Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam is the fifth installment of the Mario and Luigi series, and crosses over into the realm of the Paper Mario series. I have played most of the Paper Mario games and have always enjoyed their unique gameplay aspects. The RPG elements provide a refreshing twist on the typical Mario experience. I had high expectations for Paper Jam since it incorporates both 3D and 2D elements into the story. Did it live up to everything I had dreamed? Let’s find out!
Blue Ball Score: 17 out of 25 balls
Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam is a role-playing game that utilizes a party of Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario. Each character is controlled by a different button. You will find yourself attacking, dodging, and counterattacking with all 3 characters, often at the same time! For this reason, battles are very fun and can be quite intense. Your enemies will not always identify who will be attacked, so your fingers will be begging your eyelids not to blink. The plumbers will rejoice with the song of victory as tears stream down your cheeks and your eyes fill with blood from the strain of such delayed re-wetting. And yet, I was perfectly acceptable with that.
As mentioned previously, the most unique aspect of Paper Jam is the combination of 3D and 2D characters. A single battle can incorporate a mix of both universes and the 3D/2D counterparts have different attacks and abilities. For enemies, the different versions will even attack at different speeds piling an additional layer of difficulty. I found myself often jumping too soon or too late as my brain tried to sort out the various timing of my enemy’s attacks. After watching the repeated suffering of my party’s health bars, my brain-to-finger connection eventually adjusted. But just as soon as I had it all figured out, they present new enemies with new attacks. Sigh, tis the life of a hero…
Paper Jam includes all of the RPG elements you would expect. Party members. Turn-based attack system. Characters level up and increase stats with each level. Battles require the use of attacks (obviously?), items, special attacks, and more. A fun story and plenty of dialogue. Large map to explore. All of these elements add up a typical RPG experience with the flavor that only Mario and Luigi can provide.
Overall, Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam was nicely polished. Gameplay earns 4 balls.
This debacle is started by the usual culprit, Luigi. While handling some repair work in the castle library, he accidentally knocks a book off the shelf. The book holds all of the “paper” characters and unleashes both good and bad characters after smashing on the floor. They are wildly released into the 3D world and spread throughout the kingdom. A large part of the characters released are paper toads, who you must collect throughout your journey via various “mini-games”. It could be a hide-and-seek, or save them from the clutches of the bad guys, or many other scenarios. After finding and/or rescuing them, they will return to the castle and help you later in the game.
Along the way, you will have tons of enemies to battle for XP. The map is fairly large in scale giving you plenty of space to explore, and you’ll be running from one side to the other to complete various quests. Boss battles are thrown in occasionally, along with the ultimate battles using Papercrafts! Remember the aforementioned paper toads? They will build you huge papercrafts for special battles with enemy papercrafts. The goal is to knock the enemy craft over and pounce on it like a hungry tiger. I found these to be very fun at first, but they became a little repetitive and boring after the proverbial new car smell wore off.
While the campaign was in line with what I expected, there just wasn’t enough surprises or wow factors to really surprise me here. It was more of the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just felt dry and a little flat at times. For these reasons, campaign earns 3.5 balls.
If you ever feel like you could use a boost, there are several items that provide permanent boosts to individual stats. One of your characters taking damage too easily? Give them a defense booster to buff them up. Each character can also be equipped with clothing and gear that gives boosts to various stats. New overalls can give better defense while a new hammer can give more oomph on your smacks. With so many options to balance out the battle system, it’s difficult to think that you won’t find something that fits your play style.
A fantastic character progression system earns 4 balls.
Similar to graphics, the sound in the game was once again no more or less than what you would expect. A whimsical musical score compliments the normal array of sound effects. At times, the music can be soothing enough to lull you to sleep, while other times it will energize your reflexes. The mixture and wide spectrum was a nice touch to the overall experience.
Overall, the graphics and sound fit into the norm with the vast library of Mario games. While more of the same isn’t always a bad thing, I keep waiting for them to push for the next step. Honestly, I’m not sure where exactly they should (or can) go with it, but as a gamer I’m always wanting to see something that hasn’t been shown to me. For these reasons, graphics/sound get 3 balls.
In conclusion, Paper Jam is fun for a time. For the hardcore Mario fans, I’m sure you will love it especially if you enjoyed the Paper Mario series. This game felt like just another title in the long running series that is the Mario-verse, featuring standard graphics, standard story, and standard gameplay mechanics at its core. As it failed to win over my excitement by being another standard installment, Paper Jam earns a standard score of 17 total balls.