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Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £28
inc VAT

It takes a while to get going, but this is one of Mario and Luigi’s best adventures yet

Mario’s never had a good track record when it comes taking vacations. Either Princess Peach gets kidnapped as soon as they step off the plane, or, in the case of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. their hot air balloon gets gate-crashed by a strange purple pillow claiming to be the lord of nightmares.

It’s a rather woolly opening in all fairness, but walking talking headrests are just the start of this imaginative holiday from hell. Having already travelled through time and into the bowels of their arch-enemy in previous Mario & Luigi games, our two plumbers must now take a tour to the dream world of the aptly named Pi’illo Island to stop Antasma from making his hellish nocturnal visions come true.

Mario & Luigi - Wakeport Dream World
Luigi’s dreams are sometimes rather strange reflections of the world around you

Of course, dual-world structures are nothing new in games, but Dream Team Bros offers a slightly different take on this tried and tested formula. It plays to both of Mario’s strengths, offering rich 3D playgrounds to explore in the waking world with a healthy mix of 2D side-scrolling in the dream world. Platforming is a rather more stilted affair than traditional Mario games, but it brings a refreshing change of pace to prolonged bouts of waking world sightseeing, as jaunts into the dream world can vary from brief sidequests to rescue petrified Pi’illo folk to multi-tiered environments in their own right.

This change in perspective also allows for one of Dream Team Bros most charming and inventive features: the Luiginary Works. Since Luigi is the only one who can open up a portal to the dream world by napping on Pi’illos, Mario has to make do with a “dreamy” version of Luigi while he pokes around his brother’s subconscious. But in a series of Inception-like twists, Dreamy Luigi is able to merge with his own dreamscape and change the way it works. Tickle Luigi’s snoring nose on the touchscreen, for instance, and a tornado will rip through the dream world to leave platforms swinging in the breeze. Twang his moustache and it doubles up as an elastic branch to hurl Mario to greater heights.

Mario & Luigi - Luiginary 'tache
Luigi’s palm tree moustache is just one of the many Luiginary Works you’ll find in the game

It’s as playful as it is endearing, and you’ll be surprised by just how many abilities developer AlphaDream have managed to squeeze out of one face. Some will naturally crop up more often than others, but that doesn’t mean that rarer Works have less of an impact when they do appear. One transformation in particular even had us with a lump in our throat. We won’t spoil it here, but it’s easily one of Dream Team Bros most memorable moments.

Back in the waking world and it’s very much business as usual. As with previous Mario & Luigi titles, enemies roam in plain sight, but battles take on the role of a turn-based RPG with a hint of rhythm action thrown in for good measure. Tapping each brother’s respective button in time with their jump or hammer attack will not only do extra damage, but it might also save them from getting hit come the turn of an enemy. Jump in the wrong place or miss the opportunity to hammer back an incoming projectile, though, and battles can quickly take a turn for the worse.

Mario & Luigi - Luiginary Hammer
Get your timing right and your attacks will be much stronger

It’s never unduly difficult, though, and Dream Team Bros also pushes the 3DS much further than its DS incarnations. Attacks now extend into the foreground and background of the screen and attacking certain enemies will also affect the behaviour of other monsters. Destroy the team leader and his minions will cower in fear, leaving you free to attack at will. There’s even a fun Dr. Mario cameo later on where you attack viruses to change their colour so you can wipe them out much faster.

With so much going on, this means battles rarely fall into the drudging monotony found in other turn-based games, but there are times when this constant demand for your attention occasionally backfires. Boss battles in particular can often feel like endurance tests, and this is only exasperated in the early hours of the game when you have so few moves to choose from. While the opening tutorial levels are meticulous in their attention to detail, new techniques are introduced far too slowly and players become so well-versed in their small repertoire of attacks that battles quickly fall into danger of losing their appeal through sheer lack of variety. Even newcomers to the series don’t need half an hour to master a timed jump attack, and it often feels like the game’s holding you back rather giving you free rein to enjoy to its more nuanced intricacies.

Mario & Luigi - Luiginary Sneeze
It’s amazing how much poking and prodding one man can endure without waking up

Once you’ve pushed through those first couple of hours, though, the battle system becomes a lot more interesting. Special Bros. attacks can be found by collecting puzzle pieces strewn around Pi’illo Island and these use the combined strength of Mario and Luigi to defeat enemies in traditional Mario style, such as kicking red and green shells back and forth or raining down fire balls on them. In the dream world, these Bros. moves morph into Luiginary attacks, allowing Mario to manipulate hundreds of imaginary Luigi clones to deliver even more devastating attacks. These need to be collected via puzzle pieces as well, but one of our favourites involved using the 3DS’s gyroscope to roll a giant bowling ball of Luigis into a herd of unsuspecting goombas.

In a way, it’s a shame that more of the game isn’t set in the dream world, as it’s here where the game shines brightest. The 3DS itself is used in far more interesting ways than any task set in the waking world, and the Luiginary Works offer a far more interesting toolset to work with than the various jumping abilities you’ll need to traverse Pi’illo Island.

Mario & Luigi - Mushrise Park
Each brother is controlled via the A and B buttons

That said, it still doesn’t detract from Dream Team Bros overall charm, especially when it’s backed up by such a fantastic score and pitch perfect localisation. Add in a ream of extra side content, such as stat-boosting beans to collect, a series of Expert challenges to carry out during fights and badge powers that accumulate with each successful hit, and there’s plenty to get stuck in with.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros is an excellent addition to the series and a far deeper experience than any other Mario game we’ve played. It might seem a little thin on ideas at first, but that’s only because they’re spread so consistently throughout the rest of the game. If 3DS can continue to produce such big hits throughout the rest of the year, Mario might finally have a trouble-free holiday season.



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