The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I enjoy complex role-playing games. I like allocating multiple types of points, poring over skill trees, and managing a balanced party. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story doesn’t have any of that. The Mario & Luigi series has always favored humor and accessibility; with the genre’s traditional complicating factors stripped away, Bowser’s Inside Story is an ideal RPG for people who don’t normally play RPGs.
I’m not dismissing the habits of the non-hardcore crowd – especially since complexity doesn’t necessarily equal quality. In this case, simple controls within inventive scenarios result in one of the most polished and consistently entertaining titles on the DS. Mario and Luigi’s adventure through (and subsequent escape from) Bowser’s insides takes what people love about the series and adds an array of cool new twists.
Switching between the plumbers’ 2D platforming and Bowser’s isometric exploration injects variety at all the right times. Just when you feel like Mario and Luigi have tromped around in the koopa king’s stomach for long enough, you suddenly find yourself controlling an awesome Godzilla-sized Bowser, or timing your button presses as the brothers use tendons like trampolines. Even the implementation of touch screen and microphone controls is done well; they aren’t pervasive, but they feel fun and natural when they surface – especially when performing Bowser’s minion moves.
While the pacing is successful on a larger scale, regular battles have a tendency to wear thin. In any given zone, there are only a handful of possible encounters, and it gets old dodging the same attacks and using the same strategies repeatedly. While this is a problem in many role-playing games, it is particularly noticeable here. It gets even worse as the enemies become more difficult, because the fights are longer and require more precise timing.
A few flaws on the battlefield aren’t enough to stem the flow of laughs generated by the game’s exceptional writing. The return of Fawful as the main villain ensures plenty of hilariously nonsensical one-liners, but the impatient and aggressive Bowser steals the show. He has no depth beyond a constant desire to incinerate, punch, and stomp everything, but Bowser’s Inside Story isn’t a tale full of nuances. It is, however, a title with lots of variety, plenty of great dialogue, and rock-solid mechanics that any gamer can understand and enjoy.
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I’ve always loved this series’ comedic brand of action/role-playing, and Bowser’s Inside Story is the finest entry yet. The game’s inspired main gimmick – shrinking Mario & Luigi to pea size and letting them loose in Bowser’s guts – makes for a game that literally operates on two different levels at once. Alpha Dream also innovates in a number of small but significant ways, utilizing the touch screen and microphone to add new depth to the familiar gameplay. It’s quite impressive; the developers keep throwing in new tricks long past the point you feel like you’ve seen it all in. Topping it off is the excellent script. It’s been a long time since a game made me laugh out loud this often (at least on purpose).