Review: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Turn Based Tactics
Before the leaks and official E3 announcements, I don’t think anyone would have guessed that Ubisoft would be making a Mario title, let alone to cross it with Rabbids and centre it around XCOM style turn based battles.Perhaps even more ludicrous than it simply existing is the potential for the game I’ve just described to be good. It may make you question everything you believe but Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a solid addition to the Mario lineup despite some senseless design choices.
Starting off the game seems to try to justify its existence by giving a story sequence about how this combination came to be. The opening cut scene explains that a young scientist has made a device along with her AI robot which can combine any two objects but it isn’t quite ready for regular use just yet. Enter the Rabbids in a time traveling washing machine who manage to accidentally combine themselves with the Mario Universe and in particular one Rabbid to the invention.
Once sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom some of the Rabbids become corrupted and waste no time unleashing mayhem on the world. This means it’s up to Mario and friends along with some cosplaying ‘good’ Rabbids who are all lead by the scientist’s robot to restore the world back to the single IP it was always meant to be.
Despite not being much of a story, the cutscenes which deliver the bulk of the narrative are remarkably charming. As a self-confessed Rabbids hater, I expected to spend the entirety of the game scoffing and looking down my nose whenever one was on screen trying to make me laugh at its low brow humor. Instead, I was pleasantly amused by many of their antics including Rabbid Peach’s tendency to selfie in front of my defeated foes and the occasional use of a character as a butt scratching device.
The Mario characters on the other hand barely feel like they belong even though it’s technically their universe.It couldn’t be clearer that Nintendo simply sent a bunch of sound assets to Ubisoft as the ‘lets a go’s and ‘mama mia’s are scattered through scenes as arbitrary reactions. Mario plays the ever determined Hero, Luigi a dorky coward and Peach is just sort of there. Next to the Rabbids variety of actions, reactions, noises and animations the Nintendo characters fall flat and it made me wonder why this is a Mario game at all.
Playing through the game mechanically is nothing like any Mario title before it. The combat takes place in set areas in which each character takes turns to move, attack and use an ability. Your party consists of three team members one of which always has to be Mario who will be pit against enemies to either defeat or get passed to a set location. Characters can be equipped with a variety of weapons as well have different skills which can allow for a fairly wide variety of load-outs to deal with different challenges.
Enemies also come in different forms providing various levels and kinds of difficulty. Some will come loaded with health and the ability to do massive amounts of up close damage, other’s can teleport and many will have modifiers to their guns to cause status effects and impairments. On top of this Boss and Mid Boss challenges appear throughout the worlds making for unique scenarios on top of the usual battles.
Although simplified compared to similar games, there’s still a fair amount to get a handle on for the main battle system and to its credit, Mario + Rabbids walks you through at a nice pace. Being that Mario games are often marketed at all ages I had fears that tutorial modes would drag on for the benefit of younger audiences but they managed to get all of the information to the player in a relatively speedy manner, staggering new mechanics between battles rather than dumping everything from the outset. The method of delivery coupled with not having the permadeath of XCOM makes Mario + Rabbids an accessible title for all ages with minimal associated setup drag.
Where the game did often feel like it went on forever is during the explore mode. This is the part between battles where you control the AI Roomba styled robot who leads your party throughout the Mushroom Kingdom. In this mode you can find hidden secrets and complete block puzzles to unlock collectibles and advance through the area. Controls for this feel floaty an inaccurate and the lack of an overworld map can lead to some frustrating back and forth trying to get back onto the path. Specifically trying to complete time intensive challenges almost feel like the game showing you explicit examples of how bad these controls can be which makes for many a frustrating experience.
On top of that, the puzzles themselves become incredibly repetitive despite unlocking new abilities to complete them. For the most part, they consist of pushing blocks around or adding weights to switches and there are some points where the usually freely positionable camera will become locked in place for no apparent reason other than to annoy. By the end of the second world, I found myself rushing through these sections rather than exploring and doing as few of the puzzles as the game would allow.
Thankfully at least the worlds themselves are all decidedly unique and interesting to look at. The worlds are split into smaller sections and the turn based combat which is fun and engaging works perfectly as both a handheld and big screen game. Being able to play Mario + Rabbids here and there in small chunks feels exactly what this game was designed for and it even comes with a small two player challenge mode playable with split JoyCons making it perfect for the Switch.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, though a weird entry that doesn’t always make a whole bunch of sense is a fun addition to the Mario name. Combat is engaging and well varied and the humour is surprisingly funny and entertaining despite being a little lame at times. While pretty and interesting the world itself can be frustrating to explore but thankfully being almost purpose made to play in small portable chunks makes this a reasonably forgivable misstep. A fine addition to any Switch owner’s collection provided you don’t think about why it exists too much.
|Definitely pick this one up if you're into turn based puzzle style combat and leave your hatred for Rabbids at the door because it turns out this time, they're great. If you're after a more traditional Mario experience though, you won't find it here. A great game to have on the go and the big screen.||3.5 3.5 ( on 4 rating)|