In this latest Nintendo 3DS  adventure, we travel along with the famous sibling plumbers on a vacation to Pi’illo Island, which of course is not the simple pleasure trip it appears to be. There are new characters and villains (along with the long-familiar ones) to chat up and combat, and as you can expect from a Mario title, there’s a healthy helping of puzzles to solve. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team  is a combination of colourful 3D levels and classic 2D side-scrolling action, and in this aspect the game really does shine. There was obviously much time spent in development perfecting this new world into a place that it seems only Nintendo can produce while making full use of the 3DS’ abilities.
- Developer: AlphaDream
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Release Date: August 11 2013
- ESRB Rating: E10
- Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Single Player
- 3D & 2D Gameplay
Mario & Luigi Dream World begins with our favourite Mushroom Kingdom residents embarking on a journey to the aforementioned Pi’illo Island, but as we soon experience, not even a simple journey is all that simple for this lot. The blimp-like airship being used to transport our entourage is suddenly attacked by Pi’illo Island’s resident head baddie Antasma, which results in a crash-landing for the airship. The first portion of the game can be spent in an extensive tutorial, but players are given the option of skipping it. Wanting to experience the whole game, I opted to work through the tutorial. Here you are introduced to how the battle commands work as well as a few of the game’s other mechanics.
As this game contains many RPG elements, it’s important to remember to follow through on simple tasks, such as talking to the current residents of the island. You will learn about the Pi’illo people, who have become entrapped in a dormant state in the Dream World, and their leader, Prince Dreambert, will need help from Mario and Luigi to awaken his people. This wouldn’t be a Mario title if it didn’t somehow involve the kidnapping of Princess Peach. It does, and she is. But not by Bowser, who incidentally does show up, albeit uninvited. Finding out that someone has encroached on what he sees as his territory does nothing to improve his demeanor. One other thing to keep in mind with Mario & Luigi Dream Team – there is a lot of reading involved if you want to get the full story and have the most complete experience, so be forewarned. Making up for the amount of reading are the many comedic moments that occur between the brothers and the other residents of the game’s worlds. Also treading in the genre of RPG is the ability to use treasures to obtain upgrades for weaponry, armour and skills. Another reason to go exploring in this title’s vast world.
By now you may be wondering how one goes about rescuing the people of Pi’illo from their dreamworld prisons. The method is quite simple, however the execution does require some finesse. Luigi is the man for the job, and he revives the Pi’illo people by taking a nap on them. It is at this time that Mario discovers his brother has a latent power. Luigi can open portals to the dreamworld when he falls asleep, and Mario, being the adventurous and curious kind of hero that he is, jumps through the portals. Here is where the game switches from 3D to more of a 2D side-scroller – but the environment has just as much attention to detail as the “real world.” Mario is accompanied in the dream world with an apparition-like version of his brother, who reveals even more special talent by becoming a weapon to be utilized by Mario as he strives to conquer the evil Antasma.
With two entirely different worlds to travel through, there is an extensive amount of game play that can be spent exploring, finding puzzles and gaining treasure. It is important to earn as many Bro Points as you possibly can, as these are what helps to power some of the special abilities you will learn throughout the game. These special attacks are known as Bros Attacks, and they are exactly what they sound like – the collective effort of both brothers finessing their talents to defeat an enemy. In the dream sequences, Mario will be able to call upon his legion of Luigi clones – known as Luiginoids – to execute Luiginary attacks. One of these attacks will call to mind the mechanics of Katamari, in the form of a giant green Luigi “snowball.” Personally I like the swaying Tower O’Luigi and the oddly amusing elements Luiginary attacks bring to the battlefield. But wait – Luigi’s talents don’t end there. He can also “possess” some background objects such as gears and clouds to assist his brother with puzzle solving. Assistance is also offered to the brothers by Starlow, who comes along to dispense his knowledge as needed – and even when it isn’t needed. Nothing like a game character who likes to share.
There is a steady flow of challenging situations in this game, and defeating baddies, while sometimes seeming rather tedious due to repetitive turn-based fighting, is no picnic in the dream park. Don’t be surprised that when you think you have it all figured out, the developers toss in a little curve ball to keep you on your toes. You also need to pay close attention to enemy attack sequences – at times you will be required to know the difference between what is real and what isn’t. You wouldn’t want to accidentally attack something that isn’t real only to suffer the consequences of missing the item that was real. It is during combat when you gain appreciation for the work coming from AlphaDream, for this is when you will experience all of the features the 3DS has to offer in an immersive game experience. Not only will you be required to master the gyroscope as well as poke and prod a sleeping Luigi, you will at times need to fight with your screens on the vertical. Huh. Must be a big enemy. Or a large weapon. Or a massive fight. Either way, it’s sizable.
There are many aspects to this game that feed my desired game style. First, it is single player. I like this, because I am an anti-social gamer. I do not like it when developers take my favourite single player franchises and make them multi-player. Looking at you, Bioware. And Ubisoft. Anyway – back on topic – I also like to explore maps, solve puzzles and collect treasures. Oh, and every so often I like to engage in a battle, just because it might result in a treasure or a new skill – or a new area to explore. Mario & Luigi Dream Team offer all of this, but I can’t help but feel that the developers missed a bit of an opportunity with this game. I mean, what kind of an opportunity would it be to let the world in on the big secret of what really goes on in Luigi’s mind than to see what his dreams contain. There must be all kinds of crazy going on, but we don’t really get to experience the full effect of just how crazy it could be. To that end, allowing us to see more, would expand even further the player’s interaction with the game’s many endearing (and not so endearing) characters.
I found it to take some time for the game to really get going, and I think I would have liked for there have been access to more battle skills earlier on, as this would help to alleviate some of the “battle fatigue” I experienced through repetitive attacks. I much prefer the “run and gun” (or as others in our house call my game style “spray and pray”) style of combat. I don’t like standing around exchanging attacks. That said, later on in the game some of the battles can prove to be very challenging, with precise timing and the correct weapon being the key to victory. For those times when the Brothers grow tired or are grievously wounded, players are given the option to fight on Easy Mode, which rewards you with the sense of accomplishment while keeping you moving forward through the game instead of tossing it aside in frustration.
Overall, Mario & Luigi Dream Team offers a very satisfying play experience. The size of the world and the length of the story are an excellent return on investment, not to mention the fun you will have as you guide our brave brothers along on their way to rescue the venerable Princess Peach. The artwork and environments are incredible – the scenery is beautiful to look at, and the music you get to listen to is, no word of a lie, fantastic. The only disappointing thing in regards to audio is the lack of voice-over work. There is definitely room for improvement in that area, as it would enhance the game experience even more.
This title will become a well-loved classic addition to the Mario franchise, in part because of the history the gaming world has with the plumbers, but mainly because this is simply a great game. If you are still sitting on the fence about purchasing it for your Nintendo 3DS, you can download a free trial from the Nintendo eShop .