Review by LtCardboard

"This game has me with the smiles!"

Take your standard JRPG: You've got turn based combat, a cliched plot about a teenager saving the world and gameplay so unimaginative it'll put you in a coma. The genre has fallen far since the glory days of the PSOne and PS2. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story may well be the cure for this stagnating genre. It's completely off the walls and, most refreshingly, never takes itself seriously.

The story is bonkers. It begins with Bowser being tricked into eating a magic mushroom by a bloke named Fawful, which causes him to suck up half of mushroom kingdom, Mario and Luigi included. After that, Fawful seizes control of the kingdom, much to Bowser's disgust, and so Bowser begins his quest to seize control back. The plot is hardly an epic - it lacks a truly villainous character or any major twists or turns. However, the script is an absolute masterpiece. Always lighthearted, the characters are absolutely hilarious and Fawful's broken English, in particular, is a joy to read. The script never strives to be anything more than comic gold. What's best is that this game revolves around Bowser, offering a brilliant new insight into the villain and a refreshing change from the Mario & Luigi save the Princess routine. Bowser undoubtedly steals the show. His interaction with his minions and Fawful are far more expressive than anything the Bros. can muster up.

For Bowser's Inside Story, control frequently switches between Bowser and Mario & Luigi. When above ground, you play as Bowser, traversing the map from a top down view. Bowser can interact with the environment using a variety of special moves, making for some interesting exploration. It's under Bowser that most of the plot advances and dialogues occur. However, when Bowser gets in trouble in the plot, you assume control of the Bros. from within Bowser. The Bros. must enter some part of Bowser's organs to fix the problem and get him up and running again. Here, the view switches to side on, and the game takes on a more platforming style. Don't be fooled though, this platforming is incredibly basic - it's still an RPG. It's refreshing to change gameplay styles between the two. Best of all, the switches are timed so perfectly so that you'll never be sick of one style of gameplay before you're back to the other.

The battle system is incredibly unique. Charging into an enemy on the map switches to a battle screen. Battles are turn based, but with a twist - you can assume control of your character on the enemies turn, timing counter attacks and dodges. Every attack in the game can be avoided, and it's not just guess work. Each enemy gives away subtle hints as to which brother they're going to attack or which move they're going to use. The attention to detail is excellent. Unfortunately, once you've learned each enemy's tells, the game is little more than jump and counter until you come across a new enemy. Enemy variety overall is good, but each area suffers from a limited number of enemies, often only 3 or 4 types for the whole area. New enemies do crop up, albeit only a little while after you've grown tired of the old ones.

On top of this, you can perform special moves, each of which plays out like a little minigame. Bowser's special moves all require stylus input, while the Bros. require button and d-pad inputs. The games are all fun, but I rarely noticed a difference between the special moves. The problem is, the game has no real status effects (besides dizzy, burn and poison - none of which are very useful). Therefore, all special moves, and even the two regular moves each character has, are only there to deal damage. The Bros. have a hammer and a jump attack, but besides the input and the occasional enemy that one struck and the other didn't, damage was always the same. It's a similar story for Bowser. Therefore, the battles are guilty of being a little too simplistic, even if they are thoroughly entertaining.

Speaking of minigames, this game is full of them - in fact, even levelling up requires timing to acquire bonuses to your stats. Some are better than others, however, and some repeat a bit more than they are welcome. One in particular, involving hitting pollen into targets, has particularly terrible controls, and is required three times in quick succession. Occasionally, you are also required to blow into the mic in order to breathe fire. Unfortunately, due to the erratic nature of the mic, failure occurs all too often even if you're puffing like mad. For the most part, though, the minigames are enjoyable and offer a nice break from the regular gameplay.

Bowser's Inside Story never aims to be anything more than a lighthearted, fun filled adventure, and it most certainly achieves it's aim. It's not the longest game - my playthrough lasted about 20 hours. However, the pace rarely drops and it entertains throughout. If you're looking for a deep plot or complex mechanics, look elsewhere. If, however, you're an RPG nut craving a break from the stagnant norm, you must pick this up! It's the most original RPG in years!


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/02/10

Game Release: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (EU, 10/09/09)


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