I like coffee. I like pickles. Doesn’t mean I’ll be running to pick up Maxwell House Kosher Dill.
That’s unfortunately what Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is. Foolishly, I bought it on the merits of the two series it combines, thinking it’d combine the unique RPG and puzzle elements of both Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario.
Instead, it shoves Paper Mario into the Mario & Luigi world. The whole plot is about getting him and his paper friends back into the magical book in Princess Peach’s castle from whence they came, which fittingly is what they should have done with this game.
There are several places where to advance the story you have to free Paper Toads from their hiding spots, or corral them into a pen, and those puzzles and mini-games are… interesting. But they don’t make much sense, even in the hallucination-esque world of the Mushroom Kingdom: these Toads, who generally worship the ground Mario stands on, don’t recognize him and run away until Mario, Luigi and Paper Mario tackle them. Then, after extended conversations about not recognizing him, you’re done. Err… you’re done when you go through that eight times. Each puzzle.
Papercraft battles come into play, another unique element to this game, where you (attempt to) control a giant cardboard Mario, dashing him into giant cardboard Goombas, then running to pick up the Mario, then dashing into Goombas, then running to pick up Mario, dash, pick up, dash, pick up, dash, pick up, dash, dash, dash, pick up, rhythm puzzle, dash, pick up, dash, pick up… Yeah, you get the picture.
Then, there are the battles. Pretty standard fare, taken from the school of Mario & Luigi (big jumps and hammers) with a few concessions for the Paper Mario series’ penchant for stringing together weaker attacks using timed button presses.
Until you run into a battle with two giant Spinys, which you hit with hammers many, many times, watch them grow back, get chased, hit with hammers, watch them grow back, get chased… Ooh! A hint! Let’s follow that hint! Hammer, grow, chase, hammer, grow, chase… After 20 minutes of that mindless cycle, I finally gave up on the game.
And all that, if you can even get the game working. The game crashed on me twice during cutscenes — the first time, it froze for a second, brought me back to the 3DS home screen, and restarted the system. The second time, the screen completely scrambled and I had to spend an inordinate amount of time to get my system to recognize that I was holding the power button.
The game seems to be built to crash, too: instead of specific save points, you can save the game anywhere as long as you’re not in a battle or puzzle, and it says you can restart from there “if you leave the game.” The fact they call that out, which is unusual for a Nintendo game, seems to me like a product manager said, “If it’s gonna crash, we need to let the user save anywhere.”