Like its predecessors before it, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is delightfully zany. Throughout the Mario Bros.' latest RPG adventure, which takes them across the luscious Pi'illo Island and into the vibrant world of dreams, the two come upon quite a few wacky characters and ideas. How quirky, to be precise? Well, for Mario to enter the dream world, Luigi must fall asleep resting his head on one of the island's natives, who can transform into pillows and open up dream portals. I'd go on, but I think “dream pillow people” sums up the quirkiness pretty nicely.
Sadly, not all is not well on the island, for an ancient evil has arisen to cause trouble, vie for the ultimate power of dreams, and, of course, kidnap Princess Peach in the process. The journey the bros. must undertake to put the kibosh on this evil's schemes take them through high mountains, desert sands, pristine beaches, deep forests, and, as the name Dream Team suggests, the realm of dreams.
Admittedly, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team doesn't start off reeking with originality. The overworld that is Pi'illo Island, at first, feels little more than a collective rehash of areas from previous M&L titles, while the series' trademark turn-based combat system and its emphasis on counterattacking doesn't provide much in the way of new and exciting during the first couple of hours. However, Dream Team comes into its own once it throws Mario into the dream world. And a lot of this is thanks to Dreamy Luigi, the powerful, subconscious copy of Luigi that accompanies Mario throughout the 2D areas that make up the dream world.
In combat and in exploration, Dreamy Luigi frequently shakes up the series formula. The most notable example of this is the “Luiginary Works,” special environmental objects he can take control of and that can be manipulated by touching the real Luigi (who appears sleeping on the bottom screen) to cause various effects. These effects, which range from turning giant screws and unleashing huge gales of wind to altering the speed of time and summoning a multi-purpose cluster of Luigi clones, are pivotal to clearing puzzles and getting around, while offering a fun connection between the real world and the dream world. Though most of the puzzles are, by their nature, pretty simple, it keeps them from being annoyingly difficult.
Combat in the dream world, while similar to the more traditional combat in the real world, also boasts a rather distinct feel, mainly because Dreamy Luigi doesn't actively engage in fights, instead serving as a power-amplifier that enables Mario's standard attacks to strike multiple enemies at once. Luigi fans may be bummed to see him relegated to a mere power-buff, especially during Nintendo's “Year of Luigi”, but the enhancements come in handy since dream battles usually have Mario facing large groups of enemies at a time. Add to that more complex Bros. Attacks (or dream world “Luiginary Attacks”), a reworked badge system that can store up multiple badge effects, and enhanced gear, and Dream Team manages to freshen up combat nicely.
But the biggest addition to combat, I think, lies in the counterattacks, which are much more elaborate than in previous games. This time around, enemies frequently try and attack the bros. from multiple directions, and thanks to the 3D visuals, these attacks often involve interaction from characters in the background. Mixed with a large number of enemy types, the greater intricacies of enemy attacks make for enjoyably varied enemy encounters, while the addition of clever boss battles and the occasional 1-on-1 giant fights (in the vein of the previous M&L game, Bowser's Inside Story) ensure that the action never gets stale.
But enough of the combat. There's still more to discuss about the setting. While the majority of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team's unique features lie in the dream world areas, the overworld of Pi'illo Island is by no means subpar. Sidequests, minigames and secrets are scattered all over the island, many of which require the bros. to acquire new skills before they can access them. The island also abounds with plenty of characters for Mario and Luigi to interact with, and, more often than not, these interactions are amusing to watch unfold.
This isn't really something I can say about the dream world, as its areas are more designed like dungeons, in the sense that they're mainly there for plot progression and enemy-fighting, and, therefore, lack any incentive to return to them once the goal of each area is met. Same with the non-enemy characters that appear, who are either those relevant to the plot or shopkeepers. While that is the case, the world of dreams is still a fun place to explore while it lasts.
My biggest gripe with Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is that it's a bit on the “Too Easy” side. Throughout the roughly 20 hours I spent playing, I stacked up recovery items faster than I could use them and fell in battle from enemy attacks just twice. Just twice. But that's hardly a problem when the game builds upon the foundation laid by the M&L games that preceded it with more elaborate combat, enhanced visuals, and an enjoyable story, all of which is tied together by a pleasant sense of quirkiness.
I mean, come on, pillow people. What more do you need to know?
GameDynamo's Score for Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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