Reviews// Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

Posted 4 Aug 2015 14:13 by
Originally released in 2006, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time was the sequel to Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, the third outing of the Mario franchise into the RPG genre. Now itís made its way onto the Wii Uís virtual console for a new audience to experience. But have ten years of age diminished what was a highly well-received game in its day?

Both before and since Partners in Timeís release Mario RPGs have been mostly well-received by critics and fans alike, and yet they never seem to have accrued the mainstream acknowledgement that fellow spin-off seriesí like Mario Kart, Mario Tennis and even Mario Party enjoy. Which is a shame because theyíve no doubt done more to develop and build upon the world and characters of the franchise than Nintendoís core platforming flagship games ever have.

Despite their having been so many Mario games that Nintendo has run out of numbers for them, theyíve never really dwelled on any of the details. Mario has been around for decades and yet we still have no idea what makes this little guy tick. He saves princesses.

We donít know why, and apart from cake we donít know if he gets anything out of it. We definitely donít know what he does to relax Ė if he even gets any downtime between having to constantly rescue repeat offender damsel-in-distress Princess Peach and all of his sporting pursuits. Not that Partners in Time sheds much light on these mysteries, but it at least pokes fun at the situation a little by expanding on the Mario Bros. personalities.

Thereís no time wasted here at all, and the game begins with Peach having already gone missing while testing a new time machine. Initially thereís no sign sheís been kidnapped or anything but this is Peach, so nobodyís surprised when it turns out she's been abducted.

In a bit of a departure from the norm itís not recurring villain Bowser whoís behind it, however. Instead, the main enemies of the game are the Shroobs, a race of purple mushroom-headed alien invaders. Thanks to the time machine the fabric of reality has been damaged, opening holes between the present Mushroom Kingdom and the past where the Shroobs have conquered everything.

In order to set things right with the timestream and rescue their princess, Mario and Luigi have to team up with their much younger past selves as well as the baby Princess Peach and even Bowser in order to find the scattered shards of the time machineís power source so they can use it to fight off the Shroobs.

Thereís a lot more fun dialogue and memorable characters are given way more time to shine than in the main Mario games. Even though the titular Mario Bros. never actually speak themselves, much of their personality is conveyed through extensive miming and their over-the-top reactions to the events taking place around them. It makes for some fun stuff, even if the motives behind Marioís constant drive to be a hero remain a mystery. Luigi, usually the dark horse of the series, is a show-stealer here with his cowardly and awkward antics adding humour to almost every scene.

Graphics-wise Partners in Time is admittedly pretty dated. The simple animations and bold colours arenít without their charm, but there are many better-looking games from the same time period or even earlier on the DS. That charm does go a long way however, watching Luigi undergo an ongoing nervous breakdown while trying to look after his own infant self is hard not to enjoy.

The environments are fairly dull and generic, but the only time this becomes an issue in regards to gameplay is when the flatness of the backgrounds makes it more difficult to tell exactly how far forwards or backwards a platform is set.

Like all things Mario, the gameplay is built around a heavy focus on platforming action. The big twist that separates Partners in Time from its predecessor is that the time-travelling nature of the story gives the Mario Bros. the unique opportunity to team up with their infant selves.

The real meat of the game comes from using both the adult and baby Mario and Luigi to traverse the environments, splitting the teams into pairs to explore separate paths or combining their abilities to solve puzzles. The controls are brilliant in their simplicity Ė each of your four main buttons controlling the jumps of each brother as well as switching between the two pairs when apart Ė but they can take a little getting used to initially.

And just like in every other Mario RPG, the old-school turn-based combat rules are livened up a bit thanks to the incorporation of action commands that let you use your timing and reactions to increase the damage of your own attacks as well as dodging and even counter-attacking enemy moves.

Again, the inclusion of Baby Mario and Luigi spices things up a bit here, as having all four characters in battle at once allows for some fairly brutal combos if you can keep up with the timing of the button presses.

If you want to finish fights as quickly as possible and avoid taking any unnecessary damage itís important to pay attention to the battle at all times, something which helps these games stand out from other turn-based RPGs which often lack the same urgency and bursts of action.

So in conclusion, yes - Partners in Time is still a really fun game even with a decade under its belt. Itís perhaps not best suited to being played on a television screen however, where the extra size hurts the graphics somewhat and the awkward framing of the two screens of the DS can be distracting.

It is, however, perfect for taking advantage of the Wii U remote, as playing on that screen is far more similar to playing it in its original state as a handheld game. If youíve played through the game before it still might be worth picking Partners in Time up just to refresh your memory of one of the highlights of the series, and if youíve yet to delve into any of the Mario RPGs then this one will serve as a fine introduction.

Pros:
- Creative combination of platforming and puzzles.
- Engaging battle system.
- Fun story and character moments.

Cons:
+ Looks a bit dated.
+ Controls can take some getting used to.

SPOnG Score: 8/10

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