Ubisoft’s Mario mash-up gives classic character a new spin

|     Benedikt Wenck     |

SUPER Mario is by far the most famous face in the world of video games, and therefore also a priceless brand for his creator, Nintendo.

No wonder, then, that the Japanese video games company only rarely lets other developers get their hands on Mario. But Nintendo has made an exception with ‘Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle’ for Nintendo Switch, allowing Ubisoft to not only develop a Mario game, but to mash up the plumber’s world with its own ‘Raving Rabbids’ brand.

As the game begins, the anarchical white Rabbids (rabbits, to you and me) find themselves in the laboratory of an inventor, who has just created a pair of glasses that can fuse different objects together.

The Rabbids steal the spectacles and are thrown into Mario’s mushroom kingdom, where they basically cause mayhem.

The hyperactive rabbits are mashed together with different objects, from lampshades to fireballs and cheap copies of Mario figures, such as Princess Peach and dinosaur Yoshi.

Mario recognises the gravity of the problem and makes it his goal to eliminate the chaos with his new friends Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi, and a small robot as their sidekick.

‘Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle’ is a surreal reimagining of the traditional Mario landscape
Mario recognises that his world has become overrun with ‘Rabbids’ and makes it his goal to eliminate the chaos with his new friends Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi

Unlike other famous Mario titles, ‘Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle’ is no classic platformer. It is instead a turn-based tactical game that is more reminiscent of the science fiction ‘X-COM’ or the classic ‘Jagged Alliance’.

Players control the group of characters that surround Mario, equipped with hand-fireballs for throwing at opponents. Their goal is to bring Mario to cover, using the different abilities of the characters in clever combinations.

Between battles, the group explores a world created with lots of expressive detail, in which recognisable features of the Mario and Rabbids worlds regularly appear. There are also a few puzzles to solve to acquire various collectibles and extra coins. The latter can be invested in, for example, more powerful weapons for protecting the group.

In total, the players traverse four worlds, divided into several chapters. Some objects appear quite early on in the game that players can only interact with much later. It is also worth returning to completed worlds, where particularly tricky bonus challenges await you.

Whereas in the beginning, fights are punctuated with lots of explanation and are against relatively attack-light opponents, the difficulty level increases sharply after you pass the first world.

‘Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle’ is certainly a challenge and not without depth, but it is nowhere near as complex as the ‘X-COM’ series. The game is therefore a good initiation into the genre.

This is underlined by the fact that, despite the battling, it remains family friendly: No one has to die in the fights – defeated Rabbids are simply beamed back to Princess Peach’s castle garden.

And the game definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, what with the high slapstick factor and anarcho-humour of the Rabbids – they race around getting up to all sorts of mischief, but never in an annoying way.

Ubisoft has also delivered in the technical domain. The game looks just as amazing on the Switch display as on a television screen.

It is full of loud colours and hidden, humorous details. The screen occasionally freezes for a few seconds, but after a brief pause, starts up again. According to user reviews, you can avoid these buckles by setting the Switch to flight mode.

‘Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle’ is an outstanding addition to Nintendo’s rather young console. Those of you dreading another bland mashup of elements a la ‘Plants vs Zombies’ will be pleasantly surprised.

The unique humour of the Rabbids, the different characters and the wide variety of riddles offer a mix that is unlike any other strategy game of its kind. The game has a lower age limit of six, and costs between 50 and 60 euros. – Text and Photos by DPA