Mario returns! It’s always an event when a new Mario game is released. That’s because Nintendo always has surprises in store when it comes to the mustachioed plumber.
|MARIO & LUIGI: BOWSER’S INSIDE STORY
Nintendo for DS/DSi
Replay Value: 8.0
Overall Score: 9.0
Pros: Good, long RPG; laugh-out-loud funny; unusual gameplay.
Cons: Levels and art are somewhat repetitive; graphics should be more detailed; not enough use of touchscreen.
FUN AND FUNNY FROM THE START
Most of Mario’s pals are in the humorous Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. Even the title is a pun: Much of the game takes place inside Bowser’s body. The gruff dragon swallows Mario, Luigi, even Princess Peach.
You know Bowser is a bad guy, but why would he do such a thing? Blame that weird, bespectacled Fawful (from the two earlier Mario and Luigi games for DS). He entices the dragon-like turtle to swallow a Lucky Mushroom. It’s a Vacuum Mushroom that makes Bowser inhale Mario and the gang.
There’s much more to the story. Citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom have eaten The Blorbs. It makes them grow into big bloated balls that roll around uncontrollably. It’s like a huge epidemic has taken over.
Does it all have to do with Fawful? Maybe. Fawful is such a weird guy. The character that originally appeared in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga talks like Yoda-meets-E.T. He also wants the Mushroom Kingdom for his own dastardly plans.
In this multilayered role-playing game (RPG), it’s up to you to save the day. You get to play as Mario and Luigi deep within the guts of Bowser. You also get to play as Bowser, who’s trying to save his castle from Fawful.
As with any RPG, you have to level up constantly to gain more power. That’s because you need more strength to battle the bigger bosses. Sometimes you have to beat the same creatures over and over again. But that’s the nature of this beast: There are only so many varieties of enemies that fit into any RPG.
However, the Mario & Luigi portion of the game often plays like a platformer. You have to run and jump through Bowser’s guts to proceed in the game. If you’ve never played an RPG before, this is a great way to ease into it. When you level up, you get a kind of pat on the back for doing so. It all makes you feel sure and powerful.
To help you in your fighting, you can earn special badges that protect you along the way. Find them during play or buy them in The Shop with coins you’ve collected.
POWERUPS, BUGS AND BOTS
The coolest early powerup you get is a green shell. You use it almost like a hockey player does a puck. Mario shoots it into an enemy and it rebounds off the baddie to Luigi. As the puck moves faster and faster, you knock it back between the brothers and the monster to eliminate it. But you have to be precise. If you don’t kick the green shell at the right time, either Mario or Luigi will miss it and fall down.
At another point, there’s something like a virus bug inside Bowser. One thing you have to do to get rid of it is jump on the thing’s tongue. Later, you deal with a weapon called Super Ultra Wonder Ultimate Ruthless Great Iron Ball. And watch out for the Super Ultra Great Mega Trashy Monster Bot.
Whoever wrote the game’s script is a true goob. It’s hilarious. Now and then, you might even miss a move or hit due to a fit of laughter.
Mario and Luigi help Bowser, but that doesn’t mean Bowser doesn’t have anything to do. In his portion of the game, he deals with all manner of monsters and kooks, including an odd Frenchman stranded on an island. If you take the rope and pull the island to shore (with help from the plumbers inside Bowser), the Frenchman gives you a special powerup.
Sometimes Bowser becomes a giant when he fights, so much so that you have to turn the DS vertically to witness the sheer size of the battle. Here, you’ll use the DS stylus to attack. But you can’t simply brawl. You have to hit at exactly the right time. Early on, you’re told that the baddies will give a signal regarding how they will attack you. So keep your eyes open to win.
Exhaling into the microphone will make Bowser breathe fire during these battles. Breathe deeply and blow hard.
THE FINAL WORD
If you like the old-school games, you’ll love some of the mini games. One is a tribute to the classic Space Invaders game. There’s just so much variety in Bowser’s Inside Story gameplay, you won’t get a better deal (unless you buy the upcoming Pokemon in October).
Some folks have quibbled, saying Nintendo doesn’t have the great games this year. Sure, there’s no new Zelda for Wii, and we’ll have to wait another year for Super Mario Galaxy 2. But truly great games like Bowser’s Inside Story should silence many naysayers. It’s the must-have Nintendo game for the DS this season.