We have to hand it to that portly plumber. He can really get on our proverbial titties sometimes, but we can't stay mad at him forever. Oh no. One day we see Mario in a decidedly lacklustre title (like Mario Baseball) which will make us wonder whether Nintendo has lost the plot, abusing its key platforming mascot for the sake of 'broadening' a genre's appeal (read: cashing in). But then a Mario-branded game comes along that is crafted with finesse and skill, and all the ingredients you expect from the house of Miyamoto. And suddenly the pain and doubt is gone.
There have been more underwhelming Mario titles than exceptional ones lately, with Mario Kart DS being the one recent game to truly make our Dolmio Day. Once again, the Italian Stallion is back, but this time its a sequel to the sublime RPG outing Mario & Luigi. The 2003 GBA hit, Superstar Saga, allowed you to explore vast worlds with a comical story and dialogue that made you chuckle.
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time for the Nintendo DS makes no fundamental changes to the gameplay and style of the first title. Players simultaneously control 'Mazza' and, erm, 'Lui-azza' around the world map, solving puzzles using their jump abilities or any special skills they happen to learn on their journey. Teamwork is a big part of this game, and you will notice as soon as you play the first few stages, as to clear jumps you will need to use buttons A and B for Mario and Luigi respectively. Luigi tags along with Mario, like the subservient dog that he is, so if you jump up onto a ledge, you can't go far without having to make Luigi jump up too. Honestly, it's like they're joined at the hip.
This time though, you will be able to have a foursome! No, the Mario Brothers haven't gone all kinky and burlesque, but you'll be dealing with a quartet of characters instead. The X and Y buttons mean that you will be able to control Baby Mario and Baby Luigi through the story mode, in the same way as you would use A and B for the older Mario Bros. At the start of the game, the babies and the oldies are played separately as their own duos, but soon enough they combine to form the Mighty Morphin Mario Brothers. Or something. In the main adventure screen, the little 'uns will be able to get into small gaps to open passages, while the big 'uns are able to reach the higher places and have a bit more clout when it comes to battling.
When scouring the lands you travel, there will be times when the big and little Bros. will end up getting separated in order to move on. This is where the dual screens come in handy. For the most of your adventure time, the top screen will act as a map, guiding you to places you need to visit and noting save points. But if you manage to split up, the screen will track the progress of whoever's gone ahead - usually the Babies - as they will be needed to bounce on small springs, drop down tree stumps and crawl under grills to reach hidden switches. Other than this, it doesn't appear that this game makes much use of the console's features, although it's unlikely that will matter once you get stuck into it.