Nintendo is no stranger to bringing characters from its varied universes together. We’ve seen this in every console generation with the Super Smash Bros. series, where Pikachu can square off against Mario, and Link from Legend of Zelda can trade blows with Luigi.
This time around, it extends the crossover to two subsets of the Mario franchise, Paper Mario, and Mario & Luigi. The former game sees everyone’s favourite plumber rendered in a gorgeous papercraft aesthetic as he sets off to save Princess Peach and perhaps the world as well. The latter game has Mario and his brother Luigi sharing the limelight as they try well…save Princess Peach, who after so many games spanning back decades, should really know better than to get kidnapped yet again.
Nonetheless, these themes persist in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, albeit with a twist. Characters from Paper Mario, complete with their origami stylings find themselves in the world of Mario & Luigi. Which means that Princess Peach and her two-dimensional, prone to crinkling equivalent, find themselves stolen away by arch-nemesis Bowser whose papery counter-part comes along for the ride. It’s an interesting premise that should lend itself to many a plot twist and side-quests. Except Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam never quite goes beyond the absolute mundane.
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For most part, you’ll find yourself on a long trek to Bowser’s Castle. Unlike Paper Mario or the Mario & Luigi games, there’s absolutely no variety or effort put into the environments you encounter. It’s the same slew of deserts, forests, and towns that have been a staple of the Mario franchise for eons. They’re quick to tire you and make for monotonous slog.
This is compounded by lacklustre dialogue. It’s particularly bad when you consider how humorous prior games have been. In Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, there’s nothing that will even elicit a chuckle. Dull and dreary aren’t two words we’d ever think we’d find ourselves using to describe a Mario game but they’re apt to describe what this game quickly devolves into.
And disappointing quips and sloppy levels are just the beginning. With alarming frequency you’ll be notified that Paper Toads – fungi-shaped denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom – have gone missing and that it’s up to you to save them. These usually involves chasing them through levels or battling past Bowser’s minions.
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To make matters worse, you’ll need to rescue them to simply progress through the story, making Princess Peach’s propensity to be kidnapped ever so often seem like a minor lapse in comparison. The game has an obsessive need to force you on these missions with increasing regularity. These will start to grate on you for their sheer repetitiveness.
One of the game’s few redeeming qualities is it’s combat. It’s a heady mix of real-time and turn-based systems. You’ll control the trio of Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario, each with their own statistics and attributes. Mario and Luigi have unique moves known as Bros Attacks that allow them to team up in dishing out damage against enemies, while Paper Mario can make copies of himself multiplying the potency of his attack and defence in battle.
At its core, you’ll be compelled to time your attack perfectly for maximum effect. On top of this, there’s a range of amusing special moves such as beating your enemies to a pulp with a racquet, blasting them with a rocket, or simply spamming them with fireballs. You’ll command giant papercraft variants of your character and duel against equally humongous foes. Moments like these do help to abate the usual course of snooze-worthy events, and the grand battles are the rare high point in an otherwise boring game.
Most equate Mario games with a moustachioed character decked in red and blue chasing after a princess. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam just about barely lives up to the iconic franchise. It doesn’t feel anything like the previous entries in either the Paper Mario, or the Mario & Luigi games, and it doesn’t bring much that is worthwhile to the table either.
Regardless of your inclination towards Nintendo’s mascot, it’s safe to say that you can avoid Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. It’s a soulless crossover with a penchant for mission design that frustrates more than it should.
- Excellent combat
- Poor quest structure
- Lazy environments
- Wasted premise
Rating (out of 10): 5