Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch) - ReviewDan Carreras , posted on 31 August 2017 / 8,999 Views
I’ve never been a big fan of Ubisoft’s Rabbids. I’ve seen them pushed down our throats in a manner similar to that of Universal Studios’ Minions, and so have always resisted playing anything that even contains them. All that changed at this year's E3, when Ubisoft revealed they’d been working on a game in collaboration with Nintendo, bringing two of their universes together in a weird and wonderful XCOM combat simulator styled game. On paper this sounds like genuine madness, but in reality it’s some of the most entertaining 20 hours I’ve played in a while.
It all starts with a strange contraption which is able to merge two items together. The child inventor is deemed a genius, although the device has overheating issues. Leaving the room for two minutes, the Rabbids manage to find their way in, and within no time at all are up to no good, merging things around the child's room without any care in the world. Eventually, things go awry, and the Rabbids accidentally merge themselves with a Mario poster, transporting them to Mario's world and, at the same time, creating all manner of bad things.
This zaniness gives the art directors at Ubisoft (and Nintendo) a fantastic pallet to work with. The sheer variety of funny and weird enemies you’ll encounter on your way through the campaign is insane, and you'll come across new and wonderful assets every few minutes on your travels. New enemies with unique aesthetics and abilities constantly change up the combat, and the worlds that you traverse to get from fight to fight change with such ferociousness that you rarely (if ever) see the same thing twice. These massive worlds in turn have unique puzzles based on a set few mechanics, but that doesn’t stop them from being difficult at times, and giving even more scale to the campaign as a whole.
So how is the combat? If I were to say it’s a slimmed down XCOM, I’d be doing the game a disservice. While parallels can be seen to the classic strategy game, and the percentages have indeed been simplified, there are some new advances that are influenced by Mario’s platforming pedigree. Mario + Rabbids is a lot more fast-paced than XCOM and has you running around the battlefield as much as humanly possible. I found one of the most useful strategies was to upgrade all of my characters' slide attack damage and proceed to mow enemies down across the map simply by moving through them, as well as jumping on them should I be in range of another teammate.
Enemies in turn can dish out the same attacks as you, but with the game always slight skewed in your favour. This isn’t to say Mario + Rabbids is easy - far from it. In fact there were many retries of battles that I failed on. It’s just that you always feel like you’re progressing, regardless of whether you’re taking on a new boss or repeating levels to get that much sought-after 'perfect' rating.
Another distinction to make between Mario + Rabbids and XCOM is the fact you cannot lose your characters should they be downed in missions. While hardcore strategists will cry foul at this, I found the ability to experiment with my characters and not worry about losing them for good extremely liberating, especially when I'd invested so much time and money into them. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the combat of XCOM but never dived in through the worry of how hard people have said it is, then know that Mario + Rabbids certainly does a great job of introducing new players to the turn based strategy arena.
Outside of combat you can upgrade various different character attributes, as well as their weapons. There’s also a huge variety of abilities for each character, with some being more mobile, encouraging high risk/high reward gameplay, and others favouring sniping at a distance. You can switch characters out with others whenever you like, so should one not gel well with the others you can always remove them.
One thing that has to be said - and it's present throughout - is the sheer hilarity the Rabbids introduce to the Mario universe. Throughout the campaign, and even during combat, you’ll constantly witness titbits of humour that ensure the game is kept light-hearted, from Rabbid Peach taking selfies with a defeated boss, to Luigi ‘dabbing’ when activating a weapon, it all just oozes charisma and humour throughout. The bosses also feature some of the best designs I’ve witnessed in years.
Graphically, Mario + Rabbids is an absolute stunner on the Switch system. It’s impressive how gorgeous and smooth the presentation throughout is considering this is all done on a portable-capable system. I experienced no visual issues when switching from docked to portable mode, but I'd note that it's best played on a TV because the interface and text are both a bit small when playing on the Switch screen.
Once you’ve finished the lengthy 15-20 hour campaign there are plenty of reasons to keep coming back to the game. Throughout your time in the kingdom you’ll notice that there are obstacles that can’t be destroyed just yet, as you don’t have the right abilities. Similarly there are some fights or challenges which for the most part seem impossible in the earlier levels. At any point you can jump back to Peach's castle to check your progress and replay any sections that you didn't 100% complete. To say I've impressed by the sheer amount of content in the game is something of an understatement - I’ll be playing Mario + Rabbids for quite some time to come.
Thus far I've heaped a lot of praise on Mario + Rabbids, but there are some negatives. For one, I've had the game completely crash out on me after some extended playing sessions, although fortunately the constant save system ensured I didn’t lose too much progress. Another clear negative is the soundtrack, which unlike the rest of the game's presentation is incredibly bland and forgettable.
On the gameplay front there's one notable control issue - while you get as long as you like to plan your next move, should you accidentally press A in the wrong square on the tiled grid then you’ll find that there’s no going back and you'll be locked in to a move. I found that I made some mistakes every now and then because of this. On smaller maps the camera will also constantly readjust, in order to ensure you can see enemies and your cursor on the map, and this can compound the issue.
If you had told me last year that one of my favourite games of 2017 would involve Rabbids I would've called you crazy. How wrong I was - it turns out having a franchise as solid and polished as Mario does wonders to ground the humour of the childish Rabbids, and ensures this is one of the most downright enjoyable strategy games I've played in quite some time. Love them or hate them, the Rabbids look like they're here to stay, and for the first time in my life I'm actually curious to see what they’ll get up to in the future.
A graduate in Computing, Dan is a games developer and writer. His first game, Twixel, was released for iOS, Android, PC and Mac in 2015, with it being released on Steam November 2016. A lover of all things games, Dan has been writing for VGChartz.com for over 2 years, attending conferences and interviewing developers to get the best content for VGChartz readers. His favourite games include Asura's Wrath, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and the Halo Series.
Dan can be followed on Twitter at: @Caesoose
This review is based on a retail copy of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the NS