August 29, 2017

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle - Review

For a game, these days to make a dent, it has to do something out there crazy and for Ubisoft, anything that requires that, usually features the Rabbids; those crazy creatures add zany with an almost disturbing ease, but when meeting Mario is that enough.

The games story is that the two worlds have collided and things are going from strange to bizarre and beyond, but it’s how they mix that is funny. The game starts off, by showing you within the basement of an unknown inventor, she has created a device that allows two different items to be merged together, however an overheating problem arises and she decided to take a break and walks away from the device. It is now that the Rabbids appear in their time and dimension travelling washing machine and cause a little chaos. When one Rabbid puts on the visor, things start to collide and when the washing machine is hit, they are transported to the Mushroom Kingdom and that is where the game really begins.

Mario is on the quest to undo the damage and the only way to fix it up, is to locate the Rabbid that is wearing the visor, however Mario and crew are not the only ones seeking the little guy. Beep-o is your controllable character, at least in the overworld and as virtual assistant, he is packed full of extra information to help you out in battle and using that information is what will help you survive each encounter. The games appeal is that it is a turn based strategy game, something I normally avoid playing, but there is a charm about the game that drew me in and made me loose hours to it, something I consider to be the sign of a great game. From the outset, the game gives you the basic rules of engagement, moving and attacking, but after a while, they start to layer in more and more, letting you really expand the game and how you tackle each of the battles.

From the outset, its Mario, Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi, but as your progress through you will encounter more characters like Luigi and swapping Luigi in for one of the others is a decision that you need to consider in detail. Each character has their own special weapons, but they also have strengths that will help in battle. Mario is a great allrounder, whereas Luigi is best at a distance, as he uses long range weapons, keeping him back is going to help you out, more so given his lower health levels. While each character has their pros and cons to use, so do the weapons, do you use a blaster for Mario that deals out the change to bounce your enemy off the map, or maybe you want to stick them in place with honey for a turn. Each weapon and sub weapon combination can keep even the most confident of players second guessing their decisions and of course, add in the layer of purchasing the weapons, it becomes a much harder choice.

When you are in battle through, the gameplay takes over and it becomes quite a simple, yet surprisingly deep experience, each character has three things they can do per turn, move, attack and activate a special. Some attacks require a cool down and all specials do, so deciding when to use a special is another choice to balance. Movement is key in battle, each attack you can do and take, has a limited range, so if you are not within shooting range of your target, or your target is blocked from your view, you will be unable to act. When moving though, you can do three different things, depending on where your allies are, each character has a defined movement range, once you hit the edge of that, you are done, however you can use pipes to boost your space by a little bit, but you can also use your allies and jump into the air, pushing yourself further into the fight, or away from it. As you move around though, you can also dash into enemies, dealing out even more damage and doing this can take the focus off a character with low health and target the enemy to yourself. Combining the movements, shooting and special attacks is crucial, in one encounter, I had to defeat some enemies and given the variety of them, one carrying a shield that stops all frontal attacks was a challenge. So having one character, dash into them, jump into a pipe and then pop out behind them and shoot, dealt some damage, but then also turned the enemy around, leaving him exposed to the two allies behind him.

Each of the games world offers lots of things to see and explore, with hidden secrets, plenty of world puzzles to solve and loot boxes to discover, exploring the world is just as much fun as anything else. Once you have cleared each world, there will be challenges that appear throughout them, letting you go back and face battles with harder conditions to win by, clearing them will net you more rewards. The two rewards you will get from battles are coins and orbs, with the latter being for weapon purchases and the former for levelling up your heroes, something that you can leave up to the game to manage, if you don’t want the hassle of managing things at that level. The loot boxes around the place also contain soundtrack selections, artwork and character models, so exploring and finding all you can will give you more to see and enjoy once your adventure is done.

The game will throw a lot at you and that is welcome, the fun part comes from the combination of the worlds, seeing a couple of rabbids cosplay as Peach and Mario is fun, more so when Rabbid Peach really gets into the role of Princess Peach, only to give up and throw the outfit away in disgust when you lose a battle. While most of the enemies are just Rabbids in strange outfits, the ones where they are clearly merged with a Mario character are the most fun and usually the most destructive. Each element fits within the world that the game has crafted and while it does skew more to presented the Rabbids than it does Mario, with the elements, each world is represented wonderfully. About the only real fault I can throw at the gameplay is that when you make a move decision, there is no ability to undo it, which given that the game is locked at an isometric perspective in battle, can be frustrating, hopefully that is something they can add to the game later.

In fact, the overall presentation of the game is beautiful, given the hardware it’s on, it still ranks up there as one of the best-looking games of 2017, which is saying something. The game may not be a technical masterpiece, but the design and execution help it stay at the top and the best part is that it runs smooth. Using Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine, the same that powers games like The Division and The Crew, it provides hope that other games might make the jump to Switch, but it also shows how versatile the engine is, there were times though, once I cleared a world and was running back threw it again, collecting all those hidden items, where the game would lag, a lot and while other people may not see that, the game does suffer from background fade in and this happened a few times, even when moving through the worlds at a slower pace.

From an audio perspective, the game does a solid job of offering up those familiar Mario sounds, but also adds in a host of new ones, thankfully the crazy yells of the Rabbids is also reigned in from other games they appear in. Famed composer Grant Kirkhope is here composing the music for the game and hearing his version of classic Mario tunes is a very welcome delight for the ears, sadly though, the music tends to repeat a lot, each of the tracks is short in length and in the overworlds, you will notice the repetition a lot. The other issue I have with the score, is that Grant Kirkhope is famed for some classic games and even another game released this year, sadly I could hear a lot of elements from those games here, not the same tunes, but in Sherbert Dessert, the same way he composed the music for that is the same as the Ice world in Yooka-Laylee and even Banjo-Kazooie, and while I do love the scores for all three games, hearing similar elements here does hurt it a lot.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is an excellent game, it offers up wonderful gameplay and a very delightful world to explore. The amount of options available to players is incredible and will give players plenty of chances to explore and find the method of play that suits them the best. Some visual lag and unoriginal musical elements do little to mare this otherwise, splendid adventure.

Thanks to Ubisoft for supplying the game for review.

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