Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – catchup review

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is the game the world wasn’t prepared for. The world also wasn’t prepared for it to be as good as it is. Giving Mario a gun and make him fight Rabbids in a weird XCom mashup doesn’t exactly sound like it’d work, but it does – for the most part. It’s a fun game and it’s also surprisingly difficult at times. It still can’t make Rabbids particularly funny or likeable, but at least they’re less obnoxious here than anywhere else that they’ve appeared.

The game begins with those pesky Rabbids getting into their usual hijinks and accidentally-on-purpose stealing a VR headset-like device that can combine any two objects with science (basically magic). They’re in a room full of Mario merch, so the Rabbids get merged with that and somehow also manage to mess up the Mushroom Kingdom at the same time. Now Mario and the gang have to team up with their Rabbid imposters and save the Kingdom from this ridiculous calamity.

The rules of engagement are quite simple. You always go first in normal battles, and there are three action types: movement, weapon attack, and special ability. Movement is actually the most complex of these, because it also incorporates team jumps and the ridiculous dash attacks. Team jumps are where you get one character to jump off another which extends the distance you can travel, as well as giving you access to new heights.

Dash attacks are usually sliding tackles or something similar that you can incorporate into your movement to damage an enemy. It doesn’t even need to be “on the way” to your destination, so long as it’s within your movement range. This means that some of the characters can chain together multiple dash attacks; sometimes meaning that you hit every enemy that you’re up against.

Weapon attacks encompass both primary and secondary weapons. These range from blasters to yo-yos, hammers, and bazookas. We would say that they’re your main damage output, but that’s not true of every character. Rabbid Luigi for instance is great at slamming his body into enemies to do damage, while his yo-yo is quite tame by comparison. Luigi on the other hand is rather fragile but can sit back and snipe with his vacuum rifle. Weapons do get the added bonus of having a chance to inflict statuses, which would be elemental attacks in any normal game.

This isn’t a normal game, so there are statuses that range from Vampire to Honey. Yes – honey.
Statuses are a gamble for most of the game. Each weapon has a set chance of inflicting whatever status it’s assigned, and when you do inflict it, it does more damage as well as the status effect. So Push knocks enemies back, Vampire makes all hits on the target heal a portion of the damage back, and Honey stops them from moving. No character can access every status effect, so you do have to plan out exactly what is the most useful for each character and weapon.

Lastly there are the special abilities which, with few exceptions, are completely unique. There are “overwatch” abilities for the Mushroom Kingdom characters, and barriers of varying sorts for the Rabbids; but abilities are generally different enough to be unique draws to specific characters. Rabbid Mario can taunt foes, Luigi can increase his team’s movement range, Rabbid Peach can heal, etc. It gives each character a very specific feel, and will quickly shape your favourites and who you’ll always take with you.

When you start to weave all three of your squad members’ attacks and abilities, it really does feel as complex as any turn is in XCom. You’ll almost certainly have to make the best use of all of their abilities to get anywhere in the game, and it feels brilliant when you manage to work out how to complete one of the challenge levels by stringing together complex routines that often rely on the chance of a weapon status occurring at just the right moment.

Surprisingly, the puzzles, both in the overworld and the challenges, are the most fun to be had in the game. Don’t get us wrong, the combat is still good most of the time; but even though the puzzles are generally quite easy, they’re very moreish because you get more interesting rewards. The challenges on the other hand are excellent brain teasers at the best of times but can often feel like you just need to have particular characters with better weapons or specific upgrades to complete.

We do have lots of minor gripes with the game. Nothing substantial mind you, but things that seem really weird for a passion project like this. Death animations are boring and lack any Rabbid qualities to them. Mario can’t jump, which is always a weird one; especially in the overworld, where it would make sense for movement to be less restricted. You also can’t take three Mushroom Kingdom characters and always have to take Mario, which does limit your options slightly. The biggest gripe is that the large bosses can’t be attacked with dashes or jumps, which limits some teams massively, and feels like they didn’t want to balance boss fights with that taken into account.

This may be the only Rabbids game that some people will ever enjoy. It’s got a fairly deep combat system that’s very fun when you know how to play around in it, and still a little fun even if you don’t quite get all the nuances. It’s quite a long game thanks to the wide variety of additional stuff there is to do, and the puzzles and challenges are a delight. Any XCom player should appreciate it, and anyone who’s been put off by XCom’s relentless difficulty might be able to find some solace here instead.

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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