A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey is a remake of a Nintendo DS role-playing game with added content for the Nintendo 3DS. Players control the heroes Mario and Luigi as well as Bowser and -- in a new side campaign -- Bowser's son, Bowser Jr. The former two are, as usual, do-gooders acting for the benefit of their friends and the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom, while the latter pair are acting out of selfishness, though they, too, occasionally manage to help others along the way. All four playable characters engage in battle against cartoonish foes by jumping on them, punching them, or using special attacks, such as wielding giant spiky balls or Bullet Bills. Their fantastical enemies simply flash and disappear once defeated. Parents should be aware that this game is a little more complex than your average Mario adventure, but that plenty of tutorials and opportunities to safely practice moves and skills are provided throughout. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content.
What's it about?
MARIO & LUIGI: BOWSER'S INSIDE STORY + BOWSER JR.'S JOURNEY is a remake of the classic Nintendo DS game Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story with enhanced graphics, a few original features, and a brand-new side campaign starring Bowser's son. Save for improved visuals, the original game remains largely unchanged. It sees Bowser working unwittingly with Mario and Luigi -- who have been shrunken to microscopic size and inhaled into Bowser's body -- to save the Mushroom Kingdom from a plague called the Blorbs, which is making citizens very sick. Mario and Luigi navigate the enormous turtle's innards, cooperating in both turn-based battles as well as puzzle-like tasks to enhance Bowser's abilities by stimulating parts of his body. Bowser, meanwhile, navigates the topside world and gets into battles of his own, occasionally transforming into a mammoth version of himself to fight other huge creatures. Beyond the main campaign, players can also try the new Bowser Jr.'s Journey, an original story that shows us what Bowser's son was up to while his dad was playing host to the Mario brothers. This shorter campaign sees the plucky young bad guy commanding squads of minions in strategic real-time battles against groups of foes, arranging them in formation and then helping them out with well-timed battle cries.
Is it any good?
The original story is one of the very best role-playing games to star Mario and his brother, and this remake for 3DS is a great way to either revisit it or experience it for the first time. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey wisely opts not to mess with a good thing, changing little in the original game beyond giving it a spiffy graphical makeover that creates an appealingly cartoonish look and making a few small quality-of-life improvements, such as the ability to fast-forward through lengthy scenes. The terrific team-based battles and puzzles, often laugh-out-loud funny dialogue, and clever design -- which has players doing such unexpected things as flipping the console on its side and holding it like a book -- are all more or less untouched. And it's all aged remarkably well. Particularly the battles, which feature timed interactions for blocks and counterattacks, are just as fun, challenging, and engaging today as they were when the game first came out.
The biggest addition, of course, is Bowser Jr.'s Journey, which essentially serves as a bonus game within a game. It's not as long as the base campaign, but its real-time strategy battles -- built on a familiar rock-paper-scissors concept that requires a surprising amount of tactical consideration -- offer a nice change of pace from the turn-based combat of the main game. And its goofy but undeniably droll script lives up to the franchise's history of legitimately funny dialogue. The main reason to play Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey is the remake of the original adventure, which is as much fun today as it ever was, but the addition of a second story sweetens the deal nicely.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Like most role-playing games, Mario & Luigo: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey takes dozens of hours to finish. How does your family like to handle the length of individual play sessions when it comes to longer games?
Do you think Bowser and Bowser Jr. are inherently evil, or might there be a deeper explanation for their selfish behavior?
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