Repetitive, Repetitive, Repetitive. This game doesn't deviate from a one-track experience.
I had very high hopes for Mario & Luigi : Partners in Time. My first taste of the franchise was with Mario & Luigi : Superstar Saga. I loved the campy humor, the mix of RPG and Adventure elements, and how the game progressively built on itself with new techniques and specials. Enamored, I grabbed Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door, the next game in the franchise. I loved this game for all of the same reasons. So I had certain expectations when I picked up Partners in Time.
I was left very disappointed by this effort. First, the character building component of the game is essentially worthless in this version. Sure, in previous incarnations it didn't have much effect either, but I was hoping for some improvement here. The only true character building you can do is to pick which attribute to give your bonus to. Otherwise, your character is on a pre-rolled level up scheme. Just attack every monster in sight and you'll level up quickly, but it doesn't appear to make much of a difference in your characters play. To pour salt in this wound, the equipment that once allowed for some serious power-ups has been seriously cut down. The badge and trouser system from previous games allowed for some interesting combinations where each brother could play a specific role. Perhaps one could be a healer and the other the tank. In Partners in Time, you are coerced into equiping all characters with the same trousers, as certain ones provide better attributes than any others. And the badge system isn't even worth investigating. After trying out several different badges, none appeared to have any real effect on my ability to defeat enemy characters.
One highlight of the previous games was the campy writing. Each character had, well... character! In Partners in Time this writing feels very forced. It's like one of the interns was told to write the script after playing through the other games in the series.
Finally, and this is what really ruined the game for me, is the boring repetitiveness of the game. Without any character building, without any interesting team building, I was left hoping that the gameplay would save the day. Unfortunately, none of the interesting features of the DS were taken advantage of in this title. The baby brothers aspect is really forced. You must use the baby brothers in certain sections to open up areas of the map, but otherwise they are totally unnecessary. In battle, they provide little more than an extra hit and a backup in case the older brother dies. The moves you learn in the first sequences of the game will be the only ones you use throughout the game. Even the "brothers items" use the same mechanisms. The repetitiveness of using the same moves throughout the game makes this a tiresome experience that places a dark spot on the franchise. The only saving grace for this game is that it is extraordinarily short (my play time was right at 16 hours when I beat it). There is absolutely no replay value here.
If you are at all a fan of the Mario & Luigi / Paper Mario franchise, do yourself a favor and avoid this title. If you haven't played any of them yet, try one of the others, and spare yourself the agony of this game.