Monday, 11 January 2016

Nintendo Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros.

When we first heard of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros., we assumed that it is one of the classic Super Mario Bros game (2D platform) but with special papercraft graphics, like Yoshi's Woolly World. It appeared to be way better than I expected, because it is actually a RPG (role-playing game), which is exactly my cup of tea. I can tell that the kids really like it as well because they have been fighting over the game.

I haven't really played far because the kids took over it during the holidays, but I think there is enough information here to help you understand the game without too much spoilers. It is a really fun game to play that has great graphics and funny dialog, and it is different from the usual game play, while still keeping the classic Super Mario Bros elements, so it's refreshing for the Mario Bros fans too.

Beautiful graphics

Right: Paper Toad in hiding, Sneaky!
2 Bowser kidnapping 2 Princess Peach
In Nintendo 3DS family system's Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros (pegi 3; RRP £34.99, comes with free papercraft set; amiibo bundles available), things has gone a bit chaotic when characters from the parallel world that exists in a magical book in Princess Peach's castle spilled out into the Mushroom Kingdom.

While Mario and Luigi were looking for Paper Mario and rescue the Paper Toads scattered around the world, Bowser and Paper Bowser kidnapped both Princess Peach and Paper Princess Peach (when Bowser Jnr and his new found friend Paper Bowser Jnr. are plotting something aside as well). It is down to the trio (this is a single player game where players control 3 characters at the same time) to rescue them all and turn the Mushroom Kingdom back to normal.

The game starts with cut scenes and I recommend watching them because they are really funny.

Load Game
Left: World map                                               Right: in game map
In game guides and info
Game Saving
There are 2 game slots available, and players can save the game any time they want to (apart from during battle). It is in fact encouraged to save often so players don't have to replay a whole area again like in the 2D platform games.

How to Play
The game begins with an easy to understand tutorial (while telling the background story) that teaches players how to play the game. Players can also find out more about the game play in the guide through the start up menu.

Players start the game with controlling both Mario and Luigi, and later on Paper Mario as well, with Mario as the lead. There is a button allocated for each character, and players are required to sync the buttons-pressing at times, with the odd times where they have to press 2 buttons together. There is plenty of opportunity to practise during the game and it's really not as difficult as it sounds (Abby managed and Clay is managing hehe).

Apart from buttons pressing, players sometimes will have to use a character's particular skill to reach places as well, for example Paper Mario can go through gaps, and the trios can combine their power during exploring too that we have yet to unlock, but when we do, we'll definitely be running back to explore the previous unreachable areas.

Starlow the Star Sprite will also give guidance during the adventure whenever it is needed (It is really funny when she pops up during a battle and blatantly stop the enemy during an attack so that she can explain things)

A map is shown majority of the time on the touch screen as well so that players can see where they are and which way they can go during their adventure. Players might find areas they can't reach as well, but they will be reachable later on in the game. We do recommend scanning through every corner of the map so you can collect all the hidden treasures, which sometimes can contain more than just coins.

Hidden treasure - classic
Right: Health and Bros Points full restoration block
Shop to restock and/ or upgrade like in other RPGs

Inventory screen
"Dirt Cheap Wear"... they can definitely do with an upgrade
Hidden Treasures
It's not really a Mario Bros game without the hidden treasures. During adventure, players can explore the map and seek out hidden treasures. We haven't come across a bonus level yet, so we aren't sure whether there is such a level in this game, but there are Question Blocks scattered around the world, and special Heart Blocks to restore both Health Points and Bros Points (for special attacks), so that players can save up special items for battle use.

There are also special blocks which require players to time the characters' jumps, or remember the characters' jumping sequence to get the full treasure.

Shopping and Upgrading Gears
Like other RPGs, players can buy (or sell) special healing/ restoration items to use before/ during battle, and gears to make the characters stronger (defense) and powerful (offense).

The shops are very scattered though, so if you are one who uses a lot of restoration items during battle, make sure you are well stocked before moving on. So far the Heart Blocks aren't too far from where we need it, and enemies are still fairly easy to deal with, so we didn't have much need of the items, but I'm sure it'll get harder later on.

At the moment we managed to do a full gear upgrade for all the characters, but if money is tight or you've picked up one gear item during the adventure, it's worth looking at each character's statistics before allocating the item to the characters (Paper Mario has a separate set of gears only he can wear). Some character is more powerful but with lower health points, other has more health points but have weaker attacks, so it is up to the players how they want to equip the characters.

From my RPG experience, it is best to increase the numbers (stats) in the area which the character is stronger in (Mario is stronger in attack with lower health, where as Luigi has more health points but has a weaker attack) instead of trying to make all characters equally strong in all areas, but everyone plays a game differently so it's of course entirely up to the player.

Left: Battle screen                                                   Right: First Boss
One of the Bros. Attack
Left: Turn-based battle                                            Right: Trio Attack
Left: Game won                                        Right: Game lost
Level Up
Battle - General

Is it okay for young children?
In another game review (Adventure Time: Finn and Jake Investigations), I have mentioned that I wasn't keen that they've zoned the characters out into a battle arena mode instead of battling on the spot, because it made the whole battle thing stand out too much.

When I first heard that Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros has a similar feature, my heart sank a bit, and I did debate whether I should install the game into Clay's Nintendo 2DS (it was definitely a mistake, but for another reason which I'll tell you later). I did it anyway because poor Clay hasn't had a new game installed in his Nintendo 2DS since we've received the new Nintendo 3DS (all the games are just so much better on the new Nintendo 3DS!) and he's been really upset about it.

