Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam brings two very different Super Mario Bros series together into a fun and comedic adventure that works surprisingly well. Nintendo’s Mario & Luigi series has always taken a unique approach to presenting Mario differently from his 2D platforming roots, which have been a good series of role-playing games. The same can be said for Paper Mario, only the stylized self-aware nature of that series has always been its best attribute.
Bringing the two together into one game not only provides a great title for fans of both series, but also a fun game that Nintendo 3DS owners will want for their game collection.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam takes a very tongue-in-cheek approach to having Mario and Paper Mario team up together. While exploring a room in Princess Peach’s castle, Luigi unintentionally knocks over a magical book and summons all of the characters from the Paper Mario universe into the Mushroom Kingdom. Hilarity and drama ensues as the two Mario universes come together, having Mario and Luigi team up with Paper Mario to save the Mushroom Kingdom and set things right. The plot was a bit silly to me, but the light hearted nature keeps things simple enough to keep the focus on gameplay.
Like the previous Mario and Luigi games, you control the titular duo along with their paper craft counterpart and explore the world around you. Battles play out like a simple turn based RPG but with a small level of interaction during attacks and special abilities. This keeps things from being too passive, but never became fully interactive. Exploring the colorful environments is similar to past titles in the series, but the new abilities with Paper Mario mix things up a bit. The trio can perform combination abilities and attacks, both in and out of battle, which emphasize teamwork between them.
Throughout the story you can visit different sections of the Mushroom Kingdom, which have been modified by the paper-like structures and enemies. The paper gimmick is played up tastefully and adds plenty of humorous moments throughout Mario and Luigi’s adventure.
The group will sometimes need to smash the ground with hammers or examine structures to reveal coins or items, encouraging you to explore every area for secrets. Battling enemies and exploring the world is when the game is at its best, but there are some sections I felt were completely out of place.
The big paper craft battles are odd when compared to the rest of the game. In these sections you need to battle other enemies with giant paper craft; which take on the form of giant Goombas, boss characters, or Mario and Luigi themselves. While these are simple and offer a change of pace, their presence in the game feels out of place.
I had to play through these kinds of battles to progress the story forward, which didn’t contribute to leveling up my characters at all. You gain some items for completing paper craft battles and there are some related side quests, but they still felt irrelevant to the main game and waste time.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is an interesting entry to the series that dives into new territory. Mashing up the two styles of Mario was a great decision that opens up new possibilities for the future. The RPG gameplay and exploration are good and should entice new players to jump into the series. The paper craft battles don’t contribute much to the complete experience and are only offer a minor distraction to the main game.
If you like simple RPGs and want a good Mario title for your Nintendo 3DS library, but don’t mind the silly plot, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam may be for you. It has enough going for it to let you have a fun time.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam for the Nintendo 3DS provided by Nintendo.