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Review: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch)

Strategy Strategy>Tactics
8.5

Great

Something strange is about to happen to the Mushroom Kingdom. No Princess Peach hasn’t been kidnapped by Bowser. Instead the Rabbids have arrived and well, something has happened to corrupt a whole bunch of them. It is time for the plumbers and crew to arm themselves and shoot them bad guys. Mario with a gun? Hell yeah.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle perfectly captures the essence of Mario and XCOM franchises and wraps them into a highly enjoyable, easy to learn tactical experience.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle perfectly captures the essence of Mario and XCOM franchises and wraps them into a highly enjoyable, easy to learn tactical experience. From the Mario franchise you have the quirky humour, the bright cheerful colours and the game teaching you mechanics without using long overly complicated tutorials. The game teaches you about how important cover is, cover destruction, trapped cover and much more by setting up situations where it happens to you or it is the way to beat the level. Each stage plays out like a finely-tuned puzzle, if you take the time to view the battlefield from every angle, you should spot the fastest route through, or a good place for an AoE attack or for Luigi to snipe from.

XCOM, with less stress

From the XCOM side of things, all the elements you know and love are there. Cover is vital to surviving on the battlefield, height gives you an advantage over your foes. Explosives can hurt your team as well and sending in someone too far ahead of the rest of the squad is probably going to result in them dying. Sorry, not dying. The permadeath of XCOM isn’t here ( we all know Mario can’t really die thanks to all those 1-Up mushrooms) so the stress of making a mistake and having to live with dire consequences is gone. You can restart the battle you are in at any time and you can reset your skills for free, spending those points again to make better choices or to maximise the efficacy of something you know the next level will let you exploit, like doing more damage from an elevation. Aiming to hit is also much simpler than the math systems used in XCOM. Your attacks either have a 0%, 50% or 100% chance of hitting if you are in range, making cover important even when the enemy is really far away.

Even when the enemy is far away, you aren’t always safe. This game has many ways to get around quickly, so be careful when planning where to hide away. Besides your normal movement range, entering a warp pipe will take you across pits or up to a high elevation without costing you movement. As you exit, the speed you built up by travelling in a pipe is used to move several cells. You can then move to cover, or slide attack an enemy or if one is nearby, go into another warp pipe, which will give you a few cells of movement range as you exit. If a member of your team is in range there, you can use them to give you a boost, jumping several cells away. Add all of these together and you, or the enemy, can get pretty far around to map to flank an opponent or get in close for a powerful secondary weapon attack.

Wait, what is XCOM? This is Mario + Rabbids

If you have never played XCOM or a tactics game before, here is a quick rundown. Every turn you can move once up to a certain number of cells. You can attack once and use a special ability once. Besides for your movement and your primary weapon, everything else recharges after a certain number of turns, meaning you have to use your special abilities and secondary weapon when you will get the best effect out of them. Each character you get to join your team has their own skillset to keep things interesting, with a bit of overlap. Mario uses a mid range blaster and a hammer, and he can boost the damage of everyone nearby for a turn, or he can enter hero sight, which is basically overwatch (if you haven’t played XCOM, it is a reactionary tactic that fires when an enemy moves within range while they aren’t in cover). Luigi has less health but can move further and he is a long range sniper. He uses a little bomb car that will drive towards the enemy of your choice and explode. If the enemy is out of range it will take a few turns to drive there, and will explode if any enemy is stupid enough to walk nearby. He also has hero sight (all the non-Rabbids have overwatch) and he can increase the movement range of people nearby, allowing you to get just that little bit further away or into battle. If you know you are fighting enemies in a small space, you probably don’t want squishy Luigi with you, and might opt for someone with a high health, defensive abilities or a shotgun style attack. I don’t want to go into every heroes abilities because discovering them yourself and finding amazing uses for them is all part of the fun, but I have to say that Rabbid Peach almost never left my team. She is just that versatile and useful to have around.

While not killing the enemies in what feels like finely crafted puzzles, you are walking around the Mushroom Kingdom solving all manner of light environmental puzzles. From moving or destroying blocks, rotating large sections of an area to make warp pipes connect or using various pressure plates to lower or raise platforms, there are a lot of puzzles to calm you down between intense fights. Chests full of artwork and 3D model unlocks are often your reward, but sometimes you get orbs to improve your skills or unlock a new weapon that might be handy pretty soon, if you have the gold coins to pay for it. Luckily back at the Princess Castle you can replay levels to improve your ratings and earn more gold coins if you are running low, or go do a challenge in a completed world for those few orbs you are short of upgrading your favourite special ability.

To¬†Davide Soliani and Ubisoft, I offer my apologies. This is one hell of a game and I can’t wait to squeeze every treasure and perfect rating out of the game.

I remember when we first heard of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. There wasn’t much information and I was one of many people that was quick to derisively mock the idea of Rabbids being anywhere near my beloved Mario. To Davide Soliani and Ubisoft, I offer my apologies. This is one hell of a game and I can’t wait to squeeze every treasure and perfect rating out of the game. I honestly hope that this introduces the wonderful world of turn-based tactics to more people.

Good

  • Captures the essence of both Mario and XCOM perfectly
  • Well designed puzzles
  • Puns!

Bad

  • Multiple phase boss fights
  • Tactical camera could zoom out a bit more
  • Later levels lack in enemy variety
  • Takes really long to unlock all the heroes

Summary

It doesn't sound like it would work if you made a Mario game that is a turn-based tactical, but it does and it works so well too.
8.5

Great

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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