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Mario And Luigi: Dream Team Bros review

3DS dares to dream a little bigger

Mario & Luigi is a remarkably hands-on RPG, the antidote to JRPGs and their cold, unflinching stats. Numbers underpin the experience, but the game is built primarily on what you do with your fingers. Hammer attacks are amplified if you tap at the apex of the swing. A single jump becomes two if you press as foot touches head. Even incoming attacks can be dodged or countered, as long as your timings are sound. It's a system of forced engagement and very engaging it is, too.

It extends beyond battle. Where most JRPGs use the overworld as a crude pen for deep combat systems, developer AlphaDream honours its heroes' roots by packing the field full of platforming. It has none of the grace of a standalone Mario platformer, though, choosing instead a Metroid-y approach that sees the areas opening up as the brothers amass fancier moves. Returning to rinse old stomping grounds with a new hover jump or digging technique gives the world a density of play few RPGs can match.

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These ideas are a given in a Mario & Luigi game. The fun part is finding out what extra ingredient AlphaDream has thrown into the pot. Following the four-man (well, two men/two babies) twist of Partners In Time and the last game's Bowser threesome, it may initially seem like a step back that Dream Team Bros. only focuses on Mario and Luigi. Dive into the story, however, and it totally wins you over using the limitless potential of dreams to amplify this winning formula into something else entirely.

Totally Snoresome

Following a precedent set by SNES's Mario RPG (a Wii Virtual Console must-buy), Mario & Luigi is where the Mushroom Kingdom lets its hair down. Our heroic duo have less in common with the stars of NSMB and the like than Laurel and Hardy, buffeted between comic mishaps as they meander towards an epic conclusion. This time they amble across Pi'illo Island, a holiday resort once home to a race of sentient cushions, now petrified by some Big Bad Plot Device.

Putting aside the terrifying notion of pillows being frozen corpses - we swear we heard a ghostly quack from our eiderdown last night - the story has tremendous momentum and laugh-out-loud twists. More importantly, it respects its portable home with an overarching narrative backbone built from smaller comic vertebrae. Whether it's winning over beefcake mountaineers or thwarting a bandit's heist, every step of the journey is a mini-yarn in itself.

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Having brilliantly explored the link between the outside world and Bowser's lower intestine in "Bowser's Inside Story, it's no surprise that AlphaDream has some real fun mining more psychological depths. Luigi opens dream portals by napping on Pi'illos and, in a brilliant twist, the resulting visions reflect what's on his mind. Dreams are decked in visual motifs yanked from reality, complete with exaggerated enemies and remixes of the spiffing 'outside' soundtrack (the dream battle theme is a serious earworm).

Key story-specific dreams (the majority of the Pi'illos are side-quests) borrow from stretches of the outside adventure for inspiration. So once you've climbed an actual mountain, you get to climb a dream one, too. Sounds like hard work, but it's fun seeing how Luigi interprets recent history into surreal visions, particularly in boss designs that pilfer from random objects - and entire locations - to great effect.

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Comments

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  1. Bootler Friday 12th Jul 2013 at 00:47

    Seriously can't wait for this, especially after the Paper Mario series laid such an egg with Sticker Star.

  2. bigterence Friday 12th Jul 2013 at 07:33

    Waiting on this to drag me away from the brilliant Animal Crossing.

  3. JorWat Friday 12th Jul 2013 at 08:31

    I've been looking forward to this ever since it was announced. I should get my copy on Tuesday...

  4. imbusydoctorwho Friday 12th Jul 2013 at 12:31

    Loved Bowser's Inside Story,so hopefully this'll be just as good.

  5. DanFF Friday 12th Jul 2013 at 17:55

    When I watched a trailer I had an "Mario RPG feeling" and then I decided: I must play it!

    I pre-ordered and now I'm just waiting for it to arrive ?

  6. ledreppe Friday 12th Jul 2013 at 21:29

    Loving this game! There's always some new gameplay concept as you progress through the brilliant story, never gets stale. And that battle music, I can't get it out of my head!

  7. mattao5 Saturday 13th Jul 2013 at 16:41

    @Bootler - Harsh words on Paper Mario: Sticker Star. It did very well considering it had been a number of years since a Paper Mario game was released and of course first time ever released on a handheld console as well, hence the 3DS. It did alright actually. It could have been better in some ways, but what can you do.

    Anyway. I just got this game. Brilliant. Love it. Definitely worth getting. :)

  8. koopa_kicker Saturday 13th Jul 2013 at 23:59

    All the Mario & Luigi games have all been great, but what could be better than Fawful? I hope this will still be better. As for the Paper Mario Series, I actually found Super Paper Mario to be a brilliant game. Yes, it was different, and it got a lot of hate from many for being, 'different', but that didn't seem a bad thing for me, whereas Sticker Star just seemed a disappointment for me, as 99% of the comedy, story, and battles against the enemies felt stripped compared to past games. That said, it is possible to complete Sticker Star by only battling the bare minimum number of battles as all that was required was tons of stickers and money, that could be conviently picked up along the way, making regular battles feel very pointless. Shame I bought Sticker Star, as unless I trade it in, I doubt I'll be able to pick up this and the upcoming Pokemon X.

