REVIEW: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 30 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 35 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local only

There’s more or less no way in which a mash up of Mario and Rabbids should work. Mario – a beloved, veteran character of the video game industry – and Rabbids – those reviled, childish troublemakers. The fact that it works, and works so well, is a testament both to Nintendo for being willing to put their biggest asset at risk and to Ubisoft for making sure that the injection of the Rabbids was done with respect for the Magic Kingdom and it’s characters. Fans of Mario, fans of the Rabbids and, frankly, fans of video games, should all find this turn-based strategy game both challenging and hilarious.

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The power of three
The majority of your time is spent in turn-based battles with rogue rabbids. You have one move with each of your three chosen characters in every turn and each of those moves is in three parts – movement, attack and special abilities. Movement can be used in defence – for example, hiding Mario behind cover – or attack – like having Peach slide tackle, or ‘dash‘, an enemy. Attack is much as it sounds; get out a weapon and try and cause damage to the enemies. Lastly abilities can be anything from boosting teammate’s health, gaining extra power for a turn or putting up a defensive shield and many more in between. The main bulk of the game is in learning how each of these different attacks and abilities work for each of your characters and then working out how to unleash them in the best way to eliminate the enemies you face. It’s all surprisingly deep and complex for a game full of bright colours and craziness and that combination of challenging gameplay and fun characters is Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle‘s core appeal. In the end I preferred a team of Mario (you can’t change him, but in fairness he’s great anyway), Rabbid Peach (thanks to her team-healing ability) and Peach (once well upgraded, her weapons cause widespread damage) but you’ll be able to play your way, and have fun finding out what that way is.

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What’s happening?
In addition to the battles, the main game offers up puzzle elements and wraps it all in a story line that serves to give all this a point but never takes on any significance of it’s own. In truth, that works well as the stop-start nature of a stream of turn-based battles would make complex story telling difficult. Instead the story is essentially a setting in which to place Mario and the Rabbids – it helps control the fun, if you will. Most of this is down to Beep-O. I won’t try to explain who or what Beep-O is here – you’ll have to find that out for yourself – but Beep-O brings a degree of order to the chaos and drives proceedings along. It’s through this that the game keeps a lid on the potential madness of having tonnes of both good and bad Rabbids marauding through the Magic Kingdom. Lastly, the puzzle elements are mostly fun and only one did I find difficult enough that it became frustrating. It’s mostly moving blocks around in particular orders or lining up paths to travel down. What they do well is serve to break up what might otherwise be the monotony of battle-battle-battle. They are a refreshing change and don’t outstay their welcome.

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Battles with friends
Outside of the main, single player, game, we also have two kinds of multiplayer here – co-op and versus. These both take place in arenas very similar, although not copied out of, the main game. Otherwise there is very little difference on a fundamental level to the gameplay here but the additional level of planning needed and the further things that can be pulled off in the co-op levels are an extra treat. The Boy and I have enjoyed these levels greatly; seeing how far we can jump, how many enemies we can take out in a single turn etc by working together. It’s a shame there isn’t a full co-op campaign but that is more a reflection that I want more of a great game than a criticism of what’s being offered here.

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Conclusion
2017 was completely full of great games and it is a fairly big surprise to see something with the Rabbids in being included in that! But the combination of the charm of Mario and the madness of the Rabbids, all baked into a great turn-based strategy game is amongst the best in one of the best years. It continues to be supported too – The Boy and I are also very excited for the upcoming introduction of Donkey Kong that was revealed in the recent Nintendo Direct Mini! Now is just as good a time as any to jump onto this crazy bandwagon.

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Click here to purchase the game on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:
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Xbox Game Pass expansion – news and views

I recently posted some thoughts on Gaming Subscriptions (here and here) and talked about my conclusions from having an Xbox Game Pass subscription for a few months. Essentially, I found that it was probably great for newcomers to all that Xbox has to offer but for those of us who have played most of the games on the service as they came out originally, it holds little value.

