I’ll admit, when Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle originally leaked I was incredibly skeptical. The Rabbids and their irreverent humor style seemed like the strangest thing to combine with Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom. It seemed even stranger for these characters to wield what looked like guns. But I am here to say my concerns were unfounded. The combination of Mario and Rabbids is zany but lighthearted, and is one of the biggest gaming surprises of the year.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Nintendo Switch [Reviewed]
Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Milan
Release Date: 29 August 2017
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Purchased by Reviewer]
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle sees the Rabbids arrive in the Mushroom Kingdom by way of their time-travelling washing machine with an AI companion and special headset in tow from another world. The headset has the ability to combine things together including a lot of your enemies. Their arrival also separates Mario from Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi. From there, players lead a team of three characters into four different worlds to try and cleanse the corruption. While traversing these worlds, the environments, flavor text for weapons, and even cinematics showcase the humor of the Rabbids constantly. But there is also a special love for the world Mario and his friends inhabit as well. There are references to other games and characters all over the place including the very weapons players wield.
To this end, players will solve environmental puzzles and shoot at baddies in cover-based mechanics that will be immediately familiar to anyone who played XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Those shootouts are the meat of the game, where players will use abilities, movement combos, and an array of weaponry loaded with special effects to dispatch foes. These special effects can turn the tide of battle or secure victory by forcing characters out of cover, stick them in one spot, or negate their combat abilities.
The characters you can use in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle are varied and each has their own set of abilities and weaponry that can lead you to victory. Rabbid Peach, for example, is a healer who can also protect herself from damage. Luigi, on the other hand, is all about picking foes off from a distance with an overwatch-like ability and increasing his and his teammates movement for a turn. There is great flexibility in what you can do with the only requirement being that Mario is in your team of three.
The game is presented exactly how you would expect a game bearing Mario’s name to appear. Bright colors are present throughout, with expressive characters, and plenty of dialogue presented through text. During play, I encountered no bugs or crashes, leading to a very smooth and stable presentation. Objects, characters, and text are distinctive enough that in battle, you can always be certain of if you can attack someone before making a decision. That goes a long way towards making a stress-free experience.
At first, it feels as though the difficulty was a bit too easy, but I quickly learned that was only the simplicity of the earlier levels. As more enemy types are revealed and gain more powers and abilities alongside the player, that difficulty ramps up to become difficult but not impossibly so. Even if the player finds a particular battle too hard, you can retreat to Peach’s Castle and take on challenges to level up your characters more or players can turn on an Easy Mode for the single battle that heals the characters and grants an additional 50% health.
The bosses of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle will give plenty of reason to at least consider retreating and gathering strength but are also delightfully memorable. When they arrive they require special tactics to defeat, but it’s the Rabbid character interactions that add the light-hearted brevity to what is normally a tense moment. The final boss for the third world is the best boss for comedy as he is the only in-game character with full voice acting. The final world’s bosses though are a slight let-down compared to the originality of the others, but are still entertaining to take on regardless.
As players progress through the game, they will also unlock special levels they can play cooperatively with a local player. These levels take two teams of two and challenge them with special levels designed to be played by the pairs. Special levels play very well and require some extra coordination since the abilities can be used by the other team. These will grant some extra gold coins to buy more weapons but otherwise doesn’t grant additional advantages. Oddly enough, the co-op is the most disappointing part of the entire game. While having a local option is great, having an online option would’ve been perfect.
Once a player finishes the game, players can re-do previous battles in a special hard mode, complete specialized challenges, and access previously unavailable sub-chapters of worlds. Together, there are plenty of post-game content that will only grow in the future once more content is made available from the Season Pass. That being said, content is hardly a problem for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, as it feels tightly compact and filled to the brim. After spending at least 25 hours playing, I am still coming across new content.
The music of the game, composed entirely by Grant Kirkhope, also pays homage to scores from Mario’s past. Classic tones and musical phrases are peppered throughout but are never overused. Keeping with the crossover nature of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, these phrases are made zanier. Sometimes that is done as simply as quickening the tempo on the title screen, but music-sensitive players will find great nuggets of reference there as well.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is certainly the strangest combination in gaming today but it is one of the most successful as well. Both franchises are well represented and respected, leading to what feels like a cohesive game about the least cohesive event. Despite the chaotic and irreverent nature of the Rabbids, Kingdom Battle is a fantastic title that should be one every Switch owners’ radar. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a fine example of the new experiences that Switch could bring, and I await a sequel with great anticipation.