When appearing on the television's broad and restless canvas, Mario games tend to expand outwards and upwards as sequel follows sequel. On these screens Nintendo has taken us from the Island to new Worlds and, most recently, into Galaxies, a curve that has often reflected the series' own pioneering design trajectory. But on the handheld's small screen, Mario's pea-green horizons have tended to shrink. Having conquered the Land, Mario and his brother Luigi have been reduced to miniscule proportions in Bowser's Inside Story, tasked with questing about in the lizard guts and arteries. Now, in this latest entry to the Mario & Luigi RPG series, we enter Luigi's mind as he's besieged by cheese dreams in a new venture into inner space.
This sort of creative subversion has defined AlphaDream's Mario RPG titles since the beginning. Much of the series' appeal is the way in which the studio's artists and designers twist the clichéd damsel-in-distress premise of the Mario myth into unexpected contours and journeys. Dream Team Bros. is no different, an irreverent and oftentimes psychedelic take on the Mushroom Kingdom that has you pulling and flicking at Luigi's face in one moment, and controlling the pair of siblings as an amalgamated super plumber the next.
It is, however, a slow start as the game tosses and turns during its opening couple of hours before settling down into any sort of satisfying rhythm. Players will find the tutorials (woven inextricably into the early storytelling) simultaneously tedious and laborious, with overlong explanations of the most rudimentary interactions that will patronise even the greenest Nintendo recruit. After all, the game's foundational gimmick is easily explained: one button triggers Mario's jump, the other Luigi's.