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However, Microsoft has just changed the game (pun entirely intended). See here for the details but the short version is that from the release of Sea of Thieves in March, all Microsoft Studios games will be available on Xbox Game Pass alongside their release. That means that for your monthly subscription you get the pool of older titles that you have now and additionally get to play any new Halo, Gears of War, Forza and many more. Coming up soonest are Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3.

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This is an immediate game changer for us consumers. If you are considering buying any of those games within a year or two of their release then the cheapest way to do it will be via an Xbox Game Pass subscription. Why pay £50 up front when that will get you 6 months of the game you want, plus everything else that the service offers?

Perhaps more interesting though is what this could mean going forwards. Will things like EA Access follow suit? If this is a success for Microsoft, other publishers will surely want to get on board with the concept. But on the other hand, perhaps this kind of deal only makes sense for a company who also sells hardware off the back of it. Xbox Game Pass wants to be the Netflix of gaming but it was more like a catchup service. Perhaps this change will enable it to have the same kind of success as Netflix has in video.

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One potential word of caution though. We have gotten used to new releases having the ‘standard’ version and also some kind of ‘enhanced’ version which either includes more content up front, of gives the access to it when it is released. No doubt Xbox Game Pass will only supply the standard version and leave us with add-on purchases for our season passes and extra cosmetic items. If this idea takes off industry-wide I can easily foresee a slow creep to where the ‘standard’ version is really more of a ‘basic’ version – a glorified demo, to tempt you in to paying for the full experience. That might not even be a bad thing but given the various recent controversies around additional downloadable content, it’s something to keep in mind.

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For what it’s worth, I can see this really shifting Xbox Ones in the short term. New buyers won’t need to worry about which particular games to get in their bundle – just get an Xbox Game Pass subscription and you’re set for a long long while. In the longer term, who knows where this will take us but as a consumer, I intend to reap the benefits whilst I can.

What do you think on this? Will you be getting an Xbox Game Pass subscription on the back of these changes? Let us know in the comments below!

First Impressions: Cuphead

I’m not a person who typically likes games that are hard for the sake of being hard. In fact, I would be more likely to deliberately avoid them. Generally, I would rather play lots of different games than play a few games a lot, so anything that is deliberately hard doesn’t appeal to that mentality, as it would usually take longer. When Cuphead was shown at E3 last year I immediately wanted to play it as it just looked so great and seemed to be so much fun. But that enthusiasm was immediately doused when the first, and seemingly only, thing anyone could talk about with it was how hard it was.10-01-2018_07-25-15.png

In the end the wonderful art style, based on 1930s cartoons, won out over the potential difficulty and I was gifted the game for Christmas last year. I am happy to say that, whilst it is indeed ridiculously difficult entirely for the sake of being so, it’s also a huge amount of fun. In fact it is that aspect that has turned out to be the key, as it can be impossible to appreciate the retro visuals when you are just desperately trying to stay alive!10-01-2018_07-26-09.png

Despite having it for nearly a month I’ve only made it to the end of World 1. There are four worlds in total so it could be a long while before a review goes up on this blog! The reason for my slowness is not entirely down to being rubbish. In addition, every play session needs to be a long one, so the number of chances I get to play it are limited during a typical week. This is down to the punishing difficulty level – a quick ten minute go will almost certainly result in no progress at all. You need to slowly develop your understanding of each level as you play (and die, a lot) until eventually reaching the end. There’s not really any point in loading up the game unless you can dedicate a good chunk of time to it.10-01-2018_07-25-31.png

Thankfully, this doesn’t ever quite reach the point of feeling like a chore since it is just such a blast to play. The actions – running, jumping, shooting – all feel great and the tension created by the difficulty really gets released into joy and relief when you nail a boss that 30 minutes before felt impossible.10-01-2018_07-24-53.png

It’s still early days for me – it may be that the relentless unfairness of the game eventually gets me down and destroys the fun. At this stage, however, I have really enjoyed Cuphead. Given it’s bargain price, I’d happily recommend it – if it ever stops being fun then you’ll still have got good value for money out of it!10-01-2018_07-24-24.png

Happy New Year – let the gaming continue!

