"...this might be the most engaging entry in the series to date."
The Mario & Luigi series has enjoyed three iterations prior to Dream Team. Ten years later, our favorite well-groomed plumbers are exploring the world Descartes once described as, "...an alternate reality flooded with little purple monsters." Philosophy aside, Mario and Luigi keep it simple — yet imaginative — in their latest plucky adventure.
I had the opportunity to sample gameplay in the "real world," the "dream world," and a boss battle. While players who've dabbled in previous installments in the series may be familiar with the "real world" with its three-dimensional exploration and roaming enemies, the "dream world" varies slightly. In that world, players explore Luigi's unconscious in a two-dimensional platforming extravaganza. What makes this -vaganza particularly extraordinary is that players use the bottom screen of their 3DS to navigate the environment, whether it be pulling a sleeping Luigi's mustache to hoist Mario up to higher ground or stack a hundred Luigi's on top of each other to more effectively ground-pound. These powers are called "Luiginaries," and they play a role in battle, as well.
While hammers and stomping remain staples of the series, Mario can call upon Luiginary powers to more effectively thwart foes. These fun powers require a level of precision and skill typical of the Mario & Luigi series, keeping the player more actively engaged than typical turn-based battles. For instance, Mario may navigate a ball of Luigis down a hallway collecting additional Luigis along the way in order to create a larger, more powerful ball until the player has to time the press of a button to hit the enemies. Although history and the demo suggest that these powers won't be entirely necessary to complete the game's more challenging battles, players may find themselves exercising these skills simply out of a desire to play the minigames and see how well they can do.
The boss battle departs significantly from regular skirmishes. Here, players turn their 3DS ninety degrees as Luigi battles the enemy in a Japanese-style giant mech battle like those in Power Rangers. Players primarily use their stylus here as they learn the tactics and pattern of their foe. Timed hits, stylus-tapping, and a rock-paper-scissors strategy using hammers and jumps were pivotal to success during the demo.
As one might expect from Nintendo, the graphics, sound, and controls are nigh-perfection. In a parallel with its light-hearted, creative approach, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is vibrant and accessible. The polish resonates in the sound, as well, as chipper tunes supplement the colorful environments and characters. With excellent tutorials, players will be hard-pressed to find something to complain about should they falter in battle.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team screams imagination. With a setting that utilizes a dream world, developers are limited by their own creativity. Although the Mario universe has never lacked in this regard, what we experienced at E3 2013 confirms that this might be the most engaging entry in the series to date.