Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo DS
  • Developer:
    • Alphadream Corporation
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 02/11/2009
    • US 09/14/2009
    • UK 10/09/2009
Score: 85%

This review was published on 11/16/2009.

The Mushroom Kingdom is marred by a mystery malady known as the "Blorbs." That's right; the Mushroom Kingdom's in trouble, and this time it's the work of a disease. If you think that sounds a bit dark for a Mario game, then you obviously don't know the symptoms. In the game's own slightly comedic description, the Toads get to "blimp-size" and roll around, causing all sorts of mayhem. As per usual, the Mario brothers are called in to solve this case. I'm not sure how a couple of plumbers can solve the crisis of an epidemic... perhaps it has something to do with Mario's background as a doctor in his Dr. Mario puzzle games. In any case, before anything can be done about this, Bowser enters the scene to heat things up. In typical Mario fair, Bowser is easily trounced and tossed away like yesterday's trash. It is then that he stumbles across a mysterious peddler that sells him some kind of 'shroom, which... allows him to suck things into his tummy like a Godzilla-sized vacuum cleaner. He successfully engulfs the Mario bros., placing them in a most precarious situation.

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The perspective of choice for the inside-of-Bowser segments is a side-scrolling, 2-D one. This should be familiar to anyone who's played the older Mario games, or any 2-D platform game, for that matter. The controls are not quite as tight as in those games, and you must control both Bros. simultaneously, meaning you have to press two buttons at the same time to get them to jump over simple chasms. A bit of an annoyance, but being able to platform in 2-D is always good fun. As for the King Koopa himself, his portion of the game is the RPG's usual overhead view exploration. The areas he explores are oddly tailored for his unusual girth (which appears to change drastically between games), providing puzzles specific to his abilities. Bowser is kind of like a giant mech to the plumbers, as they are able to influence his actions from within his body. For instance, say Bowser has to lift something that could be considered heavy even for him. Enter Mario and Luigi; they play a small mini-game to grant Bowser extra strength by striking a nerve in his arm muscle. Early on in the game, you obtain the ability to switch between Bowser and the Bros. at will, which is helpful in solving puzzles and the like. Further, whenever Bowser makes progress on his quest, the Bros. also make progress on their quest inside the giant lizard king. Thus, the three must work together, albeit in an awkward manner, to solve the new impending crisis. What's with Bowser and Mario becoming chums in most of their RPG adventures, anyway? This is starting to become a regular occurrence.

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Like in the last two games, combat has a heavy focus on the player's skill in performing timely button presses. Only this time, you've got a beast ferocious enough to make any tyrannosaur soil itself silly. Bowser's attacks and abilities differ quite wildly from the plumbers, with him providing the brawn that they lack. Due to that, Bowser spends a lot of time fighting larger foes; to match his own size, no doubt. Occasionally, he may encounter foes that are suitable for the Mario Bros. to fight, and they can have a chance at doing so through an ability Bowser unlocks to vacuum things into him. If the enemies are too big, it'll either not work or it will have some other beneficial effect, like stealing an item from the enemies or unbalancing them. The game kindly signals you whenever the vacuum attack will work, so you don't have to worry about taking unnecessary risks by testing it out on new enemies. This mechanic is put to extremely good use during boss fights in which Bowser is a participant, making for some interesting combat.

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Special Attacks work much like they did in the first game (or how they work in most RPGs; using SP), with the exception of how you earn them. To earn a new special attack, you must unlock it by locating all ten of its "Attack Pieces;" pieces of paper that are put together to show how to perform that attack. This is kind of a pain, but is salvaged by the fact that all ten pieces tend to be located within close proximity of each other, so it's really not that much of a problem. One nice feature is how you can practice using the Special Attacks (for free) inside the game's menu. This way, you'll be prepared for the real thing in a fight, hopefully not wasting SP on failed attempts. Bowser unlocks his special attacks in a different manner, usually as he rescues his minions. It's entertaining to watch Bowser interact with his lazy, good-for-nothing minions, so I much favor this method over what the bros. have to endure. The bad thing about Bowser's specials is that they all rely on the touch screen, and... well, that sucks, especially in a game that favors buttons 90% of the time.

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Remember when I said that Bowser acts like a giant mech? Well, there is one other reason for why I said that. In a few key points throughout the game, Bowser can grow to a gargantuan size, where he does battle with another enormous entity. For these battles, you need to tilt the DS horizontally, so that the screens line up from left to right. Bowser will occupy the entirety of the left screen, whereas his opponent occupies the right one. The stylus must be utilized for all of the actions in these fights, as well. These wars of the titans are more simplified than the regular battles, so the entertainment comes from how cool they are rather than from formulating strategies. And Bowser's new voice further adds to that coolness factor.

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Another new feature that they introduce somewhat late into the proceedings is this game's version of the badge system. The way in which they go about doing this is confusing, yet ingenious. Mario and Luigi each have a set of badges they can equip, and these badges can be combined in battle to let loose some kind of special ability. In order for that ability to activate, though, you need to fill a meter during combat by successfully pulling off your attacks. The more successful your attacks, the faster the meter fills up. While this is neat, the special abilities or effects that result from this odd mechanic aren't too impressive, and consist of things like doubling your attack power for a single turn, restoring a bit of the brothers' health, increasing the spoils after battle, and so on.

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I know I come off as having a heavy slant towards the positive in this review, but a game like this deserves it. Anyone who may have been disappointed with the last Mario and Luigi will find solace in this iteration, for certain. I applaud Nintendo on bringing something new yet familiar to the table in each game, in forms of game play and comedic plotlines. If you want me to make more negative remarks, then here goes: it had too many mini-games that revolved around the touch screen, and the pacing was awkward. That's all I got.

Word Count: 1,235

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