Review: Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

Maybe Dream Team Should’ve Stayed in Bed

The Mario & Luigi series has offered a number of simple yet endearing rpgs for the Nintendo handhelds over the years. Humorous writing combined with unique and engaging combat system gives the series an identity all it’s own. The Mario & Luigi games succeed due to their charm, silliness, that just so happen to include an enjoyable rpg.To my disappointment Dream Team does little with the established formula. Iteration is fine, but Dream Team does nothing to improve on what came out before.

Most of the games mechanics feel recycled, including the entering Luigi’s dreams world, which was done better in Bowser’s Inside Story. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the game, but there’s nothing new either. There’s just not much there to grab your attention, and what does is over shadowed by some annoying design habits Nintendo needs to let go of. If you’re looking for more of the same, you’re in luck. The game’s not bad, it’s just meh.

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Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
Platform: 3DS

Developer/Publisher: AlphaDream/Nintendo
Released: Release Date: August 11, 2013
MSRP: $40.00

The story begins with Princess Peach receiving an invitation to Pi’illo island, by a Dr. Snoozemore. Peach visits the tourist destination with entourage, Mario and Luigi in tow. Not to long after they arrive, like clock work, Peach is whisked away by the local villain (every tourist hotspot worth a damn needs a local villain) Antasma, the Bat King. Antasma seeks revenge for being locked away, and plans to rob Peach of her power to do so. This sets everything in motion for Mario and Luigi’s adventure.

The story itself is pretty bland, and takes way to long to get going. None of the secondary characters are particularly memorable, even the villain Atasma comes off as lacking, and is only redeemed as a bad guy thanks to Bowser showing up. The humor the series was known for feels flat in Dream Team. Most characters work off variations of the same joke, or rely on overdone stereotypes to force poorly done slap-stick. If it’s not unfunny jokes it’s tutorial text. It’s absolutely everywhere, and it doesn’t let up even after the 8 hours. Nintendo has perpetuated hand holding in a number of their titles (I’m looking at you Skyward Sword), but Dream Team borderline smothers you in tutorials. Explaining how the game works to the player isn’t wrong, but when it halts the entire experience every single time, it becomes a serious annoyance.

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While the 3DS is no visual power house, Dream Team makes wonderful use of a 2D & 3D hybrid look. All the characters look like traditional sprites. Everyone looks almost hand drawn, and this works well with the polygonal backgrounds. Combined with the 3D effect, the characters remain distinguishable from the background, and give off a painterly style to it all. My favorite visual fair was the change in  styles between the real world of Pi’illo island, and Luigi’s dream world. Pi’illo island is always very crisp and clean, while Luigi’s dream world is a distorted sickening riot of color At times Luigi’s subconscious takes form in the environment.

“Dream Team borderline smothers you in tutorials”

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The game is roughly split between the world of Pi’illo island, and Luigi’s dream world. The Pi’illo island parts of the game work nearly identical to the previous installments in the Mario & Luigi series. The turn-based combat makes use of timed button presses to do extra damage, counter enemy attacks, or dodge incoming projectiles. The more elaborate cooperative bros. attacks, feel like mini games unto themselves that are as ridiculous as they are entertaining to pull off. Mario and Luigi make use of their staple armament of boot and hammer, which are upgraded throughout the campaign. Enemy attacks give off tells, that if read right, you can avoid damage altogether. While the combat is the least different from the previous games, it remains engaging and fun, which is a testament to a formula.

The game mixes things up when you enter the dream world. Mario enters the dream world by jumping into Luigi’s dream clouds that form whenever he sleeps on on of the Pi’illos, the islands original inhabitants. You’re joined by dreamy Luigi, who can become part of the background environment, like a tree, cloud, or constellation of stars. Whenever you’re in the dream world Luigi’s sleeping face will appear on the bottom screen. By interacting with Luigi while he sleeps, it will translate into the dream world. Make him sneeze to create a gust of wind, pull his mustache to stretch a tree branch, spin his nose to turn a drill. It’s all very clever, and the most enjoyable part of the game outside of combat.

In the dream world Mario & Luigi fight as one, with their stats combining to make a more powerful individual. This changes the dynamics of combat, your stronger, but you no longer fight as a team. The dream world also gives Mario access to Luiginary Attacks in place of the cooperative bros. attacks. Each Luiginary Attack is silly and over the top, usually incorporating hundreds of Dreamy Luigi clones combining to form a massive weapon, like a wrecking ball or a giant hammer. Dram World combat can be harder at times as well, since you play only as Mario, if your HP reaches zero, there’s no one to revive you with a 1-UP. MLDream05-noscale

Score: 6.5/10 – Review Scale

Dream Team is an alright game. If you just want more Mario & Luigi, go ahead. If you’ve never played a Mario & Luigi game, get Bowser’s Inside Story for DS, it’s cheaper, has better writing, and is genuinely funny. Dream Team makes use of a well liked formula, but fails to do much with it. The whole Luigi dream world being influenced by his subconscious had tones of potential, but so little is done with it.

All told these are pretty minor problems, compared to the incessant hand holding that’s implemented through out the game. Some tutorials can be skipped, many cannot, and numerous solutions to puzzles are out right told to you. The game treats you like a child. Some people might need the help, but it should be relegated to an easy mode (which the game has), and not incorporated into the main game. It wouldn’t be so bad if the information was told to you in a more elegant fashion. As it stands, the game halts everything, taking away control, ruining the player experience.

If you can get over the nanny state style tutorials, you’ll have an enjoyable time. Dream Team still retains the elements that made the series magical, it’s just been done better before.

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About Charlie Elmer

His journey began when he received his older sister's hammy down SNES. Now he's here, how he arrived is unclear, but that's not important. He now tests his mettle here as an aspiring wordsmith.