Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

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Developer: AlphaDream

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: Sept. 14, 2009

System: Nintendo DS

ESRB Rating: E

Official Web site

0:00 RPGs with Mario in them are the only ones I tend to like without reservations. The addition of reflex-based action in the battles portions is the key for me. Plus, I'm a sucker for Mario. Duh!

0:01 Peach's Castle appears above a huge reflecting pool. The title pops up in big bubble letters amidst jaunty flute music. I take a quick "Mic Test" and find my voice volume is "ample." Good to know!

0:03 In Toad Town, the Toads meander about randomly. Inside a toadstool-shaped house: "Mom, I'm home!" Mom's at the sink. "Well hi there, sweetie! Home early today, huh?" There's a picture of Princess Peach on the wall. What is this, "1984"? Big Princess is Watching!

0:04 The little Toad snuck out of class early because the teacher was boring. Mom says dinner's almost ready. Wait, dinnertime is during school hours? Man, classes run late these days!

0:05 Young Toad calls for Dad, but "YEEEEEK!" He's turned into a giant, spherical Toad, rolling through walls and such. "THE BLORBS!" says the bottom-screen headline as the top turns to a sepia-toned photograph. "Mushroom Kingdom Marred by Mystery Malady! ... It comes without warning! First, you balloon to blimp size. Then the rolling! You roll away! Oh, the horror of the blorbs!" Horror!

0:08 Cut to an emergency meeting in Peach's castle. "I suggest we panic!" says one Toad, unhelpfully. Peach asked the Star Sprites for help, but got no response. They're probably too busy doing keg stands and getting stoned. Oh, never mind ... one just arrived. He's Starlow. He looks like a floating golden Bob-omb. "HELLO YELLO!"

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

0:10 He can't cure the blorbs ... it's incurable. They need to find the cause. Doctors can only treat the symptoms. Blah blah blah, get on with it!

0:11 Starlow suggests just giving up, but one genius Toad suggests Mario and Luigi could help. Gee, ya think?

0:12 In control of the brothers now, walking and jumping around the castle. I love the elegant string version of the Super Mario 64 castle theme playing in the background.

0:14 I've got to wonder what all these Question Blocks are doing just hovering around the castle grounds. Seems an odd way to store treasure, especially when Mario and Luigi are the only ones who can jump high enough to retrieve it.

0:15 Into the conference hall. Luigi struggles to stay awake as the Toads discuss a possible mushroom-based cause for the disease. They send Mario off to find the mushroom seller. "Go stomp the fellow as if he was Bowser." "DID SOMEONE JUST PAGE THE KING OF AWESOME?" Bowser punches his way into the conference room, and Luigi is STILL ASLEEP! Awesome!

0:17 Bowser demands his right to be heard as a member of the kingdom. Mario saves the princess just as Bowser is about to fry her. "Are you seriously trying to start with me again?!" Dude, Mario's not the one throwing fire breath around at princesses!

0:18 Tutorial-battle time. Toadsworth refreshes me on timing my jump attacks and dodging Bowser's fire. It always bugged me that Mario could jump on Bowser in these RPGs. Try that in Super Mario Bros. and you die! That said, the interface is very polished, with nice bright icons and big text for damage reports.

0:21 Apparently the battle was so easy because Starlow used Star Power and Peach used "Wish Power" to weaken Bowser. LAME! Then Peach uses her Wish Power to pick up Bowser and hurl him out a window with just a gesture. Wha? When did Peach become a Jedi?!?!?!

0:22 Mario gets a peck on the cheek while a Magikoopa revives Bowser in a field. And now I'm in control of Bowser! Y sends out flames to take down trees, X does a massive FALCON PAWNCH through boulders! Great animation and fire effects.

0:24 "A WINNER IS YOU! JACKPOTTING!" says a mysterious mushroom seller. Hmmmmm... "The customer has luck! And with luckiness comes a tasty lucky shroom!" He promises "luck enough to beat Mario. ... Your strongest enemies will fold like napkins who are crying!" That's some evocative phrase-ifying, there.

