Swing your arms from side to side, come on everyone…do the Mario! If that doesn’t send you back in time, nothing will. by Cole Smith
December 2, 2005 – Learning to play Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, may feel like you’re trying to learn how to fly a helicopter. But once you’ve flattened the learning curve you’ll be rewarded with an excellent RPG that exploits and integrates the Dual Screen’s capabilities like few games have.
If you’re familiar with last year’s Superstar Saga then you’ll have a little bit more of lead over other gamers when it comes to learning all of the moves and button commands. These moves and configurations should have been spread out over the first hour or so of gameplay so that players could get used to them and slowly assimilate them into play. As it is you’ll have to do a lot of cross-referencing to keep this information handy. You can always try the trial-by-fire approach but in the long run you might neglect to incorporate some powerful moves that can really help you out later in the game.
Due to an invasion of a race of aliens called the Shroobs, the Princess has been captured and the Mushroom Kingdom is once again in danger. With the help of Professor E. Gadd, Mario and Luigi have to travel back in time to save Peaches and ultimately the kingdom. During their travels they encounter baby versions of themselves. These babies pair up with each of their older versions, which means that you’ve got to baby-sit two characters. Each of them are playable and possess different abilities that you will need to use continue on your quest.
Like most RPGs you will travel around the map fighting monsters and leveling-up. There is a lot more focus on action and interaction in this version. Exploring, collecting, puzzles and combat are the major elements in the game and are exceptionally well balanced. The top screen displays the map in good detail while you perform the action with the characters on the bottom screen such as looking for items to collect.
At times you will encounter various obstacles that require some puzzle-solving skills to pass. The adult character has different abilities than the baby. The adult has a spin move that allows him to float from ledge to ledge. Both adult versions of Mario and Luigi can grab each other’s ankles and roll over objects and enemies like a tank. The babies can tunnel underground and throw hammers. There will be times when you have to send the babies to the top of the screen to access some hard-to-reach areas so they can throw a switch, defeat an enemy, or otherwise open a path. Controlling these different characters with their different moves keeps the gameplay fresh and interesting.
Although the combat system is turn-based, Nintendo knows that this can be boring so they’ve added some extra hands-on control to keep the players involved with more interaction during battles. Once you assign your moves you have the ability to add more damage. You can also block attacks but all of these extra moves are based on timing. You have to hit the button at the right time in order to access these extra combat moves. The timing is based upon your character’s interaction with the enemy. You will have to press a button a split second before you jump on your enemy’s head to add more power to the attack. Or you might have to hit the jump button just prior to taking a hit from the enemy to get out of the way. The babies can also be launched at the enemy for more damage or all four characters can combine their energies into one huge assault attack. This extra interaction is a great way to maintain the flow of the gameplay.
The dual screen really comes in handy as it’s used for a variety of useful purposes such as splitting and isolating regions, keeping track of the other two characters, viewing the map and accessing the interface while performing other duties on the other screen. You don’t need the stylus. All actions can be accessed by the touch screen and the face buttons, or combinations thereof.
There are some laugh-out-loud moments that are just downright silly. It’s not that the comedy wanders into adult subject matter, it’s just that various crazy scenes also seem ridiculous to the characters in the game. As though they are sentient of the fact that they are in a wacky videogame.
The graphics are good but not of excellent quality. Due to the relatively huge nature of RPGs, this is excusable, and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is no exception. There is an overall lack of detail to the backgrounds which are relegated to close proximity since the top screen shows the overall map and the bottom screen focuses in on a relatively small area. There are no large, expansive vistas. What we get are very colorful graphics depicting bite-sized portions of this strange dimension. Mario and Luigi can be just barely identifiable in some scenes where the perspective is quite distant.
Mario is no stranger to RPGs but there are probably no stranger RPGs than this one. Highly recommended.
By Cole Smith
CCC Staff Writer