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.

Review5

Click here to purchase the game on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:
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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

REVIEW: Super Mario Galaxy

  • Released: 2007
  • Played on: Nintendo Wii
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 1 Hour
  • Time to complete: 30 Hours
  • Multiplayer: no

All I can say, after finally playing this game just the ten years late, is thank goodness for The Boy and his enthusiasm for all things Mario. It was he who insisted we pick this up. This is a wonderful game and my favourite Mario game ever – in fact, just one of my favourite games ever, full stop. I won’t be too thorough in reviewing this game as it’s been out for so long but if, like me, you somehow managed to miss this the first time around then let me have a few moments of your time to explain why you need to go and fix that as soon as possible!

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The Nintendo Way
Super Mario Galaxy is huge victory for function over form – it’s all about the gameplay. This is the Nintendo way, isn’t it?! The other aspects of the game are all adequate. The graphics are fine, although even in 2007 they weren’t groundbreaking due to the Wii not being built to compete on specs. The story is the same as every Mario game – you know; Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach, Mario fights through various obstacles to rescue her etc etc. Standard, but that is fine. On the other hand, everything about the actual gameplay is spectacular – the level design, the platforming action, and the controls to combine them.

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Levels and Galaxies
The sheer variety of environments you will find yourself in is remarkable. As Mario jumps from planet to planet – sometimes even within levels – you’ll not only find yourself on solid platforms but in water, in the air, on platforms that are sinking into lava and many more. If anything, what’s most remarkable about this is that it never feels overwhelming – the game does a great job of guiding you to what you need to do. Only once or twice did I get stuck and even then when I figured it out it was simply that I had somehow missed something obvious!
On top of all this my personal favourite thing about the levels was how the game messes with gravity. There are a number of levels where different platforms have different directions of gravity. Some even let you influence that gravity yourself. Mario can then move around levels walking on the walls and ceilings as well as the floor. Gravity is clearly an important part of a game called ‘Galaxy’ but the developers have gone so much further in harnessing that to open up new areas for Mario to move around in.

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Actions and Power-ups
Every action that Mario can take feels totally smooth and natural. Running, jumping and spinning quickly all work nicely and the placement and timing of Mario’s moves can give different results, opening up even more options for getting through levels and defeating enemies. Power ups are also brilliant at adding more aspects to the gameplay. Bee Mario can fly, Spring Mario can leap high, Fire Mario can light torches on fire to open up new sections etc.

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Controls and Remotes
Traversing these wonderful and varied levels with these spectacular and varied moves is made fantastic by the control scheme. Super Mario Galaxy combines normal button-and-stick inputs with motion controls on the Wii Remote. It does this almost perfectly! Moving Mario about is usually the domain of the stick on the Nunchuck. The buttons take care of actions like jumping. Finally moving the Remote around is used to gather the collectibles, pointing when required and shaking to get Mario to spin. This combination quickly becomes second nature – if only more Wii games back in the day could have combined Wii Remote motion controls with more standard controls to such great effect.

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Verdict
What a fun game this is! I always looked forward to what the next level would have in store for me. Run, jump, spin, fly, buzz, bounce, skate – every action was a joy from beginning to end. The ultimate platformer.

Review5

REVIEW: Minecraft (Nintendo Switch)

  • Released: 2017 for this version, 2011 originally
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: basically everything!
  • Time to get into: 30 minutes
  • Time to complete: you don’t, really!
  • Multiplayer: yes, both local and online

There seems no point in a standard review of Minecraft, as most of the world knows it well already. Equally I can’t make this a specific review for the Nintendo Switch version as I haven’t really played this game on any other platforms, so I can’t compare. As such, I will basically walk through my experiences with the game and hopefully that will still be interesting for most people, whilst also showing those few people – like me until recently – who haven’t ever ‘got’ Minecraft why they should definitely start ‘getting’ it right away!

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I’ve typically not enjoyed games where there are no, or few, specific goals. Viva Pinata and Animal Crossing come to mind straight away as games that I really tried to enjoy but ended up drifting away from feeling that I needed more purpose. Others I simply never tried. Consequently, I had never been that excited about Minecraft as I expected it to be more of the same. And it is! However, the one thing that it does differently is make the entire environment, not just the activities you can engage in, malleable and moldable.
I really only came back to Minecraft because of how successful it continues to be. It’s available on almost every platform where games are played and is the 2nd highest selling game in history. I kept thinking, all those people must be onto something, no?! My only previous experience had been playing part of the tutorial of the Pocket Edition on Android a few years ago, so when The Boy showed some interest in playing it on the Switch, I decided that now was the time to give it a proper go.

