Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch)
This crossover between Nintendo's Mario and Ubisoft's Rabbids defied all expectations. It was a clever marketing strategy to keep this game a secret and unveil it only once it was close to completion to curbstomp all the predictable negativity. The result is a turn-based strategy game with guns and it does indeed work surprisingly well. The eight playable characters are Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi and four Rabbids versions of the aformentioned cast. Mario serves as the typical allrounder with balanced stats and abilities, Luigi takes on the appropriate cowardly role of the sniper, Peach has interesting healing and defense properties, Yoshi is equipped with his trademark ground pound. The Rabbids come largely with different combinations of guns, subweapons and abilities, but each one of them also possesses their own unique traits.
The singe-player campaign makes you control a party of three and Mario is locked into it at all times. That's only a minor annoyance because Mario does fit into any party, but an unlock option would have still been welcome. Depending on which characters you put into your party, your strategy has to be adjusted accordingly. For example, on one hand you have someone like Luigi who must be kept out of harm's way due to his low HP, on the other hand you have Rabbid Mario who must go full assault with his two short range weapons. Since skill points are given to new party members retro-actively, they can be instantly swapped in without any disadvantages to the player. That's good; what isn't, is that there aren't enough skill points to max out all abilities. Likewise, the money you earn isn't even remotely close to enough to buy all weapons for all characters.
The above are two problems that could have been fixed with the multiplayer campaign, but completion of those stages doesn't net any rewards in form of money or skill points. It's also baffling that multiplayer is mandatory for these separate challenges, so if you are alone, you have to play a turn-based game with two controllers. The only positive here is that every Switch comes with two controllers by default, but still... a bad design choice by the developers. The practical worth of a co-op campaign in a turn-based game comes down to what you talk about with your partner, namely the strategies you can come up with and what you decide to go with.
The flow of the single-player campaign is good. It's constantly a mix between battles and short segments of exploration in the loosest sense. While most of the treasure chests hold items for the art gallery, some do contain additional skill points. The completion of each world unlocks a new ability to explore previously unreachable areas, plus a series of challenges that net extra money and skill points. While the campaign doesn't feature any surprises, the constantly growing pool of abilities and options keeps the motivation high. Also, each chapter features a ranking that encourages you to finish battles in as few turns as possible while everyone stays alive.
Mario + Rabbids is a game that had me pondering if it's a 7 or an 8 all the way through. Ultimately I went with the lower score because buying all weapons isn't feasible without hours of tedious money grinding and because the multiplayer is too half-baked. The multiplayer allows you to take all unlocked characters, weapons and skills from the single-player campaign, but on the flipside this means that you will be severely overpowered for many battles. It would have been better if the multiplayer maps were more self-contained and put a limit on the weapons you can use.
||There's not much that can be done wrong in a turn-based
game and Mario + Rabbids doesn't commit any mistakes.
||Turn-based strategy game with eight distinct playable
characters that allow for very different strategies.
||The cringe-worthy intro aside, Mario + Rabbids scores
with a lot of humor and funny animations.
||Four worlds to conquer, interesting skill trees and a lot of
weapons. Unfortunately, money is in short supply.
||Co-op with two teams of two characters in three difficulties.
Serviceable, but it feels tacked on.
||Colorful and detailed with occasional framerate drops.
Close-ups can result in unintentional slow motion.
||The music is fitting for all given locations, but it doesn't
reach the heights of other Mario soundtracks.
||15 hours to finish the campaign, another 15 to complete
all challenges and find all goodies. Separate multiplayer maps.
||Using different characters changes things up, but it doesn't
feel fresh anymore. Cutscenes need to be watched at least once.
||Mario + Rabbids is a crossover that turned out better than anyone
expected, but that doesn't yield a bonus point in the review score.