Mario and Luigi return to save the Mushroom Kingdom on the DS. Now with 50 percent more babies!
Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time is the sequel to 2003's stellar Game Boy Advance title, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga. Development on the DS game is being handled by Alpha Dream, who crafted the GBA game. The game offers a similar irreverent approach to your typical Mario scenario--Peach and the mushroom kingdom are in need of help--and runs far with it. The work-in-progress version of the game we tried matched the GBA game's wit, inventive gameplay, and impressive graphics, while it tossed in some smart uses for the DS hardware.
As the game opens, trouble is brewing again for the Mushroom Kingdom. The big twist this time is that the kingdom isn't endangered by a local threat. In fact, the threat to the peaceful kingdom isn't even from this world. It seems a dastardly alien race called the shroobs has decided it's time to relocate to greener pastures due to decidedly unpleasant conditions on their own world, and they descend on the Mushroom Kingdom. Of course, this being a Mario and Luigi game, things don't go quite the way they're supposed to. The end result? You'll have to journey to both the past and present to save Peach and the kingdom, making use of adult and baby versions of Mario and Luigi.
The game's intro cinema sets things up nicely, offering a tease of the villainous shroobs. Though we still haven't seen what, exactly, they look like, we'll go out on a limb and say that based on their silhouette, they look a lot like mushrooms. You'll then get a look at baby versions of the brothers as they wind up heading to Peach's castle in the past, which dumps you into the first battle. Much like in the GBA game, this brings you up to speed on the basics of combat. Your first foe is Baby Bowser, of course, who is intent on snagging Peach.
If you played the GBA game then you should have no trouble diving into this game, because once again, you'll control each brother with one of the DS's buttons. Combat will feature the same core mechanics of turn-based attacks that require well-timed button presses for maximum efficiency. After your primer, you'll wind up in the present to check out the adult versions of the boys as they gather at Peach's castle to witness the debut of Professor E. Gadd's newest invention, a time machine. Of course, the minute you see E. Gadd's underwhelming assertion that the machine is 99.9999-percent safe as Peach pokes around it, you know trouble is afoot.
Now, while the introduction sets the stage for the story and gameplay basics, it's really just the tip of the iceberg--Alpha Dream has not cranked out a by-the-numbers sequel. The gameplay in Partners in Time is a good deal more sophisticated than the GBA game, thanks in part to the DS's dual screens. Not too far into the game, the older brothers will wind up in the past and bump into their younger selves, which results in the two sets of bros joining forces. This maps out perfectly to the DS's button layout; each brother will basically be assigned their own button. You'll control the Marios with X for adult Mario and A for baby, while adult Luigi will be B and baby Luigi is mapped to B. While this may sound a little complicated, it's not that bad.