I’ve had an unexpected fortnight off from this blog to open 2018. With all the busyness of the Christmas break and then going back to normal life I didn’t have time to think about writing. The Boy and I did have time to play games however! As such, there is plenty for me to get my teeth into and write about through the rest of January. So, what can you look forward to from The Gamer Boys in the coming weeks? Read on.

Rocket League (Switch)2018011008294900-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
We will have a review of this soon but, spoiler alert – it’s awesome! Of course it would be nice if you would read our review when it’s ready but really – don’t wait for that, just buy it. It’s going to be fairly high up on my all-time top games list. Something else we did was finally buy all the additional battle cars from the showroom, so I think I’ll put together a post about some of them – some are fantastic, and when such a great game is is so cheap, spending small chunks of money on DLC is no problem. See my First Impressions here.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle2018010308503700-9600BAE614E6833B1A261F5FB229CDBA
I have completed this game now, and it is wonderful. Somewhat odd, but once you get past that it’s just a really good game. The combination of the crazy Rabbids in the whimsical Mushroom Kingdom hides how deep the gameplay is. I’m sure it’s not as in-depth as some strategy games but it requires enough thought and planning to keep it intriguing and interesting all the way through. I wonder if a sequel, or at least further Ubisoft/Nintendo collaboration, could be in the works. Review forthcoming!

Cuphead10-01-2018_07-25-45.png
I was given this game for Christmas and have been loving it so far. Of course, all the talk about this game is about how difficult it is. I will be no different! It is willfully hard for the sake of being hard – perhaps that is a subject worth looking at on this blog too. I’m currently just at the end of World 1 out of 4 so First Impressions will be up on the site very soon.

NBA Playgrounds (Switch)2018010918174200-4A1B5A3AF288537CEBE6559E7DFB000B
An ‘Enhanced Edition’ of this popped up on the eShop the other day. There’s a new set of tournament games to play through so I thought why not give it a go?! It’s still just as much fun as it was before although there’s nothing new enough to mean a change to what I said in my original review. Still – even more worth picking up now if you haven’t already!

In other news
I’ve got some other ideas to make The Gamer Boys blog less random, like a monthly round up of a ‘Top 5 “somethings” in gaming’ and other regular series like that. Let me know your thoughts on them when they start appearing! Otherwise, let us know what you’ve been playing at the start of 2018 in the comments below. Happy New Year!

Looking forward to 2018 – Top 5 Anticipated Games

So we find ourselves at the end of 2017. It was a great year (see here for my reflections on the year) but of course, we always look ahead to bigger and better things. So, just quickly to round out this year, here are the Top 5 games I am looking forward to for release in 2018.crackdown3

Crackdown 3 (Xbox One)
– the first Crackdown was a really enjoyable game early in the Xbox 360s life. The second was lacklustre so I’m really hoping this one can get back to what was great about the series – big jumps, big explosions etc. Bring on the chaos!
Yoshi (Switch)
– this looks like exactly the kind of charming fun that Nintendo does so well. I managed to miss Yoshi’s Wooly World so I’m looking to get back on the track with this one.
Kirby (Switch)
– this one is here for The Boy and how he always says ‘and Kirby‘ every time I mention that the Yoshi game is out soon. No doubt Nintendo will nail this one too and continue the to make the Switch such a success.
Detroit Become Human (PS4)
– various controversies aside, this game has a really intriguing set up and looks to be set in a fascinating world. It could go horribly wrong but it could also go so right!
Spiderman (PS4)
– has there ever been a good Spiderman game? Not that I remember, despite the fact that swinging around the place is inherently spectacular and should work in a game. Let’s try again for a good one in 2018.

