At first glance, Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle seems like a strange mix: Nintendo’s favorite son and company engaging in gunplay with Ubisoft’s resident maniacs known as the Rabbids in XCOM-style turn-based combat. Even in your wildest dreams would you never have imagined it, and yet somehow it works, crafting an excellent strategy experience that’s easy to learn and packed with enough content to keep players hooked.
Developed and published by Ubisoft
Available on the Nintendo Switch.
Mario+Rabbids’ plot is simple, but it’s fun nonetheless. A young inventor working on a wearable headset known as the Supermerge – which has the capacity of merging two items to create a new one – leaves her station after it runs out of power, and the bunny-like Rabbids mysteriously teleport in and create mayhem. Using the Supermerge, one Rabbid begins to alter and create new Rabbids from Super Mario memorabilia, and after blasting a poster with Mario and the crew, the Rabbids are sucked into Mario’s realm. Now the world’s favorite plumber and some Rabbids dressed as Luigi and Peach must band together with Beep-O, the programmer’s digital assistant, to restore order to the newly transformed Mushroom Kingdom.
The plot isn’t terribly deep, but it’s fun enough to keep kids and adults alike entertained throughout the whole experience, with plenty of silly moments, gags, jokes, and cameos from classic Super Mario characters. Surprisingly enough, the Rabbids are the best part of the game, hilariously spoofing familiar characters with ease and transforming the Mushroom Kingdom to a colorful and wacky playground fitting for them. Once again, it shouldn’t work on paper, but the development team at Ubisoft somehow made all the pieces fit together perfectly, making for an entertaining adventure.
It also looks pretty great too, with colorful visuals, solid animations and character models, vibrant and detail-filled environments that feel right at home with the two franchises, and excellent cutscenes that look ripped straight from a Hollywood CGI movie (I wouldn’t mind a Mario+Rabbids cartoon, honestly). It’s a real good looking game to be sure.
Mario+Rabbids is also a blast to play as well, borrowing heavily from XCOM but producing a streamlined system that’s easy to get into and simple enough for people of all ages. Players travel through four colorful worlds, each with various chapters that feature one to three combat encounters. In these, players get to control three characters (and start out with Mario, Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi), and face off against a variety of Rabbids in turn-based fights from a 3D top-down perspective using blasters, hammers, and more. Players move through maps using a grid-based system, and attack using cover mechanics, with partial cover leaving both players and enemies partially exposed, and full cover protecting them from damage. This forces players to flank enemies to get the best of them, but players also have to be wary of enemies doing the same thing.
The controls are easy, and the core gameplay is simple to grasp after the first encounter or so, though it does get deeper as players progress, with new weapon types with different stats and strengths, secondary weapons that add new options to the mix, like melee weapons, rocket launchers, or long range RC cars, new playable characters and skill trees that unlock new abilities, as well original gameplay mechanics like the ability to dash in enemies to deal damage while on the move, a team jump to hop on a teammate’s head and get to higher ground, destructible cover types that also deal elemental damage, and more.
Encounters also feature the occasional boss battle, which breaks up the gameplay a bit with challenging fights that require players to think to defeat large enemies with unique powers, as well as gameplay variations, like requiring players to reach the end of a stage to win as enemies respawn endlessly, or escorting vulnerable NPCs to checkpoints. The variety in combat encounters is excellent, and keeps things fresh as players jump from battle to battle.
Despite all the good stuff Mario+Rabbids brings in regards to the combat, it isn’t perfect. By choosing simplicity, it breaks a couple of gameplay mechanics that would have made the experience better. For example, players can’t aim at unoccupied spaces, as the game automatically targets enemies. This is useful for simple and straightforward attacks, but when it comes to Area of effect attacks like the explosive RC car, they can’t be used to their fullest potential, as the game forces you to select from the nearest enemies. This means players can often miss taking out two or more enemies at the same time because the game forces you to aim at one only, which is terrible. Speaking of the RC car, if a target is eliminated before the car reaches them, it becomes useless, as players can’t redirect them once they are sent out, and they just lie on the map motionless, unless an enemy trips them by moving too close. Still, I understand that it’s been simplified so it can be accessible to all, and it can be overlooked.
Players will also do some light exploration and puzzle solving on the side, which is also pretty fun and offers a nice break from the tactical combat. Guided by Beep-O, players will move through worlds with the occasional roadblock, and players must solve them by pushing blocks, pressing buttons, launching through cannons, and more. More abilities will be unlocked as players progress, so players can work through new challenges or return to previous worlds to explore previously locked areas.
There’s more too. The game also features some collectables, which are hidden throughout worlds in treasure chests. Some unlock new weapons, while others unlock pieces of concept art or soundtracks. Then the game also has a co-op mode, which lets two players team up in special stages and do battle against armies of rabbids, and Challenges, which appear after clearing chapters and offer some unique missions in order to score more coins and experience for the skill trees.
Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle is ultimately a well made and entertaining strategy game that’s sure to please whoever’s playing it. The combat is enjoyable and challenging, the story is lighthearted and silly, and there’s plenty to do as players explore the Rabbid-infested Mushroom Kingdom and blast away at tons of enemies. While the combat is not as rich as I would’ve liked, it’s still a game that’s good from start to finish, and it’s one that fans of both franchises will love.