E3 hands-on: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Nintendo Switch)

One of the worst kept secrets in the gaming world finally got shown off at Ubisoft’s E3 media briefing in 2017. Those crazy (or annoying) Rabbids were going to officially star in a Mario game, but unbeknown to many it was going to steal the hearts of gamers.

Let me get something out of the way right away. I’m not much of a strategy game fan. I’ve heard people talk about comparisons between Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and X-Com, but unfortunately I can’t make that comparison as it’s just something I generally have no interest in. So here I went, entering my play session without much of a clue as to what to expect. I knew it starred Mario and those wacky Rabbids dressed up in classic Mushroom Kingdom clothing, but that’s as far as it stretched for me.

What you have here is a game that’s really split into two categories: strategy and exploration. Right off the bat I’m dropped into a battle zone. I can switch between Mario and his two Rabbid sidekicks (dressed up in Luigi and Princess Peach clothing), who can each move a certain number of spaces followed by an action. My objective was to shoot the first enemy Rabbid I had encountered, but my spaces were limited and I could not reach him. It’s here where I’m introduced to the first move that brings something unique to this game.

Move to a space that’s already occupied by another member on your team and you’ll be launched a few spaces further than what you could have originally reached. By doing this I can now reach the other Rabbid and down him with my weapon. It’s the first introduction to the battle system, so as you might expect things only become more complicated from here on. As it’s a turn-based strategy game you’ll get to take your time to make your next move. Next up was Luigi Rabbid. The enemy is hiding behind cover and has a 0% chance of being connected by my weapon, so it’s time to improvise. Launch off Mario, to gain those extra spaces, dash past the enemy to knock off a few hitpoints and I ultimately end up in a position with a 100% chance at connecting my target, and that’s where the Rabbid foe ultimately meets his demise. The next wave approaches.

By this point I’ve got a good grasp when it comes to using my available space, how to launch and to dash through opponents to end up in a better position for a final strike… but things are about to go full-blown Mushroom Kingdom. Warp pipes have been introduced and suddenly it’s become a huge strategic battle. Princess Peach Rabbid launches off a team member to gain extra spaces, runs into a warp pipe, dashes an enemy, runs through the warp pipe on the opposite end and ends up on higher ground to get the best angle for a final shot. As I progress through the demo these strategic elements become second nature, but I also get the chance to try out the various puzzles when exploring between battles.

The puzzles I encountered are quite straight-forward, but pull it off and you’ll earn enough credits to upgrade a weapon for one of your team members. No, weapons can’t be shared as Mario and his Rabbid buddies come with unique moves that they can activate at the end of their turn. These special abilities could be a health boost or shield for any of your team members within a particular area or it could be the ability to shoot any foe as soon as he or she moves within your sight when it’s their turn. In the 20 minutes I got to play I encountered quite a bit of depth along with the trademark sadistic Rabbid humour.

The worlds are bright and colourful and it looks like it’ll be the perfect game to play on-the-go. What I’ve played so far of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has not quite converted me to become a turn-based strategy fan, but it’s definitely the closest I’ve got to enjoying the genre. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle launches exclusively for Nintendo Switch on 29 August 2017.

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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