0:26 Magikoopa tries to warn him, but Bowser downs the mushroom in one gulp. "Hurf? BUURF!" The shop owner reveals himself to be Fawful (duh!). "Such easiness! So easy it gives me the chortles." Bowser starts vacuuming up everything around him like there's a black hole in his stomach. Cut to the meeting room, where Bowser walks in and sucks up all the attendees into his massive belly. And Bowser's down. Fawful comes in. "I HAVE VICTORY! Easy as bread sandwiches." Man, I have to work that one into my everyday life. "Hey, Kyle, can you take out the trash?" "Sure ... easy as bread sandwiches!"

0:30 Cut to a cross-section of giant Bowser, with an X-ray of Mario falling down his gullet. We're in a 2-D perspective on the bottom screen now. Up top, Bowser sleeps in an inky black void.

0:31 There are bone-shaped Question Blocks inside Bowser's stomach. This explains a lot. Wait, no it doesn't!

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0:32 The tutorial blocks have an annoying speech habit of replacing random nouns with the word "globin," like they're Smurfs or something. Man this is going to get old fast.

0:33 In the next room, I free Starlow using some stomach valves to shoot me high into the air. Ewww.

0:34 Battle time with something that looks like a Goomba mixed with a red blood cell. "Goombule" is his name. Dawwwww. After a quick fight, I get three experience points that raise a little flag up a pole, to represent my progress to the next level. A nice touch!

0:38 A few more Goombules go down nice and easy. There's a nice flow to the battles ... no loading, no long transition animations, etc. I am having some trouble timing my counterattacks, though.

0:40 I pull Luigi out of a sticky yellow blob. He cries on my shoulder for a bit before a DUAL GOOMBULE ATTACK! Starlow asks if I want to know how to use two brothers at once, but I already know from previous games. "Oh ... ah," he says when I reject his offer. He seems so ... defeated.

0:41 I accidentally ask Starlow to explain how to use the "Star Menu." He goes on and on about obvious things like how to use items and view the brothers' status. Oh my god SHUT UP!

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

0:44 I swear this is the 10th save block I've encountered so far. I know it's a portable game, but you don't need to save in EVERY ROOM!

0:45 MARIO LEVEL UP! Have I mentioned how much I love the fact that the "luck" attribute in these Mario RPG games is called "Stache"?

0:48 The jumping tutorial in this room seems a little late ... I've been jumping for 30-plus minutes now!

0:49 An elevator requires some back-and-forth timed jumping with Mario and Luigi. The game doesn't explain this ... it just lets me figure it out. FINALLY!

0:50 A big block marked with an A contains "Trash Pit Attack Piece #1." If I collect all 10 I get a special attack. Let the search begin!

0:51 Oh ... the next room has eight more of those big A blocks just sitting out in the open. Every time I get one, the game pauses for five seconds to re-explain what it is, and what number in the sequence I'm at. ARGH JUST LET ME PLAY GRRRRRR!

0:52 Aaaaaand there's No. 10. My reward is a green shell attack where Mario and Luigi ricochet the shell back-and-forth off the enemies. I practice a bit until I get the timing down ... it starts slow, but speeds up as it goes. A bit tricky...

0:55 "Elite Goombules" have little pith helmets, so they can't be jumped on. WELL IT'S A GOOD THING I HAVE A NON-JUMPING ATTACK NOW, ISN'T IT?!

0:59 The past four minutes spent going through some inane motions to obtain a hammer, and learning how to use it to battle some Spinies. I feel like I've done all this many times before.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.

Why? A few clever lines made this slow-as-molasses tutorial section bearable for me. Once the game actually stops teaching me and starts letting me play, I imagine it'll be just as fun as every other Mario RPG.

This column is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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