Fans may fall in love with Mario & Luigi - Paper Jam

Nintendo surprised many a role-playing fan when they announced that two of their most beloved IPs - Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario - are back in a new handheld adventure set to be released next year. We had a chance to sit down and play a little bit of the game at this year’s E3.

There were three different paths to choose from in the Paper Jam demo. In order to experience the general gameplay, I chose the path where I was tasked with traveling around a set of small maps on the hunt for seven lost paper Toads.

Anyone who has played a Mario & Luigi in the past will quickly become familiar with the mechanics both in and out of battle. After Luigi accidentally knocks over a book, the world of Paper Mario spills into the Mario & Luigi dimension.

This means that the world is rendered in 3D, but there were a mix of 2D and 3D characters inhabiting it. It makes sense considering AlphaDream, the makers of Mario & Luigi, are the developers behind this one.

All three characters have to work together to solve puzzles.

Each character is mapped to a designated face button on the 3DS, requiring precision in order to make your way through the game. There will be plenty of platforming and puzzle solving, like having Paper Mario squeeze between tight edges and mold into different shapes, while Mario and Luigi are able to work together to bust through obstacles.

Battles are engaged by either running into roaming enemies or initiating an advantage by hopping on their heads. The battles are once again turn-based with timing-focused elements. Mario and Luigi retain their tag team combination moves in battle, working together to fight off an enemy. Paper Mario is able to turn into different forms and split into copies of himself in order to manage multiple monsters and deal greater damage.

New to the series is the ability to perform Trio Attacks. These different mini-games have Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario working together, such as attacking an enemy using timed button presses to smash a giant ball against them with tennis rackets.

On the touch screen at the bottom there are three card slots. Cards are earned by gaining points during combat that can be added together to form decks. These cards contain certain effects like increasing one’s power or forcing an enemy to skip their turn.

The pace seems faster than what I have experienced with either games in the past, so finding the rhythm while timing your button presses has been made more tricky. While Mario & Luigi already proved challenging attempting to move two characters, Paper Jam ups the difficulty by having to control three party members.

The humor found in both series is left intact.

I kept losing my sense of hand-eye coordination like forgetting the buttons when trying to dodge enemies in battle and tripped up while attempting to simultaneously work my way over a ledge.

I can easily see things becoming a little frustrating for players. And this was only having spent about 10 minutes with the demo. To be fair, you had to control four characters in Partners in Time, so it’s not quite as problematic.

Not to mention, while in battle, it’s like your typical RPG having to manage three party members, so in that respect it was a fun, strategic twist.

The big draw here is the writing, which has always been very solid in both series. Players will find plenty of references to other Nintendo properties and a whole host of callbacks to enjoy. The dialogue is fantastic and I was quickly becoming enveloped in the short time I had. While Sticker Star left a lot to be desired, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team was clever and entertaining so I hope it’s more similar to that.

Hopefully this crossover can lift both up by the bootstraps as they share a lot of similar features. The attention to detail is also impressive, so I fully expect Nintendo to once again deliver a good time with Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam when it arrives on the 3DS next spring.