Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle Is A Triumph Of Fun, Wonder And Whimsy

9
  • Switch
  • Platformer
  • Strategy
2017-08-29
mario rabbids kingdom battle review switch nintendo ubisoft
Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a welcome and joyous addition to the Nintendo Switch library. (c) Nintendo, Ubisoft

Mario+ Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a joyful, whimsical game that feels like a love letter to Super Mario, the Rabbids and turn-based tactical games. Through a deft, careful touch and tremendous attention to detail, the Mario+Rabbids team has created a game that defies expectation. The expansive, lavishly detailed worlds, the funny and adorable Rabbids, the inspired soundtrack and the free-wheeling turn-based combat system all work together to create one of my favorite games this year.

Let’s start with the fusion itself: Super Mario and the Raving Rabbids , themselves a spinoff from the Rayman games. I’ve never played a Rayman game and I didn’t know anything about Rabbids before setting hands on this title, but word on the street is the Rabbids can be over-the-top annoying.

That’s not a concern in Mario+Rabbids, where the Rabbid versions of iconic Super Mario characters are lovable parodies of beloved originals. Little details, like Rabbid Luigi’s floppy sleeve and Mario Rabbid’s mighty moustache, reflect the Rabbids’ unique personalities and hearken back to their progenitors with a wink and a smile. As for the other Rabbids, they are adorable idiots mostly relegated to background dressing, where they commit acts of miscellaneous hilarity out of the player’s way.

The iconic trio of Mario, Luigi and Peach (as well as Yoshi, Bowser and a few others) are faithfully recreated down to Mario’s classic jump, Peach’s pretty pink dress and Luigi’s fearful quaking. These characters are Nintendo’s crown jewels, and Ubisoft has done them every bit of justice.

Moving on to the combat: it’s fun, versatile, challenging, yet accessible. Certain weapons have a chance to trigger Super Effects such as Burn, Honey or Vamp, each of which has a different effect on the battlefield. Other weapons destroy cover or cause friendly fire. Movement is a major point of strategy, with characters able to “Dash” enemies and do free damage on their way to a location as well as “Team Jump” off their squad members. (You can even Team Jump twice!)

Your squad members have separate skill trees that enhance their movement, abilities and damage, allowing you to hone them to be the finest version of themselves. Abilities are based on personality: Mario is a jack-of-all-trades, which suits him as party leader and stalwart fellow that he is, while fearful Luigi is a deadly but fragile sniper and Princess Peach spreads a healing aura wherever she goes. (She also packs some major heat: her short-range weapons will blow through destructible cover.) The Rabbids’ abilities are as great a remix of the originals as the Rabbids themselves: Rabbid Luigi is a funky debuff wizard, Rabbid Peach is a straightforward, sturdy healer and Rabbid Mario is a self-confident brawler. Yoshi and Rabbid Yoshi make their appearances later in the game, and let’s just say they make their impact felt.

Maps and map objectives vary: some have many angles of approach, including Rabbid pipes to help achieve that perfect flank, while others funnel you down one perilous route. You may be tasked with reaching an area, escorting a helpless ally, defeating a number of enemies or defeating all of them. The hand-crafted nature of each map ensures a variety of strategic approaches remain valid.

There’s also an Easy Mode that heals your characters and gives you double health without adversely impacting your battle score at the end. If you’re having a hard time with any given battle, Easy Mode allows you to continue with the story. Because Mario+Rabbids ’ visual style is so child-friendly (and this game is a fantastic way to introduce kids to the tactics genre), the inclusion is really thoughtful.

Moving on to the worlds: driven by Grant Kirkhope’s atmospheric soundtrack, each is packed with so much wonder and whimsy they will take several rounds of exploration to fully appreciate. Treasure chests, red rings and puzzles are crammed into every crevice of each world, rewarding every peek round a corner. The environments are where the “adventure” part of “tactics adventure” comes in, and their design, modeling and clever integration of the Rabbids are superlative.

Each world includes a number of puzzle elements to spice up the exploration and vary the game’s pace, and these are fine. Admittedly, one does get a bit tired of “slide the box around” puzzles, but especially as the game proceeds towards its last quarter, the puzzles get more varied (the factory-type puzzles are particularly neat) though not exactly challenging. I’m glad the environment puzzles aren’t especially hard: there’s no Easy Mode for having trouble with a puzzle, and it would suck to be gated out of forward progression because you can’t get some stupid box placed just right.

The controls are finnicky until you realize that you are not controlling Mario, but Beep-0, your friendly neighborhood Rabbidized robot friend. If your Switch has the left controller desync issue, like mine does, prepare for your cursor to just wander around wildly wherever the hell it wants for a few seconds at a time. This is not the game’s fault, but the slightly fussy controls can be frustrating, especially during the timed special trials that task you with retrieving every blue coin in a small space. Expect to repeat those a few times.

Unfortunately, the camera locks during certain sweeping vistas, presenting you from swiveling around to take in the view your own way. Because the environments are such a marvel, this annoyed me, but it happens quite a bit.

Finally, the story: I won’t spoil anything, but suffice to say that the story is filled with goofy, kid-oriented humor. Some jokes are hits and some are misses, but when they hit, boy do they hit. (The third world boss is a particular treat.) Overall the feel is very much that of a kids’ Saturday morning cartoon show, vibrant and appealing. Even the weapon designs and descriptions are entertaining and full of Easter eggs.

Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a unique game that takes strengths from both properties and refines them into a kid-friendly tactics adventure game that keeps going long after the final boss fight, with plenty of things to collect, secrets to find, challenges to beat and even a Season Pass promising a bevy of future content. I look forward to seeing more out of the Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle team and can’t wait to get back into this tilt-a-whirl version of the Mushroom Kingdom.

 

REVIEW SUMMARY
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
9
A Triumph Of Fun, Wonder And Whimsy
Some of the most fun you’ll have this year. A must-have for tactics fans, Mario fans and those curious to see how the Rabbids play in the Super Mario sandbox.
  • Rabbids are bwaaaahdorable
  • Mario and Mushroom Kingdom feel authentic
  • Vibrant, colorful worlds
  • Incredible soundtrack
  • Challenging yet accessible combat
  • Lots of collectibles
  • Filled with charm and good humor down to the smallest detail
  • Fixed camera happens too often
  • Box sliding puzzles can get tedious
  • Movement controls are fussy
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