Don’t worry, you’re not seeing double. What you are seeing is an epic crossover of two awesome Mario franchises, Mario and Luigi, and Paper Mario. A mysterious book that contains the world of Paper Mushroom Kingdom was accidentally opened, causing most of the world to burst out in a flurry like a pop-up gone rogue, including Paper Mario, Paper Toads, Paper Minions, Paper Bowser Jr, and Paper Bowser!
Will Paper Jam Bros. claim victory like how paper beats rock, or does it just lack depth? Find out in our review, after the break!
Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam Bros.
Developed by Alphadream
Released: 4th December 2015 (EU) – 22nd January 2016 (NA)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
The story, similar to almost every other Mario game, is pretty simple. One of the Toads requests Luigi to investigate why the attic has a draft from outside. Due to the ‘Green Thunder’s’ clumsiness, he is startled by a Little Mouser and accidentally bumps into a bookcase where the Paper Mushroom Kingdom book falls out from. The impact causes the book to open and unleashes a flurry of Paper Mario characters… let’s hope no one got a nasty paper cut! When Princess Peach is greeted by Paper Princess Peach, some Toads approach them with worry (and confusion from the two Peachs’) saying that there are Paper Toads who have run off and disappeared. The Peachs’ send Mario and Luigi off to hunt down the Paper Toads and bring them back. Soon after they set off, Paper Mario saves them from a jam and joins the party. However, while our heroes are out adventuring, Bowser and his papery counterpart, after a rivalry of egos, go out to steal both princesses! That’s the basic outline of the story, but there are a bunch of little twists scattered throughout to keep it interesting.
One of the bigger new additions to the series is that now there are three characters you can play as at once, the third being Paper Mario. Most veterans of Mario and Luigi will know that A is the action button for Mario, and B is the action button for Luigi. With Paper Mario, you now need to use the Y button too. At first, this may seem a bit cumbersome as you may have just recently gotten used to using two buttons at once, but after a minute or so of practice, it will become second nature, the same can be said for combat too, but more about that later. One gimmick that Paper Mario adds to the game is that he can slide himself down narrow passages. See a crack in a cliff? Send Paper Mario in and he may return with some coinage, he can even sneak in and out jail cells. Paper Mario also introduces brand new Trio Actions which would be impossible to perform with only two characters, hence the Trio. Some of these are pretty cool, one of them gives you the ability to make a powerful hammer slam which can destroy large blocks or even flip panels over to reveal secrets. Another lets you totem up to reach objects far away from you.
The combat is pretty much the same as the previous game albeit with a couple new features. For those of you who have never played a previous Mario and Luigi title, each character and enemy takes turns into dealing attacks. Mario and Luigi can jump on an enemy, use the hammer against an enemy, or use a Bros. Attack. When an enemy attacks, you also have the option to try and avoid the attacks, which is recommended if you plan on progressing through the game. Each action requires precise timing however. Depending on when you press the action button will affect how much damage you deal in attacking, or if you receive any damage when dodging. It can sound complicated to newcomers, but there are some really useful tutorials which can help you out, most of which are completely optional now and can be viewed from the guide during battles.
The addition of Paper Mario adds some very interesting new attacks. Like Mario and Luigi, he can use stomp and hammer attacks, but he can also create copies of himself and perform Trio Attacks. The Copy action does what it says on the tin (or block) and creates copies of Paper Mario. This allows him to give out more damage to enemies and boosts his health too. Trio Attacks are where it gets interesting. Bros. Attacks are attacks which Mario and Luigi can perform together to deal out a lot of damage to enemies, Trio Attacks lets all three heroes team up to perform a special attack that dealt out even more damage. One attack will let you play a little game of racket ball as you take turns hitting a ball at each enemy as they lie defenceless. Another attack turns one enemy into a kite where you aim to fly it as high as possible to eventually slam your hammer down on them at incredible heights. Though the attacks can take some practice in timing to deal the most damage, but once you have, it is definitely worth it.