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My first house
I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do in Minecraft, probably because there is no such thing really, but what I have done is basically build bigger and bigger houses for me to sleep in. Given that this is the Super Mario edition of Minecraft the first thing I did was change my character to be Luigi – I’m always Luigi – although in the end I preferred first person view so I rarely see him anymore. My need for some purpose has meant that I only play in Survival mode so the first thing I needed to do was build myself a small shelter. I did this in the tutorial initially but quickly started my own world and this is where I started to cotton on to what everyone has been on about with Minecraft: I built the smallest, most rubbish house in all of history – but it was mine!

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This is one half of what Minecraft does that makes it a step above other exploration/crafting/building/etc games. The things that you build with – ie a block of stone or dirt – are so small that everything you build is authentically yours. To compare it to one of my examples from above – Viva Pinata allows you to lay out your garden however you wish, but you are still bound to the size and the items offered by the game. In Minecraft you have an almost completely clean slate and thus you do get a sense of achievement and progression, simply from completing the things that you set out to build.

The world is your oyster
After expanding that first house I went in search of a village. Even in a video game, community is important! However, even after days and days of searching (and nights and nights at the top of mountains trying to stay safe) I still hadn’t found one. I decided to take the short cut of finding a seed code from the internet where I knew I’d find a village nearby and that made the entire thing more enjoyable for someone like me with a need for purpose. I found a place near some water (it looks like an ocean – I’ve not built a boat yet) to re-build my tiny house and went from there, trying to interact with the villagers and investigating the surrounding area.

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It was now that the other half of what makes Minecraft great started to reveal itself. Now I was settled in an area I started to wonder what I could improve about it. There was a thin strip of sand between the water and the area I’d built my house – I decided that it ought to be a beach! This is the game’s true genius. It’s not just building that it is entirely in your hands – it’s the very fabric of the environment you are in. The only thing standing between you and molding your entire world as you see fit is putting in the time. I started with the beach but from there I’ve built a hill and put a massive house on top with a glass facade so that I wake from my bed in the morning to see my beach. Then I’ve built a huge mine cart track that goes straight through the top floor of my house and around to another area. The phrase ‘the world is your oyster’ has never been so literally true as it is in Minecraft.

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The Dark Side
The last thing I’ve done that is worth commenting on is the actual mining that the game is named for. I was and still am surprised how daunting it is to head underground to where the monsters are. But it’s necessary as that is where all the good stuff is! My cart track works thanks to the Redstone I’ve found underground, I’ve traded a lot of coal to my fellow villagers for Emeralds and I’ve also got some Diamond and Lapis Lazuli tucked away in a chest now for when I figure out what to do with it. As luck would have it after lots of digging I suddenly opened up into a massive cave with lots of these things available. It took me many days and nights (and deaths and trips back!) to gather just the obvious stuff from here. I’m now thinking of finding another area to make a cart track stop at and dig down and down to see what I can find.

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Verdict
This game is spectacular. Where it forgoes achievements, purpose and story it gives you complete control over your activities, outside of the need to stay alive. I really don’t know where this game would ever stop, or how it could ever get boring. I’ve spent upwards of 40 hours already and haven’t really reached very far away from my base area. I’m very much looking forward to the hours of gaming ahead.Review5

Gold Wheels at last! MK8D is done.

Finally The Boy and I have completed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and collected the Gold Wheels! 2017080820012500-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5See our previous post on Gold Mario (here) for our progress at that point. What we had left to do was beat the ghost set by the staff on all 48 tracks in Time Trial mode. It has taken a long time and a lot of effort but we are there!

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Here we both are in a race afterwards showing off our All-Gold Marios:2017080820160900-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5

The Top 5 tracks that we found the hardest were:
5. Dolphin Shoals
4. Cloudtop Cruise
3. SNES Rainbow Road
2. Big Blue
1. Wario Stadium
Most of them were reasonably straight forward with whatever character and vehicle customisations you liked but there were a few that really made you have to figure out what characteristics you needed to go with to get the best time. To beat our nemesis, Wario Stadium, we ended up with Bowser Jr, the Koopa Clown kart and Roller tyres.2017080820002100-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5

Thankfully it proved to be just enough! The whole process has been a lot of fun – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is such a good game, how could it be anything else?! Now when we play online we can show off our All-Gold Mario to the world!

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Click below to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

Or click below to purchase a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe download code from CDKeys.com:

REVIEW: New Super Mario Bros 2

  • Released: 2012
  • Played on: Nintendo 2DS
  • Also available on: – (3DS of course)
  • Time to get into: 30 minutes
  • Time to complete: 8 hours
  • Multiplayer: No, although someone else with another console and copy of the game near you can play co-op

I’m not going to labour this review too much for two reasons. Firstly, this game first came out in 2012 and secondly you already know what I’m going to say! Let’s be honest; a) it’s a 2D side-scrolling platformer, so how good can it really be? But then b) it’s a Mario game, so how bad can it really be? It had 4 stars written all over it before I even started and that is exactly where I am at the end as well!

