Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. is an action role playing game for the 3DS that combines Pokémon-style turn based battles with exploration, puzzle solving and 2D platforming elements. The player controls Mario and Luigi simultaneously for much of the game as they tackle various challenges both on the mysterious Pi’illo Island and within Luigi’s dreams. The game is a self-referential and slightly irreverent take on the established Mario universe, and features a solid and enjoyable battle mechanic and a humorous and well written script.
The game is fairly easy to control, utilising the 3DS’ Circle Pad and either the ‘A’ or ‘B’ buttons to move Mario and Luigi around the environment, and the touch screen to interact with Luigi while he sleeps (by pulling on his moustache or making him sneeze for example). However, as a Role Playing Game as opposed to a platform game (Like the New Super Mario Bros. series or Donkey Kong Country Returns) there is a huge amount of depth on offer in terms of buying, selling and collecting items, customising gear and upgrading statistics. This is done via a series of menus which can get confusing, although the game does explain at length how each component works. In fact the ‘tutorial’ for the game actually extends through the first few hours which, while mildly irritating for older players, is very helpful for younger Mario fans. We reckon anyone schooled in Pokémon should be able to get to grips with the game fairly quickly.
The game rewards tactical play, as players will have to analyse enemy attacks and decide how best to counter them, using different attacks and healing items effectively. This can be difficult, particularly in later stages and boss battles can be frustrating and drawn out. In addition, the world map is split into several large areas and finding exactly where you need to go next can be easier said than done. While there are concessions made for those who find the game difficult, including an optional easy mode which can be employed following a failed battle, and a log which reminds players of their most recent objective, this is still a difficult title for younger players, and we can definitely see parents or older siblings being called in to help.
While the game has been rated suitable for ages 3+ in terms of content, this doesn’t take into account the large amount of reading involved. There is no voiced dialogue in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros., and all conversations are displayed as text in speech bubbles. In addition, and in keeping with previous games in the series, the game’s script is peppered with strong accents for various characters as well as some slang terms and puns. For example, one of the first characters introduced is the officious block-man, Broque Monsieur who speaks in a very heavy French accent and comments on the bros’ facial hair by remarking ‘And zee moustache! It has zat… oomph! Zat… je ne sais quoi!’, while one of the antagonists, Bowser, remarks that his second attempt to capture the princess is titled ‘Kidnapping Peach 2: The Bowsering’. The script is funny and well written, but as such the game requires quite a high reading level to play, much like the similarly text-heavy Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
The graphics are bright and colourful, and the game is populated with a variety of well-designed characters. The 3DS’ 3D effect is utilised to good effect, and certain battles are clearly designed with the mode in mind. Players can move the Mario Bros. in and out of the screen during battles, and various special effects have been designed to ‘pop out’ of the screen. Certain moves which require the console to be tilted temporarily disable the 3D effect so that the image remains stable which is a sensible decision. Of course, the 3D can be adjusted or switched off using the console’s slider and the game is perfectly playable in 2D. There are no sections of the game that explicitly require the use of the 3D mode.
As with other Mario games, there is very little here that could cause offence. Although the Mario brothers battle enemies using hammers for example, this is a nod to the old Donkey Kong games and is handled in such a cartoony way that it’s hard to categorise it as ‘violent’. There’s no sex, drugs, blood or swearing, although the script is more ‘grown-up’ than most Mario games in terms of puns, slang and wordplay.