The quantum physics-based alternate-reality conceit that has taken over comic books and sci-fi in recent years — think Marvel's Secret Wars, Fringe or that "darkest timeline" episode of Community — has made its way to the Mushroom Kingdom as Nintendo mashes up a pair of properties on its 3DS handheld.
Mario and his taller, thinner sibling Luigi might be best known for their signature side-scrolling platformers dating back to the 1980s, but Nintendo has long spun them off into every imaginable genre, from fighting in Super Smash Bros. to racing in Mario Kart. The brothers have also been placed into a pair of concurrent role-playing franchises, Mario and Luigi and Paper Mario, with four entries in each.
Now, in the colourful and comedic crossover Paper Jam, the 3D characters from the mainline Mario & Luigi RPG series meet the 2D flat folks from the Paper Mario universe after Luigi opens up a magic book that brings the two universes together. The plot is the same as it ever was, just with three Italian plumbers having to (yet again) rescue a pair of Princess Peaches.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam's combat system is deep and well executed, combining turn-based strategy with real-time action. There is amiibo support, lots of mini-games, nicely incorporated platforming and some charming, self-aware jokes along the way.
But while it's always nice to see these iconic characters out of their usual wheelhouse, this game doesn't reach previous heights, due in no small part to momentum-killing design choices like the paper toad hunts and a general lack of innovation beyond the set-up. But, while this cute, quirky game might feel a little flat to hardcore RPG fans, it should still get Mario nerds jumping for joy. (AlphaDream/Nintendo)