- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.