Review – Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle simply should not work. Especially not as well as it does. But it does, it does work well and it’s easily one of the best, most engaging titles I’ve played this year. It seemed that Ubisoft was playing a late April Fool’s gag when it unveiled the title at E3.
Nobody could have predicted a game featuring both characters from the Mario franchise and Ubisoft’s own Rabbids. Let alone could they have predicted (or even expected) it to be any good.
Yet it is. It really, really is. Mario’s tackled almost every other genre in his decades long career, why not a turn-based strategy? And for that matter, why not with Ubisoft’s most bizarre IP in tow?
It’s mind-boggling that this idea even got off the ground, but whoever made that happen deserves a round of applause. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is the next must-have game for Switch. Absolutely.
Mario and Rabbids and XCOM, Oh my!
The premise of Mario + Rabbids KIngdom Battle is classic Saturday morning cartoon fodder. A mysterious inventor has created a visor for merging two objects. Apparently, this can solve the energy crisis, but not until she figures out how to stop it overheating.
Once the inventor steps out of her basement, in come the Rabbids, in a time-travelling washing machine. Obviously. Trouble begins when one Rabbid puts the visor on and starts merging his Rabbid buddies with everything in sight. The washing/time machine starts to overload and all the Rabbids are sucked inside and sent to the Mushroom Kingdom.
Mario and his pals don’t fare any better. Soon enough the washing/time machine and the Rabbid with the visor have transported everyone to an all new, strange land and are merging them willy-nilly. With the help of Rabbid Peach, Rabbid Luigi and Beep-O, the visor’s AI, Mario sets off to save both the Mushroom Kingdom and the Rabbids.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is Ubisoft doing its best impersonation of Nintendo. It’s taken a genre, added Nintendo characters (and some Rabbids) and turned it on its head. Showing just what can be done to make staples fresh and new again.
At its heart, it’s a strategy-game, but it dials back the brutal unforgiving nature of the genre. There are no perma-deaths, no ‘no-win’ scenarios and no impossible missions. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a title that excels at delivering both a manageable difficulty for younger players, with a deeply complex strategy title for older fans.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle avoids getting bogged down in too many details and stats. The UI is clean and simple, belying the true depth hidden just under the surface.
In the game of Rabbids, you move or you die
Movement is absolutely essential to success in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Gaining a flanking position, the high ground or even using a pincer manoeuvre to trap an enemy are all viable and sometimes essential moves. Each of the characters moves a similar distance, though it does vary slightly. However, when you combine two teammates together to perform a team jump, you movement distance almost doubles.
Team jumps are the ultimate move for making sure you rout the enemy, though they can do it too. The cutesy visuals often caused me to forget to be vigilant. Before I knew it, enemy Rabbids were claiming victory. As the game where’s on the difficulty continues to climb too.
Never to a point where it was impossible, but often times, I’d need to carefully plan out each set of moves. Early on in the game I could just rush the enemy and win every time. Not so, the further you carry on. Luckily, as you progress you’re introduced to more and better weapons and gain access to each character’s skill tree.
Be vewy, vewy qwiet
Unfortunately, as much as there’s a complex game hidden underneath the gorgeous exterior (and it is gorgeous), Kingdom Battle reaches a plateau. Towards the end of the game character stats, weapons and team composition all feel rather similar. There are some choices that are obviously better than others. Eventually, though, everything gets a bit samey. On the plus side, that’s only after a good, many hours playtime.
If the single-player missions start getting too much or you just need a break, Princess Peach’s Castle has lots to see and do. There’s the HQ for selecting weapons, upgrading heroes and choosing your party. The Museum which houses character models artwork, soundtrack music and more. The Rabbids washing machine lets you travel back to any chapter to try and get a perfect score and the amiibo station will grant you some very cool unlocks.
What you may miss out on though are the challenge and co-op modes. Housed in the Buddydome, these challenges require two players to work together. The missions are variations and mutations on the main levels in the game and offer additional longevity and replayability. As it stands, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is one of the most playable and longest lived Switch games to date.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is absolutely fantastic and a must-play. Devilishly difficult and fiendishly addictive strategy gaming is wrapped up in a gorgeous, bright and colourful package. Nintendo has allowed many developers to create games with its characters in the last few years. None has been as successful in recreating the look and feel of a true Nintendo game as Ubisoft. Not to mention the audio.
Veteran composer Grant Kirkhope (ex-Rare, Banjo-Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee) has crafted a delightful soundtrack that blends the best of Mario with a western influence and a dollop of classic N64. I was happily bopping along, wondering why it all felt so familiar. The music pulls all of the elements together and allows a strange mishmash of Super Mario, Rabbids, laser pistols and turn-based strategy to still feel familiar and nostalgic.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is an idea that has paid off big time. It’s a game that a lesser company would have avoided, but both Nintendo and Ubisoft have taken a risk and I’m frankly glad they did. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a must-have and a must-play title.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was reviewed using a retail cartridge provided to PowerUp! by Ubisoft Australia.
Game title: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Game description: This is the story of an unexpected encounter between Mario and the irreverent Rabbids.
Rabbid Peach - 9/10
Grant Kirkhope's score - 8/10
It shouldn't work, but it does - 8.5/10