I polished off Partners in Time last night. The last dungeon was suitably meaty and the final bosses nice and epic for such a lighthearted story. My time to completion was 16 hours and 45 minutes or so, which was just right. The game was getting a little long in the tooth. I hear Bowser’s Inside Story is twice as long. I hope it has more variety than Partners in Time as my biggest complaint with the game is due to its repetitive nature.
Partners is very linear, which I don’t mind so much. The Mario & Luigi games, I feel, are more about character and interactive battles than exploration and stat grinding. I think I got every hidden bean in the game, but I didn’t spend any of them (I felt that Fawful’s badges were mostly superfluous). But that was fine. I was having fun with the path the game layed out for me. What disappointed me was the repetative nature of the puzzles.
The game is filled with a verity of puzzles that Mario and Luigi (and the babies) have to team up to solve. Sometimes this means hitting 4 different blocks in different rooms (thus requiring you to split up into two teams) and sometimes using the different generation’s abilities to access special locations to open a path forward. Most of the time you’re using some ability that was just taught to you. There’s hardly any real brain work required. You might learn how to turn Mario and Luigi into a ball, for example. Without fail the next location will feature puzzles that all need the brothers to ball up.
Worst, once all the character’s abilities have been learned no new puzzles are introduced. There are just slight variations on ones you’ve already solved. Low passage? Turn the babies into flattened pancakes for the twentieth time. Pit to wide to jump? Have Mario and Luigi spin across. By the end of the game this gets very tiring.
The worst example of this are the tree stumps. In the forest near the beginning of the game there are giant tree stumps. Seeing as you’ve just learned how to toss the babies up into the air, it doesn’t take a lot of thinking to realize that you can toss the babies up and into them. Inside there might be some extra treasure or a switch to open up the path forward. This wouldn’t be that annoying except that some variation of the stumps are in every single dungeon for the rest of the game. It never becomes too annoying to toss the babies into these stumps. They just become another thing to do. See a stump, toss the babies. But some variety would have been greatly appreciated.
The last dungeon does introduce two new puzzles. One has to do with a battle against a giant chomp by manipulating switches on the map. There was no tutorial explaining how to do it and the solution was arived by trail and error. It wasn’t the most elegant puzzle I’ve ever encountered, and granted it was very easy to solve (this is a Mario and Luigi game after all), but I appreciated the gesture.
The other puzzle was extremely frustrating. Right before the final boss you’re required to hop into a UFO and shoot down the shroob mothership. This UFO is nearly impossible to control and you’re given a very narrow space to maneuver in. This section took me a good ten or twelve tries to beat. It was completely out of place and caused the game to come to a crashing halt.
Nitpicking aside, the game was a joy from start to finish. The high point was Luigi’s encounter with the Star Door. Late in the game the brothers journey to the mystical and sacred Star Shrine. But their way inside is bared by a giant star door. The door tells them that their character will be judged and only those who are worthy can pass through. Mario is instantly deemed to have great character (even if he indulges in pasta a little too often) and the babies are still innocent so they get a free pass. However, when the Door appraises Luigi it is deeply distressed by what it sees in Luigi’s heart–especially with something it only refers to as “the incident.” The whole scene is hilarious and exceptionaly written and I would argue that the game is worth playing for this part.
I leave you with the final boss music from Partners in Time, which is surprisingly epic (if just a little repetitive). I’m glad I went back and played the game. I don’t think it deserves the lowsy reputation it got. It left me excited for Bowser’s Inside Story, which, from all reports, is several times more awesome than Partners. I’m not going to rush out and buy it today though. I need a break from Mario and Luigi (I dreamed of hitting red and green blocks all night). But I’ll get to it soon. Maybe I’ll go back to Final Fantasy VIII for now or I’ll give that new Layton a try. Maybe I’ll even get my DS back tonight (though I doubt it). We’ll see tomorrow. Until then, enjoy some cake.