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   Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time - Staff Review  

Back<----to Adventure!
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
15-25 Hours
OVERALL

3.5/5

Rating definitions 

   It's only been about two years since their last joint adventure, but everyone's favorite pair of plumbers are out to save Princess Peach again in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. Things are a bit zanier this time though. Not only must they defeat a civilization of creepy mushroom-like space invaders, they must travel through time to do it. Joining up with their past selves, the heroes dash off to break the barrier around Shroob Castle and save the princess once again.

   When fighting along, Mario and Luigi's main form of attack is jumping on enemies. If the correct button is pressed at the right time, extra damage will be dealt. Though their past selves are babies, they're older than they were in Yoshi's Island and can do a lot more than cry. They can't jump as high as and are naturally weaker than their older counterparts, but they're faster and can use hammers. When the past versions ride on the present versions' backs, the team becomes even more powerful. There are now multiple opportunities to use timed hits, and more hits naturally means more damage. Should their transports fall in battle, the younger versions can pop in temporarily in order to apply 1UP mushrooms should they have any in stock or fight in their place. While they may be limited in their options as far as normal attacks go, there are numerous special items such are fire flowers and red shells that can be used to deal massive damage quickly. In order to protect themselves from harm, the heroes can equip both armor and special badges, though some badges are offensive rather than defensive. The most effective method of defense is to not get hit at all, and that's where the battle system shines. Each enemy has subtle animations that reveal which attacks it's using and who its target is. By jumping or using a hammer at the correct time, the attack can be evaded and even sometimes countered. While this may not sound particularly amazing, there are numerous bosses that will fire a barrage of attacks on the plumbers and the evasion system keeps players on their toes and away from boredom.

There are plenty of very well designed bosses to be found. There are plenty of very well designed bosses to be found.

   While controlling four characters at once works well on paper, it doesn't work out quite as well in action. There are numerous buttons to press in order to coordinate everything and two screens to keep an eye on at the same time. While the learning curve for this isn't super steep, it might still give some players a bit of a hard time, especially when an enemy sneaks up on the heroes not being controlled at the moment or during a timed sequence. Switching parties can also be a tad problematic since the new party will jump when called upon. This can be dangerous at times, especially when they are left on moving platforms and the like. In battle, the multiple timed hits idea is interesting at first, but it eventually becomes a bit of a pain to use the simplest attacks. For example, in order to perform a simple hammer attack with the Marios, players must press A, X, timed A, and timed X. All of these are minor issues, and the rest of the controls are excellent, but they add up a bit. The menus are good, but the stylus can't be used to save time. The menus aren't very complex, so this isn't really an issue, but it would have been a nice feature. As with the rest of interaction, the localization is also quite good overall.

   Despite the enormous amount of Mario games there have been, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is surprisingly original. Alien invaders mixed with time travel, special combination attacks with their younger selves, new special items, and new exploration abilities are among the things that set this title apart. To give some examples of the new exploration abilities: adult Mario and Luigi can form a ball and zoom around at high speeds, but they can also squash baby Mario and Luigi so they can fit in narrow spaces and get blown around by giant fans as if they were feathers. Baby Mario, with the help of Luigi and his hammer, can also spit up water after drinking too much which can be used to put out fires.

   Few RPGs starring Mario and perhaps Luigi are very high on the difficulty scale, and this is no exception. Provided the player is skilled at timed hits and evasion, the brothers will rarely take a hit. Healing items are cheap and potent, and there will probably be plenty of money left over to buy plenty of special attack items to make their journey even easier.

   Unfortunately, another thing this iteration has in common with most other Mario games is a basic story that doesn't develop as much as it could have. This is somewhat made up by the humor and the heavy emphasis on gameplay, but it's still a tad disappointing. At least there are some other events thrown into the mix so the entire game isn't simply collecting one star piece after another.

Divide and conquer. Divide and conquer.

   Surprisingly, many of the dungeons are quite long and involved. Though the puzzles are fairly simple, there are many of them, and several require the two teams to split up and work on their part of the level. This adds a decent amount of playtime, making Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time a few hours longer than its direct predecessor. It still clocks in at only fifteen to twenty-five hours, though.

   Aesthetically, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time doesn't disappoint, but it doesn't quite take advantage of what the DS is capable of, either. Visually, most of the sprites, especially those of the bosses, are very good. While the non-boss sprites aren't particularly large or detailed, they are all very well animated. Even the enemies move and act differently depending on which attack they are going to use. When a character is defeated, the other character or characters will often react with fear, protect the KO'ed member when enemies attack, or even drag them off screen to safety. While the sprites themselves generally aren't particularly amazing, the attention given to their animations is very impressive.

   The music and sound effects are good, but not great. They do their job quite nicely, but most are still pretty simple. The boss music is all that really stands out.

   The brothers' adventure is filled with quite a bit of humor and impressive bosses. The story isn't a particularly complicated or developed one, but the battle system makes up for that. Unfortunately, controlling four people at once can get a bit old at times and is a tad annoying in battle, but it generally isn't a big deal and allows for some unique puzzles. While the difficulty is low enough that it is unlikely to frustrate novices, experts can still enjoy themselves by trying to dodge as many attacks as possible. It's not their greatest adventure, but Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is still a rather enjoyable one overall.

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