But after playing the game, I didn't feel as offended with the battle as I did in Adventure Time. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the overall feeling of battling in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros is much milder. It's probably equally bad if you really put your mind to it, because you are still fighting something living, but I guess jumping on a cute mushroom (which magically turned into a ribbon tied gift box or coins) with cute jumping bouncy sound, or playing Squash against a piece of paper with a flower monster's drawing on (see above picture), in a turn-based battle (so no sense of excitement to kill) just doesn't feel as violent as running towards bananas that are holding spears, with a sword in hand and chopping at them until they faint?

I'm just going to stop thinking too much about this and conclude that battling in Mario & Luigi: paper Jam Bros isn't too bad, and the kids didn't seem to focus on the hitting bit either which is good.

Turn-based Battle
When Mario and co get close to enemies on the map (normal or bosses; I like it that you can avoid running in to them), the game will zoom into a battle screen. Abby panics when she has to face and fight enemies (in any games) as it makes her nervous, but she's okay with this because there is plenty of time for her to think as it is a turn-based battle.

So she can take her time to select what her next move is, select the enemy target and do the move, which is more focused on looking at your own characters and time their moves than looking at the enemy and how they get hit. By shifting players attention to their own characters doing their skill at the right time and sync well (such as during a Bros Attack which is a duo move by Mario and Luigi, or a Trio Attack by all 3 characters), it kind of makes it less like a fight, don't you think?

Sport-inspired Moves
We also noticed that, apart from the hammer (it made us laugh out loud because the hammer head will fall off the stick when you timed the hit wrong), most of the moves are inspired by a sport. Such as the trio attack is Squash, 3D Red Shell duo attack is football, and Fire Flower duo attack is volley ball.

When a move is selected, the touch screen will show a How To guide, and players will have the opportunity to watch a clip of how the move is done, or practise as many times as they want until they get the hang of it. As it's not on the main screen, even if the player doesn't need the help, they won't be bothered by it. It's certainly a feature we appreciate as sometimes we just have to practise again in another battle to get it right (especially the duo or trio attacks, I can never get them right).

End of Battle and Levelling
The battle ends when players either win the game, where the characters will get experience points (XP), or losing it, where they get a choice of trying it again, with an easy mode (moves slows down so it's easier for players to time it right) or exiting to title screen without saving (so players will load the game before that battle happened).

When characters have accumulated enough XP, they will level up, which increase their statistics. Higher level characters will be strong enough to face further enemies (which will also be at a higher level), or if for any reason ther players have to go back to previous areas, they will be able to go through the battles quicker (with less XP earned from each).

Papercraft Battle

The most hilarious scene in the game for all of us (so far)
Battle - Papercraft
This is definitely our favourite part of the whole battle feature. Players' characters will sit on top of giant papercrafts, which are carried around by Toads (Goombas for the first enemy's Papercraft), and players are to dash into enemy papercrafts and/ or jump on them until they fall apart (in real-time instead of turn-based).

There will be a tutorial on how to control the Mario Papercraft (I heard that there will be other characters later on too), which can be a bit confusing at first (I kept clicking the wrong buttons), but like the rest of the game, there will be an area for players to practise before the battle.

One thing to note is that there are 2 health bars to look at - top right screen and bottom of the screen. When the bottom one goes low, players should run (or even dash) to the recharging area (see above picture) to recharge.

The way the Toads get recharged (I'm guessing it's them who are being recharged) is really funny. Players have to press the button, synced with the beat (it sounded really familiar) and blue colour ring to charge. When the players timed it right, Toads will start to dance around the papercraft, and more will join until they are fully charged. It is a very cheerful scene, and we were laughing out loud when the Goombas started joining in the dance as well (I don't think they get charged though?).

Mini Games
Part of the trio's mission is to rescue all the Paper Toads, which they can conveniently do through the Lakitu Info Centre (instead of running all the way to the location). They will appear as mini games, where players will sometimes have to round the Toads up by chasing after them, seek them out like in a hidden object game or rescue them from enemies, etc.

Battle Cards
Something else we have yet to discover is the Battle Cards. We haven't been introduced to it yet, probably because we couldn't use the amiibo feature which would have mentioned about these cards. You can also get the cards by collecting Star Points through other means (visit Nintendo's official website for more information). These cards will give you the extra ability to use during a Battle.

This is one of the reason why i regretted installing the game on a Nintendo 2DS (I bet the 3D graphics will be amazing too). I might have to get a Nintendo 3DS NFC Reader/ Writer Accessory for the Nintendo 2DS so we won't have this problem anymore.

By scanning an amiibo figurine, and collecting a Question Card (? Card) in game (we've  received one by winning a boss battle), players can create Character Cards and Special Cards (Duo or Sparkle Cards, read more about them here) they can use during battle.

Both me and the kids haven't really gone too far in the game (their characters are level 5, mine level 4), but we really like it and the kids can't wait for their next opportunity to play.

We like it that, although it's a RPG, which I prefer over 2D platform, it kept most of the Super Mario Bros classic elements, so it's literally playing a Super Mario Bros game in RPG format. Instead of exploring one way and jumping a lot (there is still plenty of jumping around in this game), players can now explore in all 4 directions, making the game feel bigger, and there is more NPCs (Non-Player Characters) walking around to talk to too.

The graphics is bright, cheerful and smooth (you can see from all my in-game snapshots, where none are edited), and we especially love the sparkling effect. The tune is upbeat but not so exciting that makes your heartbeat goes too fast (so you can remain relaxed when playing the game), and the dialog is funny to give us plenty of chuckles.

Abby's favourite bit of the game is the funny dialog, and Clay's is running after Nabbit, who stole most of the Bros Attack (he drops it occasionally for players to collect new attack skill). And we all love the Papercraft battle recharge of course.

If you have a choice, do install it on a new Nintendo 3DS so you can make the most of the game. But if you aren't too fussed about it, young ones will certainly enjoy playing this game.