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It’s more of the same… but that’s ok
You know the drill: Bowser and his minions have kidnapped Princess Peach and you are going to get her back. Here you’ll be chasing them down across 6 ‘Worlds’ of varying types facing all the usual different kinds of enemies and other hazards. However old this formula gets there is something about Mario that means it never gets tired! What Nintendo have done to try and differentiate this iteration is an abundance of coins. New Super Mario Bros 2 is all about collecting coins and there are all kinds of mechanics to increase the number available to you. Ultimately this doesn’t really change the gameplay significantly although there is also an additional ‘Coin Rush‘ mode, where you have to dash through a selection of levels quickly whilst collecting as many coins as possible.

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It’s hard… but we’ll make it easy
The most noteworthy thing about this title is it’s odd take on difficulty. Back in the day games were often rock hard – I regularly started games knowing that I would probably never make it through to the end because having to do 30-odd levels without losing all my lives would prove more or less impossible. Compare that with modern day games where after taking a bit of damage you only need to hide briefly to get back to full health. Neither of those extremes is ideal but what this game does to try and bridge the gap is also not ideal.
On the one hand the game doesn’t go easy on you – outside of collecting power-ups (that you then lose when hit), it’s basically a one-shot-kill concept here. Each shell or flame or anything else that you run into will kill you and send you out of the level. As such, particularly when learning each new level to begin with, there is lots of restarting here. Not only that but the game only allows you to save progress every few levels, so if you were to run out of lives on the level before one of those you actually get sent back 3 or 4 levels, not just to the start of that one.
All of this could seem frustrating to your modern day gamer but what Nintendo have done to mitigate it is essentially give you a cop out option. Any level that you have failed at least five times you are thereafter given a White Raccoon power up for Mario. Whilst you can still fall down on levels without a floor this otherwise allows you to sail through each level – busting through each creature trying to get you as if they weren’t there. This even applies to the boss levels. It more or less removes any challenge from the level in question as you can just rush through to the end leaping over the gaps without a care in the world until you see ‘Course Cleared‘.

It’s a free pass.. but that’s not a bad thing
For me, this is a messy solution. It’s basically the same as being given a free pass on any level you are struggling with. I took to trying to ignore the shiny gold boxes until I really did start to get frustrated with a given level, when I did sometimes give in to the temptation. However, my opinion of this changed when I watched The Boy play. For him White Raccoon Mario was not only a fun thing to be given in and of itself but was actually a progress – and thus interest – saviour. He would start to get frustrated if he was stuck, close to the point of giving up on the game entirely but then the White Raccoon box would appear and his enthusiasm would return. For The Boy it wasn’t just level-skipping solution, it was a genuine aspect of the game, just like any of the other power ups. He would probably say it was even his favourite part!

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Verdict
It’s a fairly simple decision whether you want to play this game. Whilst a whole ton of fun, it’s not going to change your world at all so if you are looking for your next great game you can give this one a miss. On the other hand, if you are looking specifically for a game to pick up and play when out and about with your 2 or 3DS, but would like a decent amount of challenge, then this is one of your best options.

Review4

Click below to purchase New Super Mario Bros 2 on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:
Click below to purchase the 2DS + New Super Mario Bros 2 from Amazon.co.uk:

Mobile Golf: Mario Golf & Golf Zero

I’ve been casually playing two different golf games recently. I won’t get deep enough into either to be in a position to fully review them so I thought a comparison post might suffice.

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I have regularly enjoyed golf games since playing Tiger Woods 2005 – I really think the sport translates better into playing a video game than onto TV to watch (and I won’t go into my ability, or lack thereof, at the real thing!). The challenge to your skill is significant but not under any time pressure – a rare thing in sports and sports video games.

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The two games I’m currently playing are Mario Golf World Tour on the 2DS and Golf Zero on my phone.
Mario Golf World TourHNI_0001 Despite the analog stick on the 2DS this game doesn’t use any kind of motion control, instead opting for the usual press-a-button-as-a-slider-moves-along-the-screen concept. Even so this works well and once you’ve got the basics you find that the things you have to consider – how hard you hit it, topspin, fairways and bunkers etc – are reasonably close to those you’d face in a proper golf sim. Of course this game is not that and it brings all the usual Mario charm to proceedings.

Golf ZeroScreenshot_20170626-125909This game, on the other hand, is about as far away from a golf sim as it is possible to go and still use the word golf to describe your game! It’s a platformer combined with a kind of extreme golf. You end up taking your shots whilst in the air plummeting towards the sea. Really, it defies explanation, so watch this video for an example of what I mean:

Golf Zero from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

I consider both of these games just brief distractions from life and from my main gaming due to their relative lack of depth and repetitiveness. But that said, I would still recommend either game to anyone looking for just such a distraction. Whilst a couple hours spent hunting in an open world or thrashing around a track in a driving game endurance race are fantastic, sometimes a quick ten minutes hitting a small white ball about the place is just what is required!