Backlog Catchup in 2018

Ah, the backlog. I reckon everyone has got their little list somewhere of the stuff they are meaning to play but haven’t quite got around to. From retro stuff I’ve been meaning to catch up with, to the games from this year that I simply haven’t had time for yet – this list follows me around, seemingly never decreasing (although thankfully in recent times it has grown too much either). I’ll put the list here and then I aim to finish all of these games by the end of 2018 – although if next year turns out to have as many great games as this, that might be a struggle!26-10-2017_14-22-06.png

Currently playing:
Mass Effect: Andromeda – Xbox One (see my first impressions here)
Super Beat Sports – Switch (see my first impressions here)
Forza Motorsport 7 – Xbox One (see my first impressions here)
Rocket League – Switch (see my first impressions here)
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – Switch
Cuphead – Xbox One

Retro backlog:
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Wii
Rise of the Tomb Raider – Xbox One/PS4

2017 catchup:
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp – Android
RiME – Switch
Super Luckys Tale – Xbox One
Doom – Switch
MXGP3 – Switch
Gear Club Unlimited – Switch
Super Mario Odyssey – Switch

Reflections on 2017 – What an amazing year for gaming!

What an amazing year for gaming 2017 has been! There have been so many fantastic games released, across multiple platforms and genres. Early this year, when I began writing about the games The Boy and I were playing, I had no idea what a good time it was to start this blog! We’ve also been lucky with the retro games we’ve played, whether they were just catch up from 2016 or older games we’d never previously got around to. I have added more games to my All-Time Top Games List this year than any year before – 10 games have been good enough to get 5 stars here.lozbotw1

So here’s a roundup of the year, in reviews and awards. Please note that if your favourite game isn’t mentioned, just remember that I have probably just not caught up with it yet (Super Mario Odyssey, I’m looking at you). I’ll do a backlog catchup post later in the week to round up those.

2017 Reviews (by score and then chronologically)
5*
Forza Horizon 3
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Old Man’s Journey
Minecraft
Horizon Zero Dawn
Super Mario Galaxy
Madden NFL 18
Gears of War 4
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

4*
New Super Mario Bros 2
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Dirt 4
Fast RMX
Sonic Mania
FIFA 18 (Switch)

3*
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Super Bomberman R
NBA Playgrounds
Gone Home
Gran Turismo Sport
Hue

2*
Magikarp Jump

2017 Awards:
Best Game: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wildlozbotw2
It was my desire to write about how good Breath of the Wild was that originally sparked the idea to start some kind of blog. This game is just endlessly entertaining, I genuinely never wanted it to stop.
Runner Up: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
There have been many great Mario Kart games over the years but with 8 Deluxe, Nintendo have perfected the formula. And for local multiplayer, there’s no better thing.

Best Platform: Nintendo Switch
switchIt’s not hard to see why the Switch wins out here given the best game awards above! But in its first year it’s fair to give the console some bonus points for the genius of its design and the ability to play anywhere anyhow, as well.
Runner Up: Xbox One.
This was a close run thing as both Xbox One and PS4 had 2 great exclusives in 2017. The PS4 loses out because it also had the biggest disappointment of the year (see below).

Best Multiplayer Game: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe2017050713184900-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
As mentioned above, there is nothing even close to this for local multiplayer – in years, in fact, not just this year. It is absolute fun and the great combination of punch-the-air wins and heartbreaking losses only gets better with friends.
Runner Up: NBA Playgrounds
With Mario Kart dominating local multiplayer this year I turn to online multiplayer for the runner up. When I found a likeminded opponent who also wanted to play spectacularly – rather than just win – these games were exciting and ridiculous.

Most Unexpectedly Great Game: Madden NFL 1807-10-2017_22-39-27
I fully expected this to be just another annual edition of Madden until I played the new Longshot story mode. It was absolutely brilliant and elevated a good game to great.
Runner Up: Minecraft
I’d been avoiding Minecraft for ages – wasn’t sure if would be ‘my kind of game’. I was wrong. It’s fantastic and I spent untold amounts of hours being creative in it.

Wooden Spoon – Worst Disappointment: Gran Turismo SportGran Turismo™SPORT_20171020214155
Never before has a game given me something so good – in this case, the car handling model – and then given me no reason at all to enjoy it. Very disappointing.
Runner Up: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
After I really loved the first Mirror’s Edge I was looking forward to this. Sadly, whilst it maintained the enjoyable free running, it lost its heart and its storytelling.