  9. SuperNintyFan333 Sunday 14th Jul 2013 at 09:05

    All the Mario & Luigi games have all been great, but what could be better than Fawful? I hope this will still be better. As for the Paper Mario Series, I actually found Super Paper Mario to be a brilliant game. Yes, it was different, and it got a lot of hate from many for being, 'different', but that didn't seem a bad thing for me, whereas Sticker Star just seemed a disappointment for me, as 99% of the comedy, story, and battles against the enemies felt stripped compared to past games. That said, it is possible to complete Sticker Star by only battling the bare minimum number of battles as all that was required was tons of stickers and money, that could be conviently picked up along the way, making regular battles feel very pointless. Shame I bought Sticker Star, as unless I trade it in, I doubt I'll be able to pick up this and the upcoming Pokemon X.

    Its your decision, but i would say trade in paper mario and get this. This game is brilliant and easily rivals bowsers inside story (although i do miss playing as bowser). Paper mario feels very flat and boring in comparison and the rubbish puzzles don't help either.

  10. shiftymorgan Monday 15th Jul 2013 at 14:16

    All the Mario & Luigi games have all been great, but what could be better than Fawful? I hope this will still be better. As for the Paper Mario Series, I actually found Super Paper Mario to be a brilliant game. Yes, it was different, and it got a lot of hate from many for being, 'different', but that didn't seem a bad thing for me, whereas Sticker Star just seemed a disappointment for me, as 99% of the comedy, story, and battles against the enemies felt stripped compared to past games. That said, it is possible to complete Sticker Star by only battling the bare minimum number of battles as all that was required was tons of stickers and money, that could be conviently picked up along the way, making regular battles feel very pointless. Shame I bought Sticker Star, as unless I trade it in, I doubt I'll be able to pick up this and the upcoming Pokemon X.

    Its your decision, but i would say trade in paper mario and get this. This game is brilliant and easily rivals bowsers inside story (although i do miss playing as bowser). Paper mario feels very flat and boring in comparison and the rubbish puzzles don't help either.

    Bah dum tish! :lol:

  11. wilfrefanguy Monday 15th Jul 2013 at 15:19

    cool I loved bowsers inside story so this should be even better will probably get it :)

  12. mattao5 Tuesday 16th Jul 2013 at 18:17

    @ koopa_kicker - Not everything from the latest Paper mario game was very flat and boring in comparison to Mario And Luigi: Dream Team Bros and not all of the puzzles were rubbish as well. Game in general was in my opinion very good, but of course could do better. Anyway, all i can say is IF another Paper Mario Game comes to the 3DS, I'm pretty sure improvements will be made for next time, but again, it did do alright for a game on a handheld console for the first time. That's all I'm saying.


    Still playing Mario And Luigi: Dream Team Bros as we speak. Definitely worth the money I paid for it. Can't see too many faults here. :D

  13. Malorak Friday 19th Jul 2013 at 06:13

    Level 8 currently.
    (@American folk: HA! This time WE got something first! Eat it.
    ...Jk. Nintendo? Make everything come out everywhere at the same time. k? thx. bye!)

    -Story seems okay. Nothing too J-RPG overkill esque and nothing special either. It works!

    -AMAZING Graphics choice! Mario and Luigi are beautiful 2D Sprites while the background is entirely made up of 3D polygons and bright colors

    -Music. f**k. SO GOOD!

    -Gameplay. So much fun. Amazing in-depth for a Nintendo title.

    -Did I mention the music and Art style? Seriously, I can't get enough of those!

    I just bought alot? (steamsale...) and try to balance it out, but everytime I get away from my PC, I play M&L DTB.


    An amazing experience so far. It is, what it wants to be and that in perfection. 10/10.

  14. Crackerjack Saturday 20th Jul 2013 at 18:09

    OMG you've got to see this!!!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSBefGi7F-Y

  15. koopa_kicker Saturday 3rd Aug 2013 at 22:19

    OMG you've got to see this!!!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSBefGi7F-Y

    Wow this makes a change to my brothers, that always seem to try hum one of the Mario theme tunes, despite not actually knowing how they go, and sounding like a horrible mess of a noise like a cat in a blender (which I have honestly never seen or heard in my life for that matter, I guess it's just one of those overly used cliches).

    Speaking of my brothers, one of them got Dream Team for his birthday the other day so I'm using the second profile. He still has no idea how my levels and higher than his despite him playing for much, much longer than I have (and no, I have used any Exp increasing items or abilities).

    Just a quick question. What rank up bonuses are people picking? Personally I've chosen Hp and Pow bonuses early on so the effects are greater than leaving them early on, but am restricted in terms of how much gear I can use at one time.

  16. gamebox2d Monday 16th Sep 2013 at 13:06

    Loving the game, but why did Nintendo have to refer to Mario as "master" and "kid" all the time? Mario is not a child. He has a stache for god's sake. Playing a child might appeal to children but I hate it.

  17. ninelevendo91 Monday 7th Oct 2013 at 09:35

    I agree, Sticker Star wasn't Paper Mario's best game. Dream Team ( Bros. ) on the other hand, is great. I've played Inside story and Partners in time, and I actually see this similar to Inside story. There is some better stuff, but the cartoon feel just isn't as strong. Still feel ripped of, this is ANOTHER COPY OF A REVIEW. I was sure that there would be SOME jealousy in dream's deep, Negative Zone IS made from jealousy...

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