Review: Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros.
Posted 02 Dec 2015 at 00:37 by Derek Wheatley
The Mario and Luigi series often offer little in the way of advancement but can be differentiated in the sense of gameplay gimmicks. Partners in Time gave us Baby Mario and Baby Luigi, Bowser's Inside Story gave us the chance to traverse King Koopa's internal organs and play as the big guy himself as well as a giant Bowser form. Which was mimicked in Dream Team Bros. with Giant Luigi alongside his multiple ability dream stages. Paper Jam Bros. brings in Paper Mario and the whole 2D world with him.
After a harmless day of checking out a draft in a castle wall, as a plumber does, Luigi stumbles across a book which unleashes the Paper Mario world into the Mushroom Kingdom. Two Bowser’s. Two Peach’s. Two large dinosaur chaps with a fondness for kidnapping princesses. Two princesses who find themselves being held captive by fire breathing reptilian royalty… I’m sure you can see what the main portion of the game is about. Those expecting a script with the charm along of the lines of "I have Fury!" or "Stay Beef." will find themselves disappointed, the game seems more action focused the and writing more objective driven.
Much time is spent rescuing Paper Toads who repay your kindness by working with Toadette to create Papercraft forms of your characters for the large scale battles which replace the QTE style confrontations of Inside Story and Dream Team Bros to give you a sense of freedom. The three Bros (feels weird saying that) jump onto the Papercraft creation like it's a Power Rangers Megazord to ride it into battle, although you're presented more like a giant Amiibo carried by several Toads. The battles are just as simple. You can charge a bit which offers minimum damage or do a jump attack which does more damage but you must direct the Toad driven stand to you to pick you up. These attacks cost you (I call it) Toad Power which can be replenished at certain points on the battlefield with some musically prompted Y button presses. Don’t worry about being left vulnerable, your enemy will bounce along to the beat instead of trying to attack you.
From what I’m able to talk about there has been little deviation from a linear path to and from each objective, punctuated with the occasional minor boss battle. Exploration is minimal and while the added colourful paper & cardboard platforms litter the already vibrant Mushroom Kingdom, there hasn’t been anything in the way of miniquests - apart from Paper Toad hunting which is required to continue - or any of those “I’ve got to remember to come back here when I can do X-Ability” moments that you find in other RPGs.
The battles follow the standard Mario and Luigi formula, you attack and then your opponents do so. Sounds like generic turn based combat, but the series has always offered a chance to not only evade enemy attacks but the chance to counter them and deal damage instead. Paper Mario offers an extra dimension in that he has extra layers - literally. He can have up to 6 extra copies behind him. It means he has less attack power and HP, but if you keep the copies stocked he is practically immortal as the copies must be defeated before actual HP is affected. The tutorials which plagued Dream Team Bros’ battles have lessened, instead pointing out that there is a battle book for you to check out. This is also the case because there is no overloading of abilities to learn.
This formula of Paper extra copies translates to the enemy side also, however they do not replenish their stock to keep themselves going. What set the Paper opponents from their "3D" counterparts (as the characters constantly remind you how they are 'fatter' etc than their Paper thinness) is their attack patterns. Normally once you've gotten used to a Koopa Troopa you are pretty much set for the area, however with the addition of Paper Koopa Troopa's and Paper Goombas etc, the extra dimension to your button presses is essential, even if the attack differs slightly.
Whilst attacking with two pairs of Bros in Partners in Time was fun, the usage of all four buttons for attacking and defending was tricky. Even so, the concept of thrice button presses could overwhelm some, especially if you need to be quick to evade or counter. During a tough battle against Roy and Wendy Koopa, I decided to stop bothering reviving both Mario and Luigi as it was much easier taking them on with just Paper Mario. I knew they could only attack Paper Mario and how to counter it, albeit the battle took longer it took less time constantly using recovery items.
If you have a New 3DS or an NFC reader, Amiibo support is available in this game, using the characters from the Super Mario Range, their Super Smash Bros. counterparts, all the Yarn Yoshi’s, the Super Mario Bros. 30th Anniversary (both colours) and Dr. Mario. You can assign the Amiibo to blank Battle Cards you collect throughout your quest and unlock various powers you can use in battle. Using a Bowser Amiibo I bought especially for this review I have unlocked some damage orientated ability cards. For more New 3DS exclusives, the nubbin moves the map around on the touch screen (instead of using the stylus) and the ZR and ZL buttons can automatically replenish HP or BP, if you’re that lazy.
It’s clear that Nintendo are playing it safe with the Mario and Luigi games, keeping the core gameplay mechanics but each time swapping out a twist for another, it keeps each entry from feeling too stale but maintains the familiarity of a stable RPG series.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros is a solid RPG entry which will likely please both fans of each respective series even if it isn't a particular zenith for either. Rest assured that there's still a decent amount of fun to had here.
Double enemy forms keeps you on your toes
Amiibo makes each play unique
Rescuing Toads gets boring quickly
Nothing really stands out