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Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros review

Katharine Byrne
4 Dec 2015
Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
35
inc VAT

Paper Jam Bros is rather lacking in imagination, but its turn-based battles are still good fun

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Specifications

Available formats: 3DS

Invention is frequently the beating heart of AlphaDream's Mario & Luigi series. In 2009's Bowser's Inside Story, Mario's arch nemesis took over protagonist duties as the plumber brothers wandered round his intestines, and 2013's Dream Team Bros saw the perfect melding of 2D and 3D Mario platforming as Mario explored the fanciful dreamscapes of his narcoleptic brother. With Paper Jam Bros, Mario & Luigi collides with Nintendo's other Mario RPG series, Paper Mario, making it Nintendo's second major crossover since Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright.

However, whereas Layton vs Wright managed to blend both titles together to create a seamless showdown between Nintendo's greatest detectives, Paper Jam Bros' mash-up is decidedly less successful. Rather than play to the strengths of each series, this is very much a Mario & Luigi game with Paper Mario tacked on the side, as the latter's unique papercraft art style is mainly used as an excuse to introduce slightly new enemy types, rather than create a lasting impact on the world you're playing in.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros screenshot03

^ Battle Cards are unlocked around halfway through the game, which you can play at any time during battle to improve your stats or deal extra damage

Admittedly, Paper Mario is anything but a third wheel when it comes to Paper Jam Bros' turn-based battles. Here, he's a valued member of the team, and his ability to make up to six copies of himself, both for extra damage and layers of defence, provides a welcome change to Mario and Luigi's jump, hammer and double Bros attacks routine.

He's also a bit of a double-edged sword, as his powerful moveset can easily be undone by a miss-timed button press. Like previous Mario & Luigi games, each character's moves and abilities are mapped to individual face buttons (A for Mario, B for Luigi and Y for Paper Mario), and the success of each attack depends on your own expert timing, whether it's winding up a hammer slam or stomping on the head of a Goomba. It's far more engaging than simply issuing commands and watching them play out automatically, but with Paper Mario your timing's even more crucial, as you're effectively losing out on 6x the amount of hit points if you bungle the controls. That's a lot to lose when you're in a tight spot, and the added tension can galvanise even the lowliest of Goomba scraps.

Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros screenshot

^ Time your attacks just right and you'll deal extra damage - just don't jump on a Spiny, or you'll be the one getting hurt instead

If that wasn't enough, then defending your trio of plumbers is sure to set your nerves going, as reading your opponents' attacks is just as vital for survival as learning to control your own. An incoming Koopa Troopa, for instance, can be hit back into the crowd with a whack of your hammer, while charging Hammer Bros can be stopped in their tracks with a swift head stomp. This was just about manageable with two characters, but three really steps up the pace, turning simple button presses into a tactile battle of dexterity.

Sadly, the same can't be said of its signature papercraft battles. Here, the tight constraints of Mario & Luigi's superb combat system are shunned for wide open arenas where you wheel around on giant papercraft models, hauled along by your poor army of Toads. To defeat enemies, you can either ram into them to knock them off balance, or launch yourself into the air to crush them flat.

Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros screenshot01

^ Paper Mario's Copy ability is arguably overpowered. In boss battles, particularly, he was often the only one left standing

They'd be more enjoyable if the controls didn't feel so loose and baggy, but nothing can alleviate the pain of having to tap out a tedious rhythm-action morale dance to keep your Toads happy – presumably so they can forget their terrible existence as a conscripted packhorse. It doesn't help that they often appear directly after turn-based mini-boss battles either, as it only serves to highlight just how lax and sloppy they are compared to the taut precision of Paper Jam's usual encounters.

Paper Jam Bros could make more of its setting as well. There's the odd paper diorama to admire in its rather bland grassland, desert, cave, forest and mountain terrains, but after the weird and wonderful dream worlds of Mario & Luigi Dream Team Bros, it feels decidedly lacking in imagination. The excellent script and light, cheerful soundtrack do go some way to rectify this, but it nevertheless feels rather conservative for a studio that, in the past, has managed to create some of the most delightfully wacky worlds you'll find on a Nintendo handheld.

Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros screenshot02

^ Paper Mario's Trio attacks take all sorts of forms, but the tennis game has been recycled from Dream Team Bros

That's not to say that Paper Jam Bros isn't worth your attention. It's still a perfectly enjoyable adventure that, for the most part, is full of engaging battles and brilliant music. Outside of battle, though, Paper Mario and his post-it note companions feel very underutilised, and the fact you seem to spend most of your opening hours searching for lost Paper Toads doesn't exactly help the game's sense of pace either. Eventually you can stride out and get into the meat of the adventure, but I fear you might have folded your 3DS shut before you get there.  

Availability
Available formatsNintendo 3DS
Buying Information
Price including VAT£35
Supplierwww.game.co.uk
Detailswww.nintendo.co.uk

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