Go back in time with our updated look at the new DS RPG sequel starring Nintendo's classic plumbing duo.
When it was released in 2003, Mario & Luigi was one of the most unique and endearing vehicles for Nintendo's plumbing power pair in recent memory. The game somehow managed to capture many of the specific gameplay traits--and indeed the very spirit--of the long-running action series and molded them into a lovable and very playable role-playing game. Now developer Alpha Dream is working on the DS sequel, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, which we've taken through its paces during the first few hours of the game. We're happy to report that anyone who loved the first one as much as we did will find more of the same solid RPG gameplay, quirky humor, and classic Mario charm that made the first game such a hit.
With Bowser soundly defeated at the end of the last game, peace must have returned to the Mushroom Kingdom...right? Of course not. Even when that dastardly koopa isn't stirring up trouble, you know somebody is going to come along and ruin everyone's day. But unfortunately for Mario, Peach, and friends, the problems in Partners in Time are brewing in the past, when the plumbers are but wee tykes who haven't even grown into their hats. It seems some funguslike aliens called the shroobs have identified the Mushroom Kingdom as a nice place to live, and they've shown up to take over by force. Thanks to a (mostly) trusty time machine and a whole string of unfortunate circumstances, the grown-up Mario and Luigi end up in the past, helping out their infantile selves in the fight against the shroobs--and occasionally, a whiny little Prince Bowser.
One of the best aspects of Mario & Luigi's gameplay was that it let you control the two plumbers somewhat independently of each other, which presented lots of opportunities for the designers to come up with unique puzzles. Well, that same concept is here in the sequel...multiplied by a factor of two. Now you can control Mario and Luigi and Mario and Luigi--that is, the younger and older versions of each hero--all at once. You can still only move two characters around at a time, so the babies can hop right up on the big guys' shoulders when you need to get everyone to the same place.
But those tiny lil' guys can get into lots of nooks and crannies that the big ones can't, so you'll often have to split the party up to go hit some faraway switch in one area to open up a path in another. The DS's two screens are used well here. For example, when you split the party up in different areas, you'll have the babies up top doing their thing, while the older brothers are hanging out down below, and you can switch control between the two groups at the touch of a button.
There are some more-advanced techniques you can pull off using all four plumbers, too. For instance, some blocks are too high for any one brother to reach--so you can have a big brother jump and then make the corresponding baby brother jump at the apex of the first jump, essentially getting you the height of two whole jumps. We've seen some real brainteasers utilizing these mechanics already, and we bet the puzzles will get even more complicated as the adventure wears on.
If you played the first Mario & Luigi (and if you didn't, well, why not?) you'll be quite familiar with the combat engine here, which is basically unchanged. But, of course, the addition of the munchkin versions of the famous plumbing pair has added some new mechanics to the mix, most of which require even more precision timing than before. In situations where you've got all four brothers in the mix, you'll get a chance with every attack to double your damage. For instance, with a jump attack, you'll hit the baby brother's button when you first land, which then gives you a chance to bounce up once and land with the older brother. When you use the hammer, the baby will actually hold the weapon, and your first button press will cause the older brother to stand up so you can hit harder. There's a lot more opportunity for you to screw up here, but when you get used to the mechanics and can nail the timing, you'll be that much more powerful against your foes.