The Good: Solid game play, good use of the stylus, the story has changed, long game
The Bad: Repetitive towards the end, drags out a bit too long, essentially still the same Mario
For so long have people been wanting to play as Bowser and now you finally can. When an evil guy named Fawful comes and tries to take over the kingdom Bowser runs into this guy's tricks. Being tricked into eating a Vacuum Mushroom Bowser sucks in everybody in Peach's Castle and now Mario, Luigi, and Chippy must find a way out of his body. Yeah pretty crazy right? Well it works and it's a warm welcome.
You switch back and forth between the Bros and Bowser. On the top screen you control Bowser, and while controlling Bowser you get to use various attacks to help progress through levels in the old Mario fashion. Bowser must find his minions trapped in cages by Fawful to learn new special moves during battle, but the Bros must unlock new moves outside of battle for Bowser in his body (more on that later). Bowser can do moves such as a punch, breathe fire, do a shell slam, and even roll around as a spiked ball. All these moves must be used to progress through levels.
Battles are played in RPG fashion, but a bit differently. You can punch, breathe fire, use items, use your vacuum move (to suck in certain enemies so the Bros can fight them inside Bowser's body during battle) and use special moves. Special moves for Bowser are down using the stylus and besides a few mini-games with the Bros the stylus is only used for this. Battles are pretty challenging, but never so tough you can never beat them. You can avoid damage by using counter moves or evasive moves by either punching or ducking. Each enemy is completely different and has their own unique attacks. Learning how to dodge them or counter attack is vital to winning battles (especially boss fights) since some battles can only be won this way.
There are a few battles where Bowser will turn into a giant and fight huge enemies. You hold the DS horizontally to do this and it's all fought with the stylus. Each giant boss battle is epic and very fun to play, but counter attacking and evading is vital to winning. If you can't get your timing down you will lose guaranteed. While battles aren't random there are a lot of visible enemies in the areas and you have to level up or you will never beat the bosses. Once you do level up you can choose one stat to add extra points to. A wheel of numbers spins and you have to hit A to pick the number and it will be added to that stat. There are a ton of different items you can use and buying plenty of these is crucial to staying alive during battles.
Of course you can also buy gear to equip the Bros and Bowser with. Some add to stats and some help reduce damage, or even SP spent for special attacks. There are plenty of items to buy, but make sure you always have the best stuff at all times.
Of course playing as the Bros is a little different. You control the Bros at the same time so you can jump, spin, hammer, and drill your way through levels. Each of these have to be acquired over time as well to progress through levels. You are inside Bowser through 90% of the game trying to find a way out and help Bowser acquire his abilities to save the Mushroom Kingdom. The Bros work the same way in battle as Bowser except special moves aren't done with the stylus and you have to acquire them by finding 10 Attack Pieces in each level. These are easy to find since they are always marked on your map so this is very helpful. The Bros also get mini-games that use the stylus and buttons and they very, but there are plenty so you won't get bored.
While this is a Nintendo brand game it's not perfect and does have it's flaws. It can be drawn out pretty long and will take you a minimum of 20 hours to beat. The game does get repetitive since towards the end of the game you just want to get to final boss and the battles get annoying and dull. There are some level design flaws that make figuring out what to do next tough and you are left clueless on what to do some times. While the story is different with Bowser helping the Bros and vise versa it's essentially the same Mario game we've played over and over again. Inside Story is a brilliant game, but it won't draw Nintendo haters out of the dark.