Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Hands-On Preview [E3 2015]

It feels like it was just yesterday when Mario & Luigi: Dream Team brought us into the world of Luigi’s troublesome dreams. That isn’t the case, though, and we’re now staring down the pipeline at another entry in the venerable portable series.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, as it’s called, is a quirky new adventure that brings Paper Mario to life alongside of regular Mario and his lanky brother Luigi. There’s something to do with a book and how it’s expelled Paper Mario from its pages, but the segments that we played didn’t focus much on story elements.

In fact, Nintendo made three different demos available to those on the show floor, and I took advantage of our time behind closed doors to go hands-on with two of them.

Out of the three — a traditional quest, a boss battle and a brand new Papercraft arena scenario — the first one that piqued my interest was the latter, which turned out to be a slam-fest where I controlled a gigantic, paper-crafted Mario, as he attempted to take out enemies by smooshing them. It was what it was, too: a change of pace but a gimmicky one, and something that I didn’t play for too long before becoming bored and moving on.


The main problem with this demonstrable Papercraft battle was that its basic arena focus was not only tedious but also overly simplistic. I also had an issue with its controls, because I couldn’t get Mario’s power meter to charge properly. I was supposed to do so by pressing the Y button to the beat of a tune, but the rhythm was a pain to get down and the mechanic never seemed to work properly.

Even when I thought I was doing well, I apparently wasn’t, and it honestly annoyed me quite a bit.

After having little fun with Papercraft fighting, I switched to the available boss battle, which was pretty standard Mario & Luigi fare. The inclusion of Paper Mario — who can make copies of himself, turn into a paper airplane that the brothers can grab onto and do other cool tricks — did change things up, but not enough to make the experience feel new or original in comparison to those that came before it. It simply seems like another, true-to-form Mario & Luigi combat system, where quirky Mushroom Kingdom-inspired abilities complement a streamlined, Final Fantasy-esque archetype.

After kicking the boss’ ass for a while, using the one-button-per-character battle system that these games are known for, he started to chase me. At that point, I was able to start using the thumbpad to move paper airplane Paper Mario from left to right. Why do that? Well, the boss’ way of attacking was to throw burrowing projectiles at one brother at a time, and jumping upwards to grab onto the paper airplane allowed for a damage-avoiding escape plan.

In the end, my time with Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam was brief and middling, and I honestly regret choosing the demos that I did. Maybe if I’d have chosen the more basic, quest-based demo, I’d have had a better time with the game. As it stands, though, I didn’t walk away too impressed.