802nd played so far

Genre: Action/Role-Playing
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo

I’ve started playing Bowser’s Inside Story about ten years ago, shortly after its release, but didn’t get too far – too many other games and this list distracted me far enough. I’ve enjoyed the formula though – as we talked about in both Superstar Saga and Partners in Time – and this had its own new twist as we’re about to discuss.

Our Thoughts

As the name implies, parts of this game take place inside Bowser. Mario and Luigi end up inside because of some plot details – best not to think too much about it – and spend a lot of time in Bowser’s insides to activate powers, as well as to fight enemies he inhales at various points in the game. It leads through some interesting fabrications – some probably build on real medical stuff, but with plenty of (say) flame based additions and the like. It’s a different setting, allowing for a lot of the platforming RPG puzzles we’ve seen in the series before.

As always, though, it’s more compelling to play as the bad guy, and that’s the other side of this game. While Mario is inside Bowser, you also control the giant beast as he wanders around this incarnation of the Mushroom kingdom, using his powerful punches and fire breath to make his way through. It uses a lot of the standard puzzles, replacing jumping with these other powers, but in a way that fits in with how everything else works.

The game might at times have felt like a skin over the existing mechanics, but what truly makes the game work – again – is its charm. As always, Bowser is written well and his boisterous attitude and confidence make the standard story beats work much better – not as many people are intimidated as he thinks they should be, but it works well.

Final Thoughts

While on osme level, it feels like Mario & Luigi might start to run into diminishing returns with its mechanics, the setting and characters more than make up for it. The last of the series we’re playing may not be its pinnacle, but its gameplay is still great and the way Bowser is a part of all of the game is what really makes it work for me.