Back in the Box : Mario and Luigi Partners in Time
Welcome to Back in the Box where I spontaneously review games right after beating them. This time, it’s Mario and Luigi’s Partners in Time.
So I just finished Mario and Luigi Partners in Time about 10 minutes ago. What are my first immediate thoughts about the game? How do I feel about it? What impressions and memories come to mind right now? You’re about to find out.
It’s an alien invasion in the past! Yep. Only Mario could pull off combining two overused stereotypes without any scratch on his reputation. In short, aliens invade the old Mushroom Kingdom just as Princess Peach was trying out a new time machine. What a coincidence, right? So she gets kidnapped, but since this isn’t a platformer, you have to collect star shards to save her. During that time, you team up with Baby Mario and Baby Luigi (your past selves) to conquer your enemies. A pretty basic RPG plot that is certainly one of the weakest in the Mario RPG style games.
But the strength of the Mario and Luigi series lies in the humor which takes its roots primarily in both the Toadsworth's, Luigi and the brothers’ portable luggage Stockwell who screws up words like there’s no tomorrow. Bowser and his younger self also team up to spread the absurdity. The dialogues are often quirky or voluntarily cheezy and, although you will probably never laugh out loud playing the game, you will find yourself smirking most of the way. One thing you will not feel is fear. The comical artstyle and the fact that the alien race is pretty much a dark form of Toads and other Mario enemies.
The story sets place in the past Mushroom Kingdom on different new locations and reimagined classics like Yoshi’s Island. Each regions ends up being a world or more precisely a part of a quest to get a single objective. There are about 10 of these in the game, which clocks up around 15 hours. Each of these past regions is connected to the present time Peach’s Castle through the “very original” concept of time holes. However, you still see the other region in the present map which blatantly points out an horrible missed opportunity to extend the game further.
Advancing through each world, you learn a couple of moves that help you navigate through the platforming aspect of the “dungeons”. A lot of the progress is made through puzzle solving that mostly consist of navigating the babies and the adults separately. In these moments, the dual screen feature of the DS really shines allowing you to keep an eye on both groups and navigate them better. Like mentioned above, since you can’t go anywhere other than Peach’s Castle in present time, the gameplay shies away from the cliche but interesting time travel puzzle. In fact, the time travel rules seem pretty loose since nothing you do seems to affect the present apart from one key moment in the game. Since it’s just a Mario game, it’s nothing to be alarmed about, but other games would probably be called confusing or contradictory because of that. The touch screen is only used once in the game also and isn’t really helpful in any way. It’s nice to see a Nintendo game not trying to push a feature that doesn’t work in our faces too much.
The battle gameplay is reminiscent of the Paper Mario model. Attacks can be timed and enemy blows can be avoided and countered. There are jump and hammer attacks (which are considered normal attacks) and you can use items to attack using all of the brothers, both babies and adults. Each “bro” is assigned to his own action button : “A” for Mario , “B” for Luigi, “Y” for Baby Luigi and “X” for Baby Mario. This adds some difficulty to the timing of the attacks, dodges and counters if you compare to its predecessor: Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga. The use of the items instead of super moves is a downpoint for me. Around the end of the game, you don’t choose the item that best suits the enemy, but the one you are used to, since the successful timing is more important than the item itself.
The leveling up system stays unchanged with some basic stats increased every level with the possibility of a “random” added bonus. This simplified system works extremely well for a game like this. Speaking of simple, your only equipment is a pair of slacks and a badge. The badges offer a variety of effects which are more compromises than bonuses. This adds a slight element of strategy to the game and is very welcome. Overall, the difficulty is, as with every other Mario game, pretty easy. It does offer some challenges, but the overflow of levels and healing items will allow you to get safely out of pretty much any situation. Another downpoint is the absence of any kind of incentive to replayability. Once the game is done, it’s done. There are no additional dungeons or sidequest through the game. Bummer.
The artstyle is unchanged from the last game also. It’s a cartoony style that merges well with the quirkiness of the animations. The sounds also fit that mood as you will find “Looney Tunes”-esque noise bites for the stomping and hammering. It suits the game fine and helps set a light tone to the story. As for the music and sounds, there are a lot of remixes, but they are well done, as with most Mario games. It’s forgettable most of the time and nothing too memorable. The only thing I can remember is how Luigi's eyes freak me out.
If I combine all RPG style Mario games, this is probably the weakest so far. Keep in mind I haven’t played Bowser’s Inside Story and Paper Mario Sticker Star yet. It has a very cliche storyline and seems to have lost a bit of value on the gameplay side since Superstar Saga. However, it has an above average story telling thanks to its quirkiness and I had a blast playing through the whole game. Since it has no replay value that I know of, for now this good game goes Back in the Box.