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Bros. slip in new mini-RPG

Nov 27, 2009

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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As lighthearted as most games featuring the famous Mario and Luigi are, the handheld RPG games featuring the two Italian plumbers are especially known for their sense of humour, ludicrous plots and memorable characters.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside StoryThe Goomba-stompin', mushroom-chompin', Bowser-thwarting brothers are back once again in 'Bowser's Inside Story' their third handheld role-playing game and a followup to Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the Gameboy Advance and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time for the DS.

This time around, the main protagonist isn't Bowser, but the creepy-looking Fawful, who appears in both previous installments. In 'BIS', he wants to take over the Mushroom Kingdom, but has to get not only the Mario Bros. out of the way, but Bowser too. He does this by tricking Bowser into eating a special mushroom that he claims will give him special powers to aid him in defeating Mario and Luigi once and for all.

The famed fire-breather falls for the ruse hook, line and sinker, and the special 'shroom ends up not only causing his insides to go all wonky, but makes him inhale everything nearby after he storms Peach's castle - the Princess herself, the Mario Bros., and several Toads.

It's here where you'll see how the game gets its name. As Bowser does his best to find and defeat Fawful (who has taken over Bowser's castle and his quasi-faithful minions), Mario and Luigi are tasked with traversing their arch enemy's insides to find the Princess.

And be sure, that isn't even the strangest part of the plot! Eventually, the two brothers gain the ability to jump in and out of Bowser's body ... using warp pipes. Is there any place those things don't go?

Needless to say, this gives the player a chance to control both the brothers as well as Bowser (albeit at different times). It's a neat little game mechanic, wherein any time Bowser needs help, Mario and Luigi will go to the part of his body that needs stimulation. So if Bowser is being crushed by a particularly heavy object, the brothers will have to travel to his leg muscles to give him the strength to lift his body up.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside StoryThe basic gameplay elements from the previous games are here still (all three games in the series were developed by AlphaDream), with some additions we'll get to in a moment. The games in the series have always employed an interesting combat system. Battles are turn-based, but players can (and sometimes must) take advantage of well-timed button presses in order to achieve, err ... massive damage.

For instance, Mario may pull out a koopa shell to hit an enemy. The shell hits the enemy, but bounces toward Luigi, who, if you hit the B-button at just the right time, will hit the shell back at the enemy, which will then bounce back to Mario, to repeat the whole process.

This system is always interesting, especially since every attack is different. Enemy attacks work the same way. Each and every one has its own pattern, and it's simply a matter of learning what each baddie is going to do next and adjusting accordingly. If you're a quick learner who does well with patterns, you'll do very well in this game.

What this game does, though, is throw in new minigames - a few of them incorporating the touch screen - to try and shake things up. None of them are particularly earth-shattering though, and sadly feel tacked on. The last Mario RPG on the DS didn't need the touch screen, so why does this one?

One of these touchscreen elements includes turning the DS sideways and having a gigantic Bowser taking on an equally giant boss. Players are forced to have the touchscreen on the left though, as opposed to the right, and it doesn't quite feel natural. And even then, these battles aren't particularly memorable or well-done. They're more mindless than anything, and we much prefer the smaller-scale boss battles that really force the player to learn moves and figure out which attacks work best.

Another non-gameplay element we have a complaint about with 'BIS' is the dialogue. True, it sticks with the silliness found in the previous games and knows how to poke fun at itself, but we found there is simply too much dialogue in this game. Yes, of course, that was a big part of the past two entries in the series, but while playing those ones, we were actually laughing out loud (particularly during Partners in Time), but that's not the case with 'BIS'. Now, maybe we're not the best critics of dialogue, but we found that in this most recent game, too much focus was put on the characters simply talking strangely. It was entertaining some of the time, but usually we just read it all with barely a corner of our mouth curled up into a smirk.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside StoryIt's safe to say that most gamers will get a solid 20+ hours of gameplay here, with lots of little side missions available apart from the main story, but it seems that the pacing is also quite slow. It's not until several hours into the game that you'll earn the ability to use badges, which give the Mario Bros. different powerups during battle. They can be mixed and matched after being bought or found, and though it's another interesting element to the game, they come in too late and there simply isn't enough focus on them.

For hardcore role-playing enthusiasts, 'BIS' probably isn't for you. Each time you win a battle, you'll earn experience points, and when you earn enough to level up, you'll gain more hit points, strength, luck, etc, etc. It helps to keep an air of progression to the game, but it's not very deep at all.

Now, don't get us wrong. Like Zelda games, even a sub-par Mario title is still good and has its merits. Bowser's Inside Story oozes charm, has some really neat core gameplay mechanics, and for any fan of the series, there is a ton of fan service, especially when it comes to the characters that show up and the music that is played throughout.

Considering how good the previous installment is though, 'BIS' feels like a small step backward, which is never a good thing. It's not fawful, but it's certainly not famazing, either.

 

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Format: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: AlphaDream
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Official Site: http://bowsersinsidestory.com/

Rating: 7.5 / 10

 
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