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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Mario & Luigi: Dream Team.

TranscriptEdit

You know what I'm finding is that the 3DS makes me really uncomfortable. No, not because it keeps spouting racist opinions, I mean physically. It doesn't seem to matter whether I'm on my bed or chair or nestled in the arms of a hairy prisoner; after a while, my fingers start going numb so I have to put it aside and just listen to it spouting its racist opinions for a while. And when I see how comfortably it fits into things other than human hands such as chargers and a toasted sandwich maker, all I'm seeing is yet another reason to join the Borg! Seriously guys, you get to become part of a consciousness that spans the cosmos and never again have to worry about whether or not you're too formally dressed, sign me the fuck up!

I mention all this because my playthrough of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team finally clocked in at thirty hours. Thirty wonderful hours of moving from bed to chair to hairy prisoner and waiting for the feeling to return to my digits. All I could think is that if I were an on-call heart surgeon and my bleeper had gone off at any point in those thirty hours, Nintendo would have been guilty of spurty murder!

"Is it true that Dream Team hasn't come out in America yet? What a shame!" he said disingenuously. But then in Europe and Australia, it's titled "Dream Team Bros." It's important for us to understand familial relationships between characters because we are all so rampantly incestual, and obviously it takes a very long time to remove one word from the title; everyone's very attached to it.

But anyway, Dream Team Bros. is part of Nintendo's "Year of Luigi" (for want of a better word) thing, which I'm fully in favour of, but I do wonder if it's entirely Nintendo's best interests to highlight the fact that their usual leading man has all the personality of a squeaking bean casserole while Luigi has many personality traits and we can add another one to the list: narcolepsy.

When he and the rest of Princess Peach's entourage of friend-zone nice guys arrive on a mystic island where sleeping in certain areas opens gateways to the dream world in which a race of ancient pillow-shaped people lie trapped and petrified until somebody sleeps on them, Luigi finally discovers his purpose in life. It's like if Hugh Grant were teleported to some mystical land where stammering awkward charm could be used to generate electricity. Oh yeah, and Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser, and usually I'd group that with the unrealistic mushroom physics and the casual racism; hardly worth mentioning.

But is it? Mario RPGs such as the Paper ____ and ____ and Luigi series have historically been permitted to subvert the standard formula of Plumber A rescues Princess B from Fire-breathing Spiny C-turtle. Indeed in the last game, Bowser's Inside Story, you play as Bowser for a lot of it, and I'm just thinking about the very end of that game where Bowser starts squaring off for a fight with Mario and Luigi but then it just cuts to credits as it begins as if to say, "Yeah, fuck it, we know how this turns out, am I right?" So my question would be, if the dull tired out predictable concept of Mario fighting Bowser was a targeted mockery last time around, why in the sequel do we go right back to it with a po-faced lack of self-awareness? The genie won't go back in the bottle, Nintendo! It's like getting a sleeping bag back into its original carrying case.

The whole "Year of Luigi" concept supports the suspicion I have that Nintendo has Mario under a sort of lockdown for fear that they're doing something wrong, and all subversive elements in the canon have been stamped on in case another hundred thousand people fail to buy a Wii U. All matter in the universe eventually moves toward entropy and every Nintendo franchise inevitably devolves into hammering basically the same game out every few years with a new set of bollocks and neatly groomed pubes.

The gameplay of Dream Team Bros. is basically the same as Bowser's Inside Story. It switches between an isometric real world and 2D platforming inner world, Bowser's duodenum in the first case and Luigi's brain in the second, both equally fucked-up in their own special ways. In Irritable Bowser Syndrome, the Mario Brothers can influence the real world by messing around with the inner world, powering Bowser's muscles, inflating his scaly willy into something resembling a gnarled old tree trunk next to a pumpkin patch (unless that was just that dream I had,) whereas in the new one, it's pretty much just a straight reversal; you influence the inner world by fiddling about with the real world, in this case, Luigi's sleeping face, tweaking his moustache and drawing knobs on his forehead and putting his hand in a small bowl of warm water.

Combat retains the usual Mario RPG model; turn-based combat for overcaffeinated players who want to keep smashing buttons when it's not their turn. So the game lets you jump out of the way of enemy attacks, but since we're letting you do that, you will by Christ jump through some hoops to do the special attack, and if you fuck up, they'll have as much impact as the dewy morning fart of a spring lamb, which I like because if I'm to be punished, I'd prefer to know it's because I fucked up and not because my protagonist is politely biting the curb and letting them stomp away.

But another thing copied over from Bowser's Fantastic Voyage is the giant monster fights (or "kaiju" I think is the technical term among complete wankers,) albeit this time with a fully inflated Dreamland Luigi, which coincidentally is the brand name for a sex toy that I'm trying to bring to market; and this I'm finding I don't like so much 'cos this is an RPG, man! I don't deliberately jump on all the monsters 'cos I think the battle music will get better after hearing it another ten thousand sodding times, it's so I can get XP and kick more arse! But what is the bloody point if it culminates in a giant monster fight with entirely different mechanics entirely unrelated to the stats we have built thus far? It's like blowing all your money on restoring your classic car and then picking up your date with a piggy back ride.

The final one of these with Bowser is the most obnoxious 'cos there's little margin for error. All the moves take as long as an episode of Inspector Morse and it climaxes with an air-hockey mini-game that uses wonky tilting controls. And if we must tilt something to control a game, I prefer it not be the thing on which I'm fucking trying to fucking view the fucking ga-fucking-me!

Ultimately, what condemns Dream Team is that I just found it boring, unchallenging and tired. Oh look, it's Mario; oh look, it's the other guy, we forgot his name, ha ha ha, ad infinitum. I'm disappointed by Bowser just being the straight villain again 'cos done well, he can be an interesting character study. There's something intriguing about someone who self-identifies as the bad guy. Society calls him evil, but he wears their label; he reclaims it and that is why they never get him down!

If the options are good or evil, then Bowser will take evil because he has seen what passes for good; an unelected ditz living in obscene decadence and bestowing priviledges on a pair of moustachioed foreigners who might both be giving her one. She's basically a gender-swapped Berlusconi!

AddendaEdit

I close my eyeeeees and I drift awaaaaay: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

All the time you spend looking at Luigi's face in this game made me realize that his moustache kind of looks like a bikini top

I find most of my dates end with piggy back rides

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
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2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
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Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time

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