Game Reviews
The vertical Bowser battles, shake things up a bit.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story Review

The Game Boy Advance gave us a little gem known as Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, which brought us the beautiful mixture of fun combat and great humor.  The DS was home to the inevitable sequel, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time.  While sometimes sequels can seem to lose flair, the M&L series had not lost its stride, and actually improved in some areas.  After two hits, is the third installment,  Bowser’s Inside Story, going to just be a boring rehash of what we’ve already played?…Nope, not by a long shot!  Bowser is back and badder than ever…and now we get to see his “insides”…I promise it’s better than it sounds.

The plot in M&L:Bowser’s Inside Story is what you’d expect from a Mario game; light-hearted, funny, and about as deep as a kiddie pool.  In this installment of the series, we see that the citizens of Mushroom Kingdom have fallen ill to a virus known as “the Blorbs”, which causes them to inflate.  The Mushroom Kingdom council (including Mario, Luigi, Peach, etc.) decide to meet and discuss this problem, meanwhile Bowser is up to no good.  While in a forest, Bowser runs into a shady salesman that offers him a special shroom that will help him finally defeat Mario, once and for all.  This salesman isn’t just some junkie, it’s Fawful, a familiar antagonist in the Mario & Luigi series.  Fawful fed Bowser a Vacuum Shroom, which causes him to start sucking up everything in sight…including the entire Mushroom Kingdom council.  It is up to our favorite plumbers to team up with their arch-enemy and take down Fawful before he completely takes over the kingdom.  While not a deep story, the humor of the M&L series is present from the moment you pop the cartridge in, and that’s all I care about.

The 2-D side-scrolling aspects of the game are lots of fun.

This game is exactly what I thought it would be, a fun sequel, but with enough additions to keep it fresh.  While we have played as Bowser a few times in the past (see Super Paper Mario), this is the first time I felt really attached to the character.  In SPM, using Bowser felt a bit shallow at times…most of the time I just would switch to him for the few seconds I need him, then switch right back to playing as Mario.  With this new DS title, Bowser is actually integrated rather well into the puzzles, and he really feels like the star of the show, instead of just playing second fiddle.  For instance, there is a puzzle in which Mario and Luigi are inside Bowser, and certain areas are blocked by objects keeping them from advancing;  This is where Bowser comes in…on the top screen you run over to a fountain of water and drink to fill his stomach with water and cause the objects to rise.  While the puzzle elements of the game are very easy, it sure is a hell of a lot of fun to switch between the two playing fields.  Controlling the characters is done perfectly; while the A and B buttons control Mario & Luigi, just hitting either X or Y makes the easy transition to controlling Bowser.  Also, portions inside Bowser have you doing some side-scrolling, but later on you will come back to the top-down perspective with the Bros. that you remember.

Not only do you use all three characters for puzzles, but for battles as well.  The combat is the same as you remember it; turn-based RPG, with a mixture of timed action commands.  For newcomers, the best example of the gameplay is displayed in any of the Paper Mario games, but with more cooperative attacks.  Timing is a huge factor, and good timing can make an attack give double damage or have you make a counter-attack that can change the flow of the battle.  To change things up a bit, Bowser can become infused with adrenaline (thanks to the Bros, of course), and fight with the stylus while your DS is held vertically.  These battles were pretty interesting; a nice departure, but I enjoy fighting with buttons rather than swiping.  Overall, I really think people will find it hard to get bored with the games combat.  One major gripe I hear is, “Since you play as Bowser a lot, do the Bros. get neglected when it comes to experience points?”  The answer lies within Bowser’s belly…literally.  In combat, Bowser can actually inhale enemies and then the Bros. can help beat them down and gain some experience points.  I know going into the game, I was worried the trio would end up unbalanced, but having them fight together in this way really evens the playing field.

The vertical Bowser battles, shake things up a bit.

So is M&L: Bowser’s Inside Story a worthy sequel?  The answer is a definite, “yes”!  With each new game in the series out-doing itself and setting the bar higher, we as gamers, are now treated to yet another fantastic addition.  When I first heard about the game and saw screenshots, I honestly thought that it was probably not going to be that much different than the two previous Mario & Luigi games.  This was a time I was so glad to be proven wrong, because playing as Bowser has kept this game from just retreading what we had already played, keeping the game from feeling stale.  If you are only going to buy one DS game this Winter…make it Bowser’s Inside Story; truly see that it’s what’s “inside” that counts.

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Veronica
Veronica

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