Can one Mushroom Kingdom be large enough for two, count them, TWO Bowsers?
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the mustached crossover tale for the centuries. What happens when Paper Mario and all of his thinly sliced friends (and foes) stumble upon Mario & Luigi’s three-dimensional version of the Mushroom Kingdom? Well, I’m glad to report that Paper Jam‘s focus on deep turn-based combat and witty dialogue makes this worthy of your time, despite a few snags here and there.
This adventure begins with a cowardly Luigi stumbling upon a magical book that holds in it more than just secrets—for instance, a paper counterpart to the Mushroom Kingdom. Luigi unintentionally unravels a chain of events, resulting in all sorts of paper debris—which turns out to be Paper Mario and his not-so crumpled friends—scattering throughout the Kingdom.
As it turns out, Paper Bowser and his mini-me also make the trip. That’s obviously trouble; double-trouble, in-fact. Peach and her paper version are, of course, kidnapped, and the silly 30-hour paper-filled adventure, spanning multiple terrains, ensues.
As per usual, the writing is an absolute delight. Characters are witty, self-aware, and will have you crackling in laughter throughout. Peach speaking to the 2-D version of herself about how it’s time for them to be taken once again was a creative way of making fun of the rehashed plot. (Take notes, Liam Neeson.) Even Toadette has an expanded role in the quest, and is pleasantly spunky.
But, without a doubt, Bowser Jr. becoming best friends with his paper parallel makes for the best bromance story since Nathan Drake and Sully. There’s one moment towards the end of the game—when the little Bowsers reflect on their time together—that had me laughing uncontrollably. Whichever team wrote this game’s dialogue needs to be placed on every Nintendo project.
Character animations are also damn impressive. The way Mario and Luigi move and react in different situations definitely deserves a shout-out. I felt like I was playing through my favorite Saturday-morning cartoon.
Now, for the true highlight: the combat. With the introduction of Paper Mario to your starting lineup, you’ll have to balance between three different characters. Enemy attacks will force you to react quickly to counter or avoid taking damage. As you can imagine, things get dicier when you progress through the campaign. Alas, having three heroes also has its perks, i.e. trio attacks: these are astonishingly powerful moves that require you to juggle commands between the three amigos. When done correctly, they’ll bring a whole-lot of pain to those who stand in your way.
Paper Mario is the real MVP, and not just because he gives a mean paper cut. He’s able to jump and float for four seconds when avoiding incoming enemy waves, and can even stomp on a Goomba six times during one turn.
Battle cards and amiibo can also be used to give you an advantage, like a temporary power boost during combat. It’s up to you to utilize them at the right time. In short, Paper Jam‘s turn-based combat really stands out here.
When not in battle, things unfortunately get stagnant. Your progress will be unnecessarily hindered by Paper Toad hunts, where you’ll have to play mini-games to fill a Toad quota. Hunting these buggers down quickly becomes tedious, as there are over 200 to collect. Yeah, no thanks. There were too many times when I was champing at the bit to get to the next section of the story, only to be forced to stop and chase around more of these little guys—pacing be damned.
Massive origami Papercrafts, which operate like extremely slow mechs, are also introduced. Every once in a while, you’ll be asked to man one of these beasts to take down another craft. These contraptions control easily, though visibility becomes an issue with the wonky third-person camera that’s too slow to react in the midst of action. You’ll have to dash to avoid enemy bombardments and wait for them to get dazed so that you can launch your paper machine on top of the theirs. Tweaks to the mechanics of these crafts will be needed if they’re going to be implemented in future installments. At least these moments provide a fun distraction from the constant turn-based battling.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam‘s combat and writing both shine in this enjoyable package. Papercrafts need tighter controls, but manning one of these mechs at least provides a fun deviation from the leveling grind. Sadly, pacing becomes an issue with all of the Toad hunts. But hey, at least we don’t have to deal with the absurd sticker mechanic from Paper Mario: Sticker Star.
- Brilliant writing sets the tone for the hilarious hijinks you’ll be getting into during your 30-hour game-time.
- The combat is an RPG fan’s dream come true. Juggling three characters is challenging, but you have plenty of tools to cause real damage to your opponents.
- Paper Mario is a beast. He’s a powerful ally in combat, and is invaluable during the toughest battles in the game. The crossover works much better than I thought it would.
- Bowser Jr. and Paper Bowser Jr.’s bromance.
- Why must I stop everything I’m doing to chase Paper Toads down?
- Papercrafts are rad, but the controls need to be tighter if they’re going to be making an appearance in future titles.
3.5 out of 5 Papier-mâché Burritos
This game was reviewed using a 3DS copy of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jame. The game hit stores Friday, January 22 on the Nintendo 3DS.