- Review Price: £39.99
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle release date
Kingdom Battle will launch on 29 August for Nintendo Switch.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle gameplay preview
The Nintendo Switch has had a barnstorming year. However, since Breath of the Wild on day one, we’ve had few releases to really sink our teeth into without an internet connection. Splatoon 2 and ARMS are brilliant, but dependent on connecting with others online. Considering the Switch’s versatility of gaming on the go, I need something to play solo.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle looks set to be the game I spend my time enjoying during every train journey and internet outage for the rest of 2017, because it’s simply sublime.
Starting immediately in the game’s hub world, I’m introduced to a cutscene where it appears the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom are properly introduced to the Rabbids, and what unfolds is a video with all the character of a Pixar movie. Peach is stood at her castle gates, ready to greet Mario and his new friends. BEEP-0, the robotic AI assistant guiding you around the world which also acts as the pointer during combat, begins introducing Peach to everyone.
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Rabbid Luigi gives a goofy wave in his ill-fitting green hat and jumper, and then the camera cuts to Rabbid Peach, who is completely full of sass and unimpressed with rival Peach. The whole interaction is hilarious, as Rabbid Peach storms up to the princess, gives her a sniff, tugs on her dress, and gives a tut of disapproval. Rabbid Peach’s attitude is present through the whole game, even during the Game Over screen – I’ll soon get to exactly why I saw this so frequently – where she’ll storm off screen, throwing behind her crown, and then her wig. It’s this character that seeps into every inch of Mario + Rabbids that makes it so much fun to play.
Of course, if you’ve seen any gameplay you’ll know the basic flow is very much XCOM, but getting the chance to finally play it myself reveals how Ubisoft has created something much deeper, and arguably better.
The opening battle allows me to get to grips with the basics, a simple ‘kill all enemies’ objective in a mission from very early on in the game. What’s immediately apparent is, unlike XCOM, your squad benefits greatly from sticking close to one another. In XCOM the first thing I often do is spread my units out in a desperate search for the enemy, but in Mario + Rabbids, all enemies are visible from the start, meaning you can plan ahead, but also characters can team up to improve their movement and also unleash devastating attacks.
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When moving one character, if you hover over an ally within range, you can use a ‘springboard’ assist which allows you to kick off of their feet and move much further across the field. A field, I should add, which is absolutely stunning and brimming with colour. Ubisoft has done an amazing job recreating the world of Mario in its strategy game, all the while adding its own spin and sense of Rabbids’ excellent sense of humour.
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Enemy Rabbids look amazing, with such great variety of visuals and movesets that it keeps battles interesting. The worlds I visit are just gorgeous, taking inspiration from Super Mario 3D World’s Boo stages and of course the Mushroom Kingdom itself. Rabbid Peach even falls over as she sprints and reaches her destination, faceplanting before getting up and dusting herself off. It’s a game brimming with personality.
In the opening battle, I’m able to extend Mario’s movement by kicking off Rabbid Peach’s feet and reach higher ground, getting the advantage on the enemies below. Also, if enemies are close by, you can move BEEP-0’s cursor over them to initiate a ‘slide’, which will run and crash into enemies for 20 damage, but still give you a free run towards the next point of cover you want and attack from safety. It’s a great way to sneak a hit in, especially for baddies on low health, without wasting a turn.
Because allies can team up in everything they do, players can also switch between them on the fly, meaning you can position them all before attacking, switch to Mario to activate a booster which improves damage for all nearby allies, before unleashing hell on the baddies, then closing the turn by using Rabbid Peach’s heal on everyone within range. It’s an amazing system which is both simple to use and difficult to master.
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On the subject of difficulty, don’t let the cutesy visuals or the inclusion of Rabbids fool you: this game gets bone-crushingly hard.
I’m playing a mission around half-way through the game: Moonlight Sonata. The objective is to reach the opposite end of the map, an objective which I fail four times. My team is Mario, Luigi and Rabbid Peach, all equipped with much better weapons, special abilities and now an alternative attack – which for Luigi and Rabbid Peach is a remote-control car bomb and Mario a sledgehammer.
In the world of Spooky Trails, the aesthetic is absolutely brilliant, reminiscent of Deep Jungle Drift from 3D World thanks to its use of deep purples or Boo levels from New Super Mario Bros. Wii U. Enemies are also Hallowe’en-inspired, with Rabbids donning pumpkins on their heads or dressed as ghoulish knights. Also, in this level, any enemies you defeat come back from the dead after a couple of turns, making the mission even more difficult.
There are also three Boos which teleport around and, if you run through them on a turn, will pick you up and teleport you to a random point on the map at the end of said turn, which can be hugely frustrating.
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A tacticam can be activated before a battle or at any point during a level, giving a heads-up view of the terrain. Hovering over any enemy allows you to see their movement and attack ranges too, but it can only help so much once everything kicks off.
I try to move all three allies through a series of warp tunnels through the middle of the map, as the crow flies towards the endzone. But this proves the worst way to go, as all enemies quickly swarm on our position, and team up to do some devastating damage, wiping us out before I even get a chance to catch my bearings.
Enemies are much smarter in Mario + Rabbids than you’d expect. Every tool you have at your disposal, every combo attack and tag team manoeuvre, they also have and are more than willing to use. However, despite getting battered in this mission, not one of them pulls off a combo like I do in my last valiant attack.
I move Mario forward to some high cover just in front of two enemies, and activate his ‘oversight’ active ability, which means he’ll shoot any enemy in range he sees move. I then move Rabbid Peach forward, getting a springboard assist from Luigi on the way in order to have a big enough range to make it to the warp tunnel, and taking cover on the opposite side to Mario. I then switch back to Mario and activate his second booster, which grants increased damage to all allies in range. I then tell Peach to fire on one of the two baddies ahead, now armed with improved ballistics. The enemies aren’t in cover, meaning the shot has a 100% chance to hit. From what I’ve seen, Mario + Rabbids doesn’t deal in the XCOM “you have a 67% chance to land a hit” complexity, offering only 100/50/0 percentages.
After Rabbid Peach hits her target, I discover her gun has a “push” mod applied, which knocks the pumpkin-headed Rabbid backwards, which in turn activates Mario’s oversight, allowing me to get an additional shot at them. But what I then discover is Mario’s gun also has an ability of its own – bounce – which sends pumpkin-head flying out of the arena to his death.
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This moment alone reveals the incredible amount of depth available in Mario + Rabbid’s combat, and I can’t wait to dig even deeper and find out all of its possible combos and combinations.
I’ve been dying for a game like Mario + Rabbids on the Switch. It’s exactly the type of single-player experience the console needs for those times when I take it on the go. I just know I’ll want to play this in every spare moment I have on a journey.
Building an incredibly deep combat system, lovable characters and beautiful visuals, Ubisoft has done a superb job with the licence. Let’s hope the rest of the game is as brilliant as the two missions I have seen, because if it is, we could have another Game of the Year contender for the Switch.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle trailers
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