It's not often that a game makes you laugh. And by that we mean really laugh. You know, the kind of laughter that gets funny looks from anyone unlucky enough to be sat next to you on the train. The kind that, with each little chuckle, makes people think you're a bit mental. Partners in Time does. Like its predecessor, Superstar Saga, it's a real class act in terms of dialogue, scripting and story. An excuse for Nintendo to poke fun at their best-loved mascot and deliver something that feels extraordinarily fresh. Actually, it's a pretty simplistic RPG. You have usual trappings - a central hub of sorts, diverse locations to explore which end - perhaps a little too predictably - in the obligatory 'dungeon' and boss.
Yeah, so there's nothing original in that structure, and to be perfectly honest, as RPG's go it's a very linear experience - but it's the execution that really shines here. Traversing each location isn't just a case of blundering around a vast environment, looking for battles to boost XP, or searching for the next doorway. Each area of the overall map for every main location is basically a series of puzzles (or one giant puzzle).
This makes each area you unlock like a minichallenge. They really get the grey matter working as you try to figure out how best to combine the brothers' unique skills with each other over both screens. It never feels like a slog and, more importantly, it keeps your interest high throughout each level. This level of quality to extends to the turn-based battles too. Normally a rather tedious part of RPGs, the action commands add a high level interaction and are more a test of skill than patience.
Better yet, the range of enemies make battles far more than just a case of sitting back while they, and the Bros, take it in turns to slap each other. Despite being a very solid RPG, it never takes itself too seriously. There's just something very cheeky, almost silly about it all (and the game really focuses on this) as it throws one ridiculous situation at you after the next. Reason enough, we think, to start the new year with a smile.
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