health and boost your battle stats by way of star points is a neat idea, but it’s awkwardly implemented. Not only are building card sets unnecessarily lethargic, they are forced upon you in one boss battle to level the playing field. Perhaps if they didn’t rely so heavily on star points, they’d be in use much more. Though it’s an afterthought, if you do own a New Nintendo 3DS, certain compatible amiibo can be used to unlock additional character cards to be used in battle.
Another new feature in Paper Jam Bros. is the ability to take down gigantic paper models in Papercraft Battles. With an army of Toads at her disposal, Toadette will create huge papercraft models of Mario, Luigi and Peach for your use in an upcoming paper boss battle. Players can dash, knock enemies over and ground pound them until crumpled in these intriguing battles. And while they are fun at first, controlling the papercrafts are desperately slow, heavy and clunky. With a repetitive motion and not nearly as inventive as it should be, they fall flatter than a pancake.
If you’re a fan of boss battles in the Mario & Luigi series, you won’t be disappointed. As the usual crew turn up, alongside the Koopalings, these battles are perfectly varied, intense, and far from a walk in the park. But if you’re suffering from far too many “Game Overs”, you can also switch to easy mode at any point in the game – absolutely fantastic for beginners and younger players.
However, there are times in boss battles where it’s decidedly unfair with an inane difficulty spike. Avoiding boss moves, particularly when having to control all three characters at once is frustratingly difficult. Though there are tells as to which character a boss will direct their attack at, these are often too fast to register or come in quick succession. Shame they don’t serve food; the fast service is to die for.
With an incredibly charming and beautifully witty storyline twinned with some great musical numbers, Paper Jam Bros. is a delight to play. Though the game has some minor setbacks, its core mechanics feel refined while the addition of Paper Mario fits like a dream. It’s paper almost at its finest.
8 / 10