Dreams are usually pretty weird, right? One time I dreamed about riding to school on an inflatable cat instead of the school bus and the cat had eye lasers and instead of stopping at stop signs the inflatable cat bus just vaporized them with its eye lasers. When I got to school, the teachers were scarecrows and my fellow students were ears of corn that were covered in candy corn instead of actual corn, and then when I was in math class the teacher turned up the thermostat REALLY high and everyone’s candy corn kernels began to pop just like regular popcorn. In Mario and Luigi: Dream Team we learn that our favorite green-clad plumber’s dreams are simpler than ours, but no less weird. Luigi dreams of being a tree, of creating mighty vortexes of wind with his sneezes, and cloning himself. Mario and his gang will be traveling to the world of Luigi’s subconscious and use his dreamy new abilities to do battle and try to keep the people stranded in the mundane waking world safe from harm.
Gameplay: Waking World
The core gameplay of Dream Team sticks to the tried and true formula of the other games in the Mario and Luigi series. For those unfamiliar with these games, they are turn-based RPGs set in the Mario universe. Mario and Luigi adventure in real-time in their typical platforming fashion, while solving the occasional puzzle. These puzzles are usually something along the lines of finding the right button to push to open the way to a sealed of portion of the map. Their journey through this portion of the game is aided by abilities and items unique to this series. For example, if they can’t get through or around a wall, Luigi can tap into some of his bottled up frustration from always playing second fiddle to Mario. He gets to use his hammer and smash his brother into the ground so he can tunnel under the obstacle and pop out on the other side. Using a similar technique on a hard surface will make Mario even shorter than usual so he can shimmy through a small hole. I’m sure anyone with a sibling can imagine how much fun it’d be to whack their sister or brother on the head with a huge mallet. If you are a veteran player of these games, exploring will feel comfortable and fun, but there will still be plenty of little surprises like this to keep you interested.
Once Mario and Luigi make contact with an enemy they enter the turn-based mode for combat. Available actions are represented by blocks over their heads. Each brother selects an action by jumping to hit the appropriate block, everyone then takes their turn based on their speed statistic. Even though this is a turn-based game, there is still some real-time action required on the player’s part in order to properly dispatch a foe. When you select an attack, you have the opportunity to do some bonus damage by pressing the attacking brother’s button (A for Mario or B for Luigi) at the perfect time. Also, dodging requires some real-time intervention on the player’s part. Enemies will give slight cues as to who they’re going to attack, and then the player must make that character dodge to avoid taking damage. A good dodge will also result in a counterattack that deals damage to the enemy. These sort of reactionary button presses are what really sets Dream Team apart form it’s other turn-based peers, because it keeps the players interested and involved in what’s happening on the screen rather than allow them to just sit there and stare at each turn as the action unfolds.
Eventually in the game the duo earns access to “Bros. Attacks”. These are special and more powerful attacks that use up the characters’ pool of BP. The first one learned is the classic shell attack, in which Mario and Luigi take turns kicking a Koopa shell at the bad guys. Timing in these special attacks is crucial to their success, so a little bit of trial and error is involved in getting them executed perfectly. They’re a great element of combat in the game because it is just one more way to keep players involved while the fights unfold.
Gameplay: Dream World
For most of the game, our protagonists will be bouncing back and forth between dreams and reality. In order to achieve this, Luigi must take a nap on one of the many enchanted and fossilized pillows they find around the island resort they are visiting. Only Luigi can open the dream portal due to some plot devices we do not want to divulge here. Mario first enters the dream world to save Princess Peach (big surprise), but events quickly develop in a different direction and as a result the good guys have to keep taking trips into Luigi’s dreams.
When Mario begins traipsing around in Luigi’s melon, most of the aspects of exploring and battling will take a slight change. For starters, walking and jumping around in the Dream World is a noticeably more two dimensional experience than in the waking world. Most of the Dream World maps are reminiscent of the classic 2D platformers these guys are used to starring in. Luigi’s idealized dream version of himself, known a “Dreamy Luigi”, gets to take advantage of some new skills to help the pair advance. When he comes to certain points in each level, he will begin to sparkle and that is when you can activate a Luiginary Work. The first one you get to play with allows Dreamy Luigi to possess special trees in the area. By using the stylus on the 3DS’s touchscreen, you can then pull on Luigi’s mustache to manipulate the possessed tree’s mustache in the Dream World. The tree’s mustache becomes a sort of leafy hand that can grab Mario and throw him to previously unreachable heights. There will be no inflatable laser-eyed cats in this game, but there are several other Luiginary Works that unlock as the game’s story progresses. They’re all delightfully far fetched, but we don’t want to spoil them for you. A big portion of the game’s fun factor comes from learning these abilities and experimenting with them yourself.
Combat in the Dream World gets changed up a bit too. Once entering the battle mode with a group of enemies, Dreamy Luigi bonds to Mario’s body. Their HP gets combined, as do their BP. Basic attacks still happen in a similar way as before, except now when Mario earns bonus damage with a well-timed button press, a few Dreamy Luigi’s will appear and throw in a few hits on his brother’s behalf to add to the damage total.
Just like in the waking world, Mario and Luigi will be collecting Attack Pieces in the Dream World to learn special attacks called Luiginary Attacks. These special attacks will be much different than their waking world counterparts, the Bros. Attacks. Instead of kicking boring shells at the baddies, Mario and Luigi will get to do cool things like roll up a giant ball of mini Luigis and then kick it at the onslaught of foes. Some of these attacks are a little difficult to master, but they’re very fun and it’s rewarding to see their results over the course of your battle. All of them will be varied and just wacky enough to make you believe they could only exist in Luigi’s dreams.
Visually, Dream Team doesn’t look a lot different from the other Mario and Luigi games. At first this was a little disappointing, but there is a higher level of polish on this game’s looks than we saw on its 3DS counterparts. Also, the 3D effect works well with the chosen art style and keeping a similar visual aesthetic despite the increased hardware power means the game will still look like a game from the same series. When you fire up this game you are entering a slightly different Mario themed world than you have typically visited before. This is a world that will pique your curiosity with its interactive environments and seems to have a rather whimsical personality all of its own.
You will be interacting with endless scores of NPCs, all of which have something endearing or worth a laugh. You will giggle at Broque Monsieur’s over the top French accent and smile as you get some insight into the inner dialogue of a red Yoshi as it yearns to eat a piece of fruit it sees in the distance, even though it knows it shouldn’t. You will share in a pair of workers’ shame as their blockhead boss yells at them for messing up. Even the bad guys will entertain you with their comedic delivery of their villainous lines and their goofy looks.
We all have dreamy versions of ourselves. Dreamy Aron has the mind of Stephen Hawking, the body of Ryan Gosling, my own sardonic sense of humor and my real-life stunning blue eyes. Hopefully Dreamy Luigi has shown Mario what his little brother is truly capable of and the two brothers can adventure side-by-side instead of worrying who is standing in who’s shadow. While he’s not necessarily the “star” of Dream Team, the plot would not be possible without him. There is all the wit and charm we’ve come to expect from a game in the Mario and Luigi series, and the addition of the Dream World really mixes things up substantially to set this game apart from its predecessors. Luigi has been showcased all year, but once you see him split into thousands of tiny versions of himself and collect into a huge ball Mario can slug at the bad guys, you’ll really wonder why Luigi isn’t Nintendo’s flagship character.
To see where this review score falls in our scoring range, please read our review scale guidelines.