Despite the fact that your foes are the homicidal, toilet humour-loving Rabbids, don’t think of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle as an easy strategy game. While your foes may seem like they’re a little off, they will surprise you with their cunning, ruthlessness, and versatility. It’s an upbeat, silly, and fun adventure, pushing players to come up with crafty battle plans.
The Rabbids have a time travelling washing machine. They get some weird tech that makes a huge mess of the Mushroom Kingdom. A few of them become Rabbid versions of Mario and his pals. It’s not a fancy story, but it’s enough to keep the game’s great turn-based tactical battles rolling, and it also knows enough to pop in with a few sight gags and jokes, but otherwise stay out of the way.
Players will control three units in Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, drawing from Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and Rabbid versions of these characters, each with their own movesets that players can put to use in grid-based, turn based tactical combat. Players will be able to manoeuvre their units around a map filled with cover, terrain of various heights, and warping pipes, positioning their characters to take a shot at their goofy Rabbid foes.
This being a Mario title, though, moving around is more involved—and entertaining—than just altering position. Players can move their unit over top of an enemy unit, which will do a tripping slide that gives players free damage while walking around. Should players move on top of a friendly unit, they activate a free jump that will allow them to cover extra distance, reach higher terrain, or help Mario come crashing down on an enemy’s head.
All of these add a little flavour to movement, as players can squeeze a few extra hits, or cover huge distances by manipulating where everyone is positioned. It’s a snap to have Mario and his allies bouncing on each other’s heads to cross the map in a hurry, or reach positions in ways strategy veterans might not expect.
Each character in Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle does have their own ranged abilities, allowing them to blast foes from a good distance. Cover comes into play here, but it’s a fairly simple system. You can have 0%, 50%, or 100% cover based on what you stand behind or beside, and your relative position to enemies. If you miss, you hit the cover, but a few shots into cover will break it down, eventually leaving the character defenseless. Also, with the distance you can cover with team jumps, cover is rarely a certain thing.
Your shots involve more than just exchanging fire, often causing useful status ailments. Weapons can stick enemies in place with honey, send them flying with a bounce, or stop them from doing anything with stone. Many guns feature an additional chance to cause these effects, giving players an extra edge in combat and allowing them to play around with what they feel works best in a fight.
Just expect your enemies to use those same powers with alarming frequency, and deadly effectiveness, after the first chapter. Our E3 preview mentioned that things started easy and became more challenging, and that is spot on. While Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle’s Rabbid foes may seem like unassuming morons, they are brutal fighters. The game offers a few easy battles for players to learn the mechanics, but then players will find the Rabbids using clever tactics and traps with a dogged determination to hunt down and take out the weakest characters. You cannot count on them doing anything stupid or wasting a round.
If a character is weakened, they will dog them until they’re dead. If you’re doing an escort mission, they will set up traps using an ability that gives them a free hit on moving characters. They will lock down multiple characters with sticky status ailments, or detonate traps hidden in cover to take players out. Those are just the basic units, as more powerful creatures and bosses are introduced regularly, each adding some new challenge for players to think through. The Rabbids may look stupid, but they are clever tacticians. Not to the point of many highly complicated strategy games, but they do fight smart, giving players some involving battles that are really fun to work through.
Fighting them is combined with some stirring music from Grant Kirkhope as well. The soundtrack is a powerful one, using a sweeping orchestral score that matches the serious challenge of combat, although it seems almost too serious for the game’s absurd enemies. Which is almost sillier, as hearing these soaring musical heights alongside dopey Rabbid laughter is enough to crack you up.
Battle isn’t all this game has going for it, though. A distorted Mushroom Kingdom awaits exploration, with players able to wander around, discover secret treasures like weapons and artwork, or solve puzzles, which gives it that Mario-like sense of exploration. That the world is vibrant and ridiculous, filled with nods to the Rabbids’ characteristic humour, only makes wandering it more entertaining.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is not without a few flaws. It is fairly easy to commit to an action with no way of backing out of it, resulting in some botched moves while players might just be considering options. The various characters can also be levelled up various skill trees, but much of these bear similarities to other characters, offering few unique builds between them. Moving around on the map is also just slightly clunky, which is fine until you try to do a puzzle that requires precise positioning, which can get irritating.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a gorgeous adventure and an engrossing tactical romp that offers a solid challenge and some unique combat quirks that will please tactical fans. Add in the ridiculous antics from the Rabbids and some wonderful creativity in the environments in the music and Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a strategy game players dare not miss.