Game Reviews

‘Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle’ Review: Insanity, Meet Crazy

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Quick Take: In Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Mario's world is warped into something insane when the Rabbids invade, and it makes for one of the best games of 2017.

Nintendo has, in recent years, made a push to diversify their characters, and they are no longer shy about farming them out to other developers to create something new and exciting. Pokken Tournament DX for the Switch (and previously for the Wii U) is a good example, as Pokemon characters in a straight up fighting game by the creators of Tekken worked out well. Now, the most iconic of all Nintendo characters, Mario, has been lent out to Ubisoft, and the famed Canadian developer has used the opportunity to its fullest in Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

A Whole New World

The mashing up of Mario and the insane Rabbid characters from the Rayman games works amazing well. The humor of the Rabbids and the oddity of an Italian plumber living in a world of magic mushrooms seamlessly come together to create one of the most charming — and outright funny — games of 2017. And to add another layer of strange to the mix, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is also a tactical strategy shooter. Yes, Mario comes to the world of Rabbids and he’s packing.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Review

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is the story of an Mario fanatic inventor, who creates a headset that can warp reality to merge two different things into one new thing. When a bunch of Rabbids appear and take the headset, one Rabbid uses the headset to merge their reality with the world of Mario (because of a poster on the wall) and things get wonky. In this new world, Mario is forced to join forces with Rabbi-ized versions of Peach and Luigi to find the Rabbid with the headset to make the Mushroom Kingdom normal again. The three, and the inventor’s AI, Beep-O, set out on a journey through four twisted worlds to stop the raving Rabbid from destroying the kingdom.

A Twisted Journey

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Review

The worlds are, themselves, mashups of various Mario locales — with a Rabbid twist. Players solve simple block puzzles to explore, and pipes, red rings, and coins are all present, but the beauty of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle comes in the stellar combat. Taking a page from games like XCOM, combat is turn-based, weapon-heavy strategy. Ubisoft added some cool Mario-isms, like jumping attacks and secondary weapons like the hammer, but each of the three characters on the team (they can be switched out from a pool of eight before a combat scenario begins) is loaded for bear with cool guns. Each gun has added attack bonuses, like honey, bounce, or fire, and each character can unlock battlefield skills that sure come in handy. Players have to always think a few steps ahead to ensure victory.

Mario’s Packing Some Heat

The combat is intuitive and clean, and you will have to use your brain to secure the win. Players use cover and elevation to get the drop on their opponent, and the game counters by creating some pretty powerful enemies to fight. Timing your moves and setting up dash-jump-shoot combos between all three characters is awesome to pull off and necessary to win.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Review

Each world has a handful of battles and a mid-boss and a final boss, which are epic battles that Mario fans have come to know and expect. In fact, Ubisoft has done an amazing job translating the Mario-verse into something entirely new, while still keeping the illusion that this is the same world we’ve all grown accustomed to. As the game progresses, players will unlock new skills that can open new pathways in already-cleared worlds, giving Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle extra life than just barreling through the four worlds.

It’s-A-Me, Mario!

Aesthetically, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle looks gorgeous. As one of the most vibrant and colorful games on the Switch, Kingdom Battle looks as good as it plays, with the true bright spot being the third world, a dark, gloomy version of Mario’s ghost house levels. Playing this world was like living in Jack Skellington’s Halloweentown — with classic Mario flair. It was my favorite of the four worlds, and one that I could not wait to go back to explore further after I finished the game.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Review

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is not without its issues. Navigating the grid during a battle can be unforgiving if you miscalculate a square, and once you lock in your move, you can’t back out. This led to my demise more times than I’d like to admit. Missing a cover spot and being left in the open for the opponents’ turn can have devastating consequences. Battles can be restarted without penalty, and players can even respec and swap out weapons before initiating a fight.

BWAH?

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a fun, well thought-out action strategy game that turns the world of Mario and his friends on its ear, and then tickles it with the absurdity of the Rabbids. The humor is edgy and is the perfect compliment to the action onscreen. A running gag throughout the game features Toad and Toadette continually getting lost in each world, and by the third world, Beep-O is sick of it, going so far to using curse words (well, the classic #!@$) to express its opinion on the matter. It was a laugh-out-loud moment, and solidified Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle as one of the best Mario games I’ve played in a very long time. And that says a lot.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is available now for the Nintendo Switch. This review is based off a copy of the game purchased at retail.

SCORE: 4.6 out of 5

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