I’m currently playing Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, and largely enjoying it. It’s no Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door, but few things in life are.

Like all games in the Mario RPG family, Paper Jam expertly mixes action with menu-based commands. Pulling off well-timed hits feels good in a weighty sort of way, which makes fights feel quick and productive.

But even though I appreciate the battle system behind the Mario & Luigi games, I never mastered it regardless of how much practise I poured into hitting and dodging. You’d think “The ‘A’ button controls Mario’s actions, and the ‘B’ button controls Luigi’s actions” is as easy as instructions get, but apparently there’s some kind of bottleneck on my nerve impulse highway. The commands that whip between my brain and fingers go careening over the guardrail, and Luigi dies.

As a consequence, I’ve long had a hard time enjoying the Mario & Luigi games as thoroughly as other fans, even though I want very much to adore them.

Petey Piranha can go ingest weed killer, though.

Petey Piranha can go ingest weed killer, though.

Then I discovered Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam offers clear cues indicating which brother an enemy has its sights set on. The cues, which are optional and can be turned on and off on the fly, give my reflexes and my brain sufficient time to chat and formulate a plan for survival. This prevents me from drop-kicking my Nintendo 3DS and then retreating to my Shame Corner with a cartoony stormcloud hanging over my head.

See, I’ve had coordination issues all my life. I still mix up my left and my right, and I have to pause to make sure I’m not putting on my clothes backwards. As a kid, I suffered in school because of my poor handwriting and dismal math skills. Looking back at my report cards, I see a lot of “wtf, this chick can’t use scissors or a pencil, lol.”

In fact, I can’t say I actually started enjoying school until I was permitted to start typing my tests and exams — which didn’t happen until grade 11.

I’ve since come to realize my coordination issues are almost certainly centered around the fact I’m cross-dominant. My handedness split is about 65% right and 35% left. I definitely wouldn’t equate it to being disabled in any regard, but nevertheless I have little control over the quirk, and it’s made things kind of weird and difficult at times.

Would you deny me the pleasure of seeing the Bowsers locked in a pissing contest?

Would you deny me the pleasure of seeing the Bowsers locked in a pissing contest?

So when a game like Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam offers a gameplay mode that makes my experience a bit more enjoyable, it makes me so darn happy.

In recent years, there’s been a great deal of noise about games that offer optional “Easy Modes” and “Super Modes” (like, say, the invincibility leaf in Super Mario 3D World). As the gaming landscape becomes more divided because of Reasons, there’s a growing sentiment that “real gamers” should forego all assistance and “get gud.”

This is one reason I reject the term “gamer” as an identity, even though it’s a pastime that’s been a massive part of my life since I was four. My philosophy is that games are for everyone, and for that reason, they should reach out to players of all skill levels.

I’m not asking for EVO to include a “Hooray, Everyone’s a Winner!!” bracket. I’m asking people to remain calm when Nintendo offers kids, busy parents, and people with varying physical weaknesses and disabilities the option to skip a level in Yoshi’s Wooly World instead of forcing them to stay mired in some level of Bad Sweater Hell.

The adjustable difficulty in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has made the experience much more relaxing on my easily-befuddled brain. If you have an issue with that, I don’t even know what to tell you.

Instead of being mad, why not hug this sabrekitten?



  • InsertTokenz

    I’m totally cool with this.

    I’ll admit that I’m one of those who has come to really appreciate the challenge that classic gaming had provided in it’s early days, and as such always look to challenge myself whenever I can on the games I like (and look more forward to playing games that can offer such higher degrees of difficulty). That being said, I do give props to developers that can offer adjusting difficulty that doesn’t interfere with the core gameplay (such as overbearing tutorials), and in turn make these games enjoyable for nearly anyone else interested. It’s not always easy to pull off I’m sure, but the effort can go a long way if done right.

  • TheGameroomBlitz

    Totally with you on this. I realize not every game is going to be suitable for every audience (or me), but there should be more of an effort to make the mainstream titles accessible, not just for the disabled but for those of us without the skill or determination to muscle through the tough parts (again, me). If I bought the game fair and square, I should be able to experience all of it, and I shouldn’t be punished for having that expectation.

    Also, where Mario and Luigi games are concerned, Partners in Time was the absolute worst in requiring perfect timing and coordination from the player. Controlling two characters at once is bad enough, but four!? Who do you think I am, D. A. R. Y. L.?

    (That’s your obscure pop culture reference for the day.)

    • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

      Hmm, it’s been a while since I played, but I don’t remember Partners in Time being so bad, since the babies were on Mario and Luigi’s backs most of the time.

  • http://discord-inc.tumblr.com/ James Fletcher

    There was a time when I would have been the “get better at games nerd!” guy, but thankfully I’ve outgrown that guy. Just recently I’ve watched one of my roommates play the original Devil May Cry for the first time and I winced a bit when she got the “easy mode unlocked screen”. Still it’s better than Xbox Ninja Gaiden that actively made fun of you for picking easy mode