Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

Have you ever pondered about Bowser's anatomy? Then you should probably seriously take some time to think about your life. After you're done though, ponder no longer, because everyone's favorite-Italian, plumber brothers are going where no man has gone before... down Bowser's gullet and into his reptilian innards. Luckily, this is a heck of a lot more fun than it sounds with the recently released Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story for the Nintendo DS. If you somehow missed the first two iterations (Superstar Saga on Gameboy Advance and Partners in Time also on the DS), the "Mario and Luigi" hand-held series is pretty much the equivalent of the Paper Mario series. If you somehow missed out on all of those titles then stop reading now and go buy one of them. All right fine -- continue reading... and I'll try to catch you up on the basics.

Bowser's Inside Story is a straight-forward RPG at heart but it definitely has some very unique game-play elements running through its veins. If you're new to the series don't worry though, because as with every RPG there will be a tutorial and story-build-up opening that'll take a good hour or so before you get into the actual meat of the game. However, in this case, even the game-play and story build-up is enjoyable. In fact, the dialogue, plot, and characters of Bowser's Inside Story are arguably one of the strongest parts in the game. Everybody who plays video games knows and loves Mario and Luigi, but the RPG series on the DS is renowned for being especially good at tickling your funny bone -- and this iteration is certainly no exception.
The story all begins with a curious case of the "Blorbs" -- which is causing all of Mushroom Kingdom's fungi inhabitants to become very large and rotund.

Between the fantastic cartoon-ish graphical presentation, the bouncy and fun music, the tid-bit audio clips of Mario and Luigi arguing in nonsensical-Italian-accented-voices, and the brilliantly scripted laugh-out-loud dialogue you will find yourself chuckling out loud no matter what your age. Anyway, enough on that since the game-play will definitely take a few paragraphs to explain properly.

Inside Story's game-play is broken up into multiple different styles. Within these styles it manages to use every single aspect of Nintendo's dual-screened machine in engaging, yet often subtle and non-gimmicky, ways. The first is obviously with the two screens: the top screen is reserved for moving around and fighting as Bowser (yes, you get to play half of the game as the Koopa king himself) while the bottom screen has the red and green mustachioed heroes climbing around inside him like some weird, anatomically incorrect episode of "The Magic School Bus". The screens aren't the only part of the game divided specifically for characters though, the A and B buttons control Mario and Luigi respectively while the X and Y buttons are given to Bowser. This may sound confusing but switching between the screens couldn't be smoother.
Bowser will often get into sticky situations and need the Mario Bros signature acrobatic abilities to help him.

As with the controls, actually going through the various different forms of game-play is fairly simple: there is over-world navigation, turn-based RPG combat, and mini-games. The over-world (and in this case inside-world?) consists of two main variations. As Bowser you will march around the mushroom kingdom from a top-down view, burning and punching your way through any and all obstacles gleefully. As the hammer-swinging brothers you'll be mostly traversing the belly of the beast in familiar side-scrolling format. Don't worry though, there are more than a handful of moves to unlock as the story progresses to keep both the side-scrolling and over-world navigation interesting. The two screens and worlds are definitely not kept apart either. There will be instances where something Bowser does (gurgling down gallons of water) will affect his insides and in turn the bottom screen (allowing Mario and Luigi to swim around and causing objects to float or drop).
I don't think a realistic take on the anatomy was the point of the game. Either that or I missed the biology class when they explained how your bones float when you drink a lot of water...

The turn-based combat in the Mario and Luigi series has always had a unique flair to it and this flair has been even further improved upon. Yes the basis is Mario and Luigi (and Bowser) attack and then wait for enemies to return with their attacks. However, a stone is thrown into the kidney here with the ability to dodge or counter nearly every enemy attack -- that is if you have perfect timing and are paying close attention to queues given by enemies. Paired with this refreshing breath of air into the RPG format is the ability for both Mario and Luigi and Bowser to do special moves that either also require good timing or (in Bowser's case) touch screen movements.
Sometimes during battles, Bowser can inhale enemies for the Bros to fight on the bottom screen.

Finally, as if that wasn't enough, there are the in-game mini-games. Mario and Luigi are forced to work with Bowser (even though he's unaware of it) in order to save the Mushroom Kingdom. This means that at certain times you will need to use the touch screen to help the bros massage Bowsers muscles or cause him to sneeze (once again, more fun than it sounds). The last of what I will put into the mini-game category is the giant Bowser fights. More than a few times during the story Bowser will grow to an enormous size and you'll be notified to tilt the DS sideways. These play like boss fights in the normal RPG combat with the major exception that you'll be doing such commands as blowing into the mic to breathe fire and sliding the stylus to punch. It sounds like a gimmick but the mode isn't overused and therefore certainly enjoyable.
I don't know how "GREAT!" it is that Bowser is incinerating his own castle, but if the game says so...

As you can probably tell by now, Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is not your run-of-the-mill role-playing game and it's certainly packed with content. There's even more to it than I've talked about but in order to keep this review on the shorter side I'll wrap it up here.

The Final Verdict:


  1. It's a Mario game... which means the production values are outstanding

  • Great creative concept coupled with great creative level design and game-play

  • Easy-to-pick-up RPG

  • Hilarious from start to finish

  • Uses all of the DS's functions smartly and enjoyably

  • Reminds me of the Magic School Bus (except it's not educational)

  • Solid 20 hours of game-play if you dilly dally a bit like me


  1. Aside from leveling up and collecting items, there's not much replay-ability after completing the game

  • Hardcore RPG fans may not enjoy the tweaks on the system

  • Some of the mini-games within Bowser are replayed a few too many times and can get tedious

  • Not quite sure if I ever wanted to walk the Mario Bros around Bowser's "Rump"

The Verdict:
If you have a DS and for some reason don't have this game I'd highly suggest you go pick it up even if you aren't an RPG fan the humor and all-around solid production values are easily worth the cash. If you were dissuaded by Partners in Time (which I personally didn't enjoy as much as Superstar Saga) you shouldn't worry, this game is far better.