The badge system from the previous two games gets a replacement in the form of Battle Cards. Battle Cards add special abilities into the mix, some will raise your combat stats temporarily, others will deal damage to certain enemies, and some will even increase the amount of coins or experience earned at the end of the battle. You can organise your own set of Battle Cards, up to ten can be used, and a random card will be taken from the deck after every turn, but it can only be used if you have enough star points, which you earn from every attack. Up to three cards can be held at any one time, and they can be used whenever it is your turn. Be warned though, once you use one card, you will not be able to use it again until all ten cards have been used up. This is definitely a nice replacement for the badge feature as it gives you far more options for what abilities you can choose and use.
Finally, you can also use special Battle Cards called Amiibo Battle Cards. Every once in a while, an enemy may drop a blank card, or you could purchase one from a shady Toad. You can use any Amiibo from the Mario universe to turn this into an Amiibo Character Card and save it to the Amiibo. Amiibo cards act very similarly to Battle Cards but the effects tend to be more powerful. These can be played any time during a battle though you can only use one character per battle and you have to win a battle before you can use a card from that character again, so pick wisely. This is definitely a neat inclusion of Amiibo features.
As well as regular battles, there will also be moments where you have to partake in Paper craft Battles. This pitches giant paper craft versions of characters and enemies against each other in a large arena. Being able to control a giant Luigi to battle against a giant Kamek is definitely awesome in its own rights, the fact that you charge Toads up to control the paper craft by playing a small musical mini-game is a cute touch. The first paper craft battle is pretty simple, but the more you compete in, the more difficult they can get. For example, Kamek will generate a force field to protect him, so you will have to perform a VERY well timed jump attack to deal some damage. Unfortunately, a lot of people may feel that these battles can become tedious even though they do not occur often. This is because it can take a while to actually get through them, almost as long as boss battles and it can disrupt the tempo of the game, it can still be a very fun challenge however.
To build these paper crafts, as well as other objects to progress through the story, you need to make sure to rescue as many Paper Toads as possible… though I think they would rather remain in hiding than being forced into manual labour. You won’t find the Paper Toads just lying anywhere, instead, you have to visit a Lakitu Centre and accept a Toad Rescue quest from the desk, which are essentially mandatory. These quests are a nice breath of fresh air from the usual adventuring most of the time. These quests range from simple hide and seek missions to stone bashing puzzles. Though it does make a nice change, akin to paper craft battles, some of the quests can be very tedious. For example, some missions request for you to find about 20 or so Paper Toads, some of these took me as long as 20 minutes to complete, greatly disrupting the tempo of the game. Also, the fact that most of the quests are mandatory makes things worse as you don’t have much choice in which quests to fulfil. Other than those quibbles, the Paper Toad rescue quests are a very neat addition to the game.
Like all the previous entries, the quirky charm an humorous dialogue is still present and strong as ever. Whether it’s the Peachs’ complaining about how she is constantly shouting “Help me, Mario”, or the constant ego rivalries between the Bowsers’, there’s rarely a dull moment in Paper Jam. What’s also neat is that the game makes it incredibly accessible to younger or inexperienced players without making it too easy for Mario and Luigi veterans. There are several great Assist features which are completely optional. You can now enable dodge assist any time during battles. This allows you to see which character will need to dodge an attack. You can also perform an emergency block, which will greatly reduce the amount of damage received from enemy attacks. Easy mode also returns, allowing you to greatly boost your strength and defence for battles you are having difficulty with to turn the tables.
Though Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. still remains true to previous titles in the series, it includes some very decent experiments to change things up a bit from the addition of a third playable character, to the brand new rescue missions. If some portions of the game didn’t feel so tedious, or if there were more drastic changes to the structure of the story, then Paper Jam could definitely be a greater game than what it already is. If you are a die-hard Mario fan or you want to play a very light-hearted RPG, then this is the game for you. If you want more depth and variation, then it may be worth skipping Paper Jam. 7/10