Ubisoft have been wanting to do a crossover with Nintendo for years, and now it’s finally here. Okay, before you run away thinking, “Raving Rabbids and Mario? What a weird combo,” first hear me out! Yes, it’s a weird combo – but it doesn’t come across as forced! The game boasts a very pretty art style that suits both universes. And so, the Rabbids and the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom, for some intangible reason, don’t look odd standing next to each other. (Well, Rabbid Peach could cause nightmares, but normal Rabbids gave me nightmares when I was little too, so…).
Okay, the pairing works… But is this a Mario game or a Rabbids game? Neither, actually! Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle takes XCOM-style gameplay, marinates it with happiness and family-friendly fun, and then garnishes it with a bit of Rabbid humour. It’s a turn-based strategy game where your team of three take on some warped Rabbids who have become evil after some quantum mechanics experiment goes terribly wrong. Or something.
In a different universe, a young inventor and her AI assistant Beep-O have created what she calls the SupaMerge helmet in her basement. When she takes a break, the Rabbids crash into the room with the Time Washing Machine and start to cause chaos. One Rabbid puts on the SupaMerge helmet and starts merging things together, eventually hitting the time machine and sending all the Rabbids and a frustrated Beep-O into the Mushroom Kingdom where they bump into Mario. Beep-O, Mario, Rabbid Luigi and Rabbid Peach then begin a journey to stop the Rabbid with the SupaMerge helmet and bring balance to the Mushroom Kingdom.
As you travel around the world, you come across battle zones. Here you’re tasked with defeating a certain amount of enemies, getting to a certain area, or escorting Toad (the little mushroom fella) through the field. As you go through the levels, you meet new characters that join your team.
You can only choose two others apart from Mario, but every character plays a different role. From the tanky Rabbid Mario with an explosive weapon to Luigi, who is better left in a safe part of the map to snipe. Each character has a skill tree where you can unlock new abilities or improve upon existing ones, so there’s plenty of leeway for you play how you want with the team you want.
Sometimes there are a couple or more battles within a level, and any health lost in the last fight is not regained until all battles within a level are completed. Though, for players who aren’t too interested in a challenge, the beginning of each battle lets you choose “Easy Mode,” which gives you all your health points back and makes for a more chill fight.
I’m starting to really get into the turn-based, strategy type games. I never thought a Rabbids game would ever be fun (they really are Lucifer incarnate). While you wouldn’t pick this game up for its plot, the gameplay is pretty fun and at times unexpectedly challenging.
There’s also the opportunity for a bit of co-op, where you and a sibling can fight together. Each player takes two characters into battle and strategise their way to victory. I do like the co-op, but it’s not a part of the main game. The campaign is strictly single-player, and if you want to have a go with a friend, you have to go to the main hub and walk into the Buddy Dome. There are five small co-op campaigns which you unlock after you complete the corresponding maps in the single-player. While I do appreciate the presence of co-op, I was a little disappointed it wasn’t drop-in drop-out in the main campaign.
Pro-Tip: When using a single joy-con each, you can turn the camera by pressing down on your analog stick! There is no need to waste multiple turns trying to guess where the entrance of a tunnel is, when Luigi is behind a cliff. Not that I ever did that.
I’m going to give this a 7. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is good, it’s worthwhile and a fun time, but it doesn’t have everything I look for in a game. I can’t fault the gameplay, the controls are simple and the mechanics are explained well. The plot, though, is also super simple. I know it’s a kid’s game, and plot may have got in the way of some really fun strategy (don’t want to strain the kids’ brains too hard), but story is what makes me want to finish a game.
That said, everything about the gameplay is smooth, challenging, simple yet deep. I always enjoyed myself when I played it. I just never felt compelled to pick it back up again.