Mario & Luigi: Dream Team- Perfect Dream Logic

It seems to me that whenever I play a game starring Mario, Nintendo’s iconic plumber mascot, it is always an almost completely flawless experience.  The settings are vibrant and fun to look at, the running, jumping, and collecting action is engaging, and the characters, music, power-ups, and just about everything else blend into a formula that is very satisfying.  I most recently got this feeling while I was playing through Mario’s newest adventure on the Nintendo 3DS, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, in which this perfect gaming concoction takes on a dreamlike quality that is quite palatable to me.

Dream Team‘s story starts with Mario, his brother Luigi, Princess Peach, and a whole castle’s worth of Toads (the little mushroom guys with the red-and-white spotted hats) arriving on Pi’illo Island for a relaxing vacation.  The island has recently become a famous tourist attraction with large cities and towns, mysterious ancient ruins, and, most interestingly, a rich cultural heritage involving the island’s original inhabitants, the Pi’illo Folk.  It seems the Pi’illos found a way to enter the realm of dreams and used this knowledge to build an impressive kingdom.  The kingdom came crashing down, though, due to the evil activities of the “king of bats,” Antasma, who used his powers to trap the Pi’illos in the form of rocklike  pillows (someone at Nintendo must really love wordplay).  It is up to Mario and Luigi to free the Pi’illos from their imprisonment and defeat a revived Antasma so everyone on the island can go back to sleep in peace.

To save the island, you must take Mario and Luigi and jump, spin, smash enemies over the head with comically oversized hammers (Thank you, Donkey Kong!), sleep on the imprisoned Pi’illos (I’m serious, this is a prominent part of the game; I’ll explain in a moment), travel through the strange, exotic landscapes of the dream world, and do all sorts of other surprising things.  To the game’s credit, all of these different actions provide a decent bit of variety to the adventure which keeps introducing new moves and ideas while building upon previously established concepts.  In a recent play session, I smashed boulders and enemies with my hammers; a fairly routine event.  I also journeyed into one of Luigi’s dreams, built a tower of Luigi clones which I used to jump really high and grab a pile of coins, learned how to change a tower of Luigis into a cone of Luigis, and used that cone to float gently down from a high platform to my goal below.  Definitely not events you would normally see in a Mario game, but par for the course here and one of the ways I love being routinely surprised by this game.

The whole game feels like an endless dream to me.  The situations Mario and Luigi find themselves in are typically ridiculous but strangely make a lot of sense at the time.  For instance, I am currently following a pair of Russian-accented strongmen up a mountain while fending off attacks from flying dumbells and blue spike-headed bees.  Whenever I can find a pillow for Luigi to sleep on (he’s a big insomniac in this game for some reason), I have him lay down on it, and then travel into his dreams so I can free two gigantic Pi’illos.  When they are freed, they open huge gates blocking my path to the Russians.  I have never seen these creatures in a Mario game before and the ways I have interacted with them have been quite unusual, but I now think of them in the same way I normally think of the turtles, walking chestnuts, living bullets, and cloud men dropping spike-covered walking shells that are my old friends from the old Mario games.  They may be strange, but they do make sense in a world of dreams, and I can accept them for what they are.

The whole experience has felt light and floaty to me, just as if I was in an actual dream.  The game, so far, is not particularly difficult for me.  Sure, I might have lost a battle or two because I misread the attack patterns of an enemy, but I have been able to try again and again until I got it right.  Even if I cannot get the timing exactly right on an attack, there is always the “Easy Mode” option; making nearly every fight in the game a potential cakewalk.  I am largely free to explore the game at my leisure without worrying about a permanent “game over,”  just as if the game was an acutal dream whose menaces won’t give me trouble when I wake up.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment in Dream Team came during my most recent playthrough and reminded me why this game is so special.  I had discovered a magical fountain in the mountains, something I had not encountered in the game before.  Usually if I find a fountain like this in other games, it either restores all of my health or strength or does something bad to me.  Both Mario and Luigi were pretty banged up from a constant barrage of tough battles, and I did not want to use any more items to heal them than I had already used (which was a lot, unfortunately).  So I decided to have them take a drink from the fountain in the hope that it might be the type of fountain that would fully heal them.  What immediately followed was one of the strangest things I have ever experienced in a Mario game, or any game for that matter.  A long piece of scrolling text appeared on the screen, relating the story of a dream that Mario and Luigi were apparently sharing.  They woke up in a field of mushrooms and began devouring them gleefully, subsequently learning how to fly over the whole island.  The mushrooms had a nasty after-effect, however: the plumber brothers soon grew larger and larger until they became too large to fly and plummeted back down to earth.  After I read this, a “Game Over” screen popped up in front of me.  “Great!” I thought to myself.  “Now I’ve got to climb back up the mountain again and remember not to drink from the fountain!  Thanks for invoking the same gimmick that caused misery for so many readers of the book series, Choose Your Own Adventure, Nintendo!”  Much to my shock and delight, however, this was merely a “fakeout.”  The characters woke up from their nightmare to find that the fountain had completely healed them.  Thankful that this wondrous act of serendipity had happened, I continued on my merry way.

Mario and Luigi: Dream Team is a game which evokes the best aspects of dreams.  It is fun, friendly, and full of clever ideas that make a weird kind of sense.  Even better, it is a dream populated by some very fun people, places, and things and starring two of my favorite video game characters.  I hope this is one of those dreams I never want to wake up from.

Have there ever been any dreams that you wanted to stay in forever?  Let me know what they are in the comments section.  Pleasant dreams…

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