If you have a 3DS, you should play Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. Yet another ridiculously good entry on a console that’s surely destined to boast the best offering of games this year, it’s a reminder that not everything thrown our way has to be horribly po-faced or deadly serious. Although Mario has been shipped out far more than some are comfortable with – Hotel Mario is a wound that may never heal for those who were unfortunate enough to experience it – when Nintendo gets it right, it’s an absolute joy to see the biggest mascot in all of video games hurled into a world that is designed to be treated with the lightest of touches.
Carrying on very much in the same vein as the titles that have preceded it, Dream Team Bros.' greatest strength lays within its superb dialogue and utterly dry to nonsensical sense of humour. Any game that can make you laugh out loud within the first 5 minutes deserves some credit, but it’s a feat the latest Mario & Luigi achieves time and time again - it never falls into the realm of the obvious. Be it Luigi somehow breaststroking his way through the air or a text prompt actually insulting the one that was previously on-screen, it, more or less, manages to remain funny from start to finish.
This has been a highlight the franchise has been known for since it debuted in 2003, though, the changes coming in how each iteration tries to jab something new into the formula. Where the fourth is concerned, it’s the combination of Luigi’s struggles with sleep and how the 3DS enjoys toying around with different perspectives.
For reasons that are preposterous, the plumbing brothers are tasked with entering Luigi’s dream world on Pi'illo Island and rescuing the ancient residents who have been entrapped in magic pillows. Just let that settle in for a second. When in this environment, Dream Team switches to a more traditional side-on view and apes the platforming elements of old while keeping RPG turn-based combat - that’s been apparent since Superstar Saga - very much at the heart of proceedings
While these sections serve a purpose to some degree as events don't just push you in a single direction, they do, eventually, start to fall into a repetitive pattern. There’s numerous methods introduced so it’s never just a wash, rinse, repeat job – most involve ‘Dream Luigi’s’ supernatural face – so you will be playing around with the touch screen to shift boulders or knock down walls. The problem is that it lacks the inventiveness that can be seen elsewhere in the game, or in entries that came before it. Given that you’re often jumping into this space, there may be the odd occasion where you’d rather a shift in gears took place.
That’s not to say these segments are bad, though – far from it – and when you’re exploring the colourful location of Pi’illo Dream Team Bros. manages to stand side-by-side the franchise’s greatest moments. Constantly wanting to ensure that normality never sets in, the island is open to exploration and takes the same viewpoint as anyone familiar with these games will be used to. There’s nothing that goes completely left-field, but having to fix a broken, environmentally-friendly electricity generator while searching for a park supervisor with the dumbest accent of all-time, for example, is, frankly, damn entertaining.
Of course, the main focus of Mario & Luigi is its combat mechanic, an ever-evolving system that revolves around well-timed button presses. Even if it hasn’t changed massively from the foundations that the series was built upon, it’s a recipe that still holds up and has, refreshingly, received a few tweaks. Mostly coming into the equation when in the dream world, Mario and Luigi’s powers (and bodies) are combined when necessary so developer AlphaDream can increase the enemy count and bring in more ways in which to defend against oncoming attacks. The original blueprint is always at every battle's heart, but small additions such as these stops it from being boring. There may even come a time where you actively choose to enjoy a spot of level grinding.
There’s the odd occasion where Dream Team Bros. does fall into the Nintendo trap of adding in concepts just to appease the technology it’s built upon – having the camera spin around to Mario’s back as he runs left and right to gather coins isn't going to win any 'Moment Of The Year' awards – but overall it’s so well put together, thought out and entertaining that I’d be amazed if it didn’t suck the majority of people who sit down with it in. It looks lovely too, visually more similar to the recent Donkey Kong games than anything else but still a pleasure to cast your eyes upon.
After the slight disappointment of the latest Paper Mario entry which did abandon many of the ideals that made it such a delight in the first place, it's a relief to see the same hasn't happened here. If anything, the unique ideas are stronger now than ever. If more can continued to be made of these in the future to stop familiarity setting in, Mario & Luigi could have life in it still.