The adventure starts with Princess Peach getting an invitation from Pi'illo Island. Along with Mario, Luigi and a bunch of Toads, she sets off in a hot-air balloon to the isle. The game does a good job of introducing you to the main cast, and the initial charm of the island is pleasant. The game is not strictly linear, and you have some freedom to roam around other zones not immediately relevant to the main quest. Like other Mario games, bright colours make the environment aesthetically pleasing, and the oddball inhabitants of the isle fit in well with their surroundings.
Shortly after arriving on Pi'illo Island you encounter Luigi's first dream-world stage. Throughout the course of your adventure you will have to travel to Luigi's dreams to free the spirits of Pi'illo folk trapped as stone in the real world. Although this idea may sound attractive, it is actually one of the game's least inspiring aspects. In the dream-world the game reverts to a 2D platformer, and the liberal use of the second 3DS screen makes the gameplay feel forced. The game would definitely have benefited from Luigi's dreams being cut from it entirely. There is a puzzle-solving element to Mario and Luigi's adventures in the real world, and finding buttons to press and tiles to swap are both common. Although engaging enough at first, the constant search for things does dull the game down a bit. Mario and Luigi's adventures are, however, accompanied by a terrific musical score.
Perhaps the most uninspiring aspect of the game is its combat. Battles take place between Mario and Luigi and a bunch of mobs at a time. Combat consists of turn- based timed-presses that manage to be easy and annoying at the same time. With the abundance of health-potions (in the form of mushrooms) and the option to set a certain battle to easy mode if you lose, you rarely ever find the game challenging – but the mobs and their mechanics are so varied that you often find yourself miss-timing attacks and counter-attacks, leading to a frustrating experience. The need to level up, however, makes grinding mobs important, and so you'll find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Like any RPG gear and levelling-up both play an important part in Mario and Luigi: Dream Team. You purchase pieces of gear from shops using coins you gather during you adventures on Pi'illo Island. Although it's always nice to buy a new pair of trousers or hammer, one can't help but feel there are too few item slots. The levelling system is conventional in that you gain experience points by defeating enemies. A nifty addition is a random roll option every level, which allows you to roll a random number on a stat (power, defence, HP etc.) which then gets added to it.
Another factor which detracts from an otherwise good game is the amount of tutorials you are exposed to. You'll still be listening to new game mechanics being explained well over ten hours in. This serves as a distraction and you find yourself just wishing the game would get on with it and stop explaining new quirks and additions every half-hour.
The plot, like any Mario game, centres around adversary Bowser. This time, however, the pantomime villain has made a new friend in the bat-king Antasma – a spirit that has been trapped in the dream-world upon Mario and Luigi's arrival. Although the plot – on the surface – is nothing to write home to about, it does enough to tie the charming world together and make Mario's adventure endearing.
In conclusion, Mario and Luigi: Dream Team is a shiny new entry into an already established RPG series. Although it has its fair share of flaws – from annoying combat to tiresome tutorials – it has enough charm to still make it enjoyable. Hardcore RPG'ers will definitely not be sated by this game, but its quirky world and oddball characters are endearing enough to still make it a worthwhile buy. Although far from perfect, with an average play-through of about 30 hours there is much worse you can do with your dollar.