I can’t stop playing “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.” Could any endorsement be stronger?
Allow me to be up front about another major aspect of “Mario + Rabbids: Battle Kingdom”: It’s outrageously stupid. And it takes that stupidity very seriously.
That’s a good thing, to be clear. More than just a surprise, “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle” is a genuinely excellent game that’s sure to be the start of an entirely new franchise. It’s also entirely different from what you might expect from a game starring the Mario crew.
The conceit, plot-wise, of 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' is that the infamous Rabbids -- Ubisoft's kid-friendly, maniacal rabbit characters -- have invaded the Mushroom Kingdom by accident. Worse: One of the Rabbids has a futuristic headset on (seen above) that combines objects, and in the transfer from wherever the Rabbids come from to the Mushroom Kingdom, that headset was corrupted.
Thus, everything the headset sees (which is being blindly, accidentally fired by said Rabbid) is being turned into an enemy that Mario and his pals must defeat. Here's the dastardly Rabbid in question:
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He looks confused and scared because he is exactly that. He just wanted to play with a toy, and now he's an accidental villain.
'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' is not a typical Mario game. You don't leap from platform to platform, or stomp Goombas. Instead, Mario has a gun. Really.
In fact, everyone has a gun 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.' Luigi's a sniper! Who would have thought? That's because the main thing you're doing in the game is facing off against armed enemies in 'turn-based' battles.
It looks like nothing you've seen before in a Mario game:
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There's a lot going on in this image, I realise. Bear with me.
The first thing you need to know is that this is a battle screen, and this is the main thing you do in 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' (as the name implies). It's a 'turn-based' strategy game, meaning you and your teammates have a chance to move around a battlefield, line up shots, and otherwise strategize before turning over control to the enemy. Whoever survives the battle wins.
Each member of your team can perform three actions during their turn: move, shoot, and one special move. In the image above, you can see Mario in the lower right, crouching behind cover; Rabbid Peach is on one side of a block, and Luigi is on the other. Each of them has health ratings (211 for Peach, for instance), and you can see that her 'Rainbow Runner' weapon is selected. There don't appear to be any enemies in sight. Not yet, anyway.
Above all, 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' is a strategy game. If you're a fan of the 'XCOM' series, you'll be right at home here.
Battlefields are on a grid system -- each of the squares on the floor in the image above are considered one space. During your turn on the battlefield, each of your team members can move a certain number of spaces. You can multiply that by chaining movement between team members -- if you move Luigi, for instance, onto a space occupied by Mario, Mario will offer a jump assist to Luigi that enables him to move further than he otherwise could. In this way, you can also reach higher ground -- which is often strategically crucial, just like in real battle.
This becomes more complex and intense as the game goes on, forcing you to think through every move carefully. In a very Mario-esque way, 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' builds on simple systems over time to create a complex overall system that requires mastery.
The game starts with enemies that can only move and shoot. It then quickly introduces new foes that force you to re-think strategy.
In the image above, there are basic enemies (the ones with cactus hats) and healers (the ones with headphones). If you don't take out the healers first, they will continue healing their teammates while you get crushed.
In this simple way, the game introduces new types of enemies that force new types of strategies.
How do you deal with those same enemies while a chain chomp is threatening anything that comes near it?
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Carefully! You deal with it carefully. But those enemies are in the same boat you are -- if they get near it, they get bit. So maybe you bait them towards it! That's up to you.
The parts of 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' that aren't focused on strategically battling enemies in turn-based combat are instead focused on puzzle solving and (very light) exploration. The 'overworld' of the game isn't exactly rich with interactivity.
You can collect coins (which you'll use to buy new weapons for your team), find hidden treasure chests (which unlock new weapons for purchase or contain other goodies), and solve puzzles. None of this stuff is extremely complex, which is good because it's not the meat of the game.
That said, the world of 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' is rich with bizarre imagery and hilarious asides. It turns out that mashing up the Mushroom Kingdom with Rabbids results in an even more surrealist landscape than standard Mario games.
Though the story of 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' is obviously light-hearted and silly, the level of detail put into the genuinely absurd in-game world is impressive and goes a long way in storytelling without exposition.
I find myself laughing out loud often while playing 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle,' which is pretty rare. It's a game that doesn't take itself very seriously, but takes its silliness extremely seriously.
Though 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' isn't a standard Mario game, it's charming and smartly designed and well-worth your time.
Even if you're completely turned off by the idea of a turn-based Mario game, or you've never played a strategy game before, there's no reason to skip 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.' It holds your hand through the process of learning how strategy games work, and never gets so complex that it's out of reach.
In the same way the 'Mario + Luigi' series made turn-based role-playing games accessible, 'Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle' makes turn-based strategy games accessible. It's fun and colourful and everything else you already love about Mario games, but it's an entirely new type of game -- arguably, a type of game that's underserved by game makers (especially those as able as Nintendo).