There is a certain charm that comes with every entry in the Mario & Luigi series. It’s in the characters that defy the typical archetypes that plague the Mushroom Kingdom, and the story that goes against what you would normally associate with a typical Mario title. Paper Jam takes a few steps back when it comes to its originality, bit it’s still a worthwhile addition to the series.
First off, the good. The core mechanics of the Mario & Luigi battle system is still intact and better than ever. Now with the addition of Paper Mario, you’ll find yourself controlling three characters at once, forcing you to change the way you think and play while still providing a new and unique challenge. Say an enemy throws a spiked ball your way. Keeping track of dodging the ball with three characters is quite the leap from having to manage just the two brothers. This alone is a grand enough change that will keep you on your toes.
Fighting in battles is just as fun and rewarding as its been in all the previous titles. Now with the addition of the Trio moves, your battles will see even more variety and a wider range of wackiness that fans have come to know and love from the series.
However, as great as the battle system is, it’s hard to ignore the faults of just about every other aspect of the game. Paper Jam has the weakest plot of the entire series. The bare bones story has you rescuing the two princesses from the Bowser duo in a tale you’ve heard one too many times before. With so much potential from the mashup between the Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario worlds, the end result felt like a wasted opportunity when so little was focused on what the two series could offer.
Aside from some quirky dialogue here and there, most of the characters in Paper Jam fall flat. Gone are the unique and interesting characters that not only define the series but the RPG genre as a whole, and in are those same old characters that offer little in engagement and interest. You’ll get a chuckle or two from some of the jokes, but these moments are too few and far between. Again, there was a lot of potential to see interaction between the characters and their paper versions, but this story element went largely unused.
Gameplay in the overworld is a mixed bag. On your 30 plus hour journey, you’ll come across some challenging puzzles that will not only give you a break from the hectic battles, but force you to play the game in a different style. That said, the rest of the game will have you completing pace-breaking Paper Toad challenges that task you with finding and catching Paper Toads in a variety of different ways. These challenges, while decent at first, will become very tedious and very random as time goes on.
Another new element introduced in Paper Jam are the papercraft battles. These giant sized battles throw you into a paper model character as you fight your enemy in a free roaming arena. The battles offer a unique twist on the normal gameplay style as you move and fight in a 3D space, but they do come off as a bit lackluster after the third and fourth go. Thankfully, they are evenly spaced and you won’t feel like a papercraft battle is around every corner.
The latest entry in the Mario & Luigi series offers a fun and challenging adventure, but it falls flat when it comes to recognizing and utilizing the core features that makes the series so special. The story is mediocre, the characters are one-dimensional, and the gameplay padding stretches the game out for far too long, but the excellent battle system is at its best in Paper Jam.
(7 out of 10)