Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a turn-based strategy game made by Ubisoft in which you play as various Mario characters with rabbid counterparts fighting against other rabbids XCOM style in what could be described as 'the weirdest gaming concept of 2017.' But what is even more surprising is the fact that Mario Rabbids goes beyond a weird concept to deliver a fresh new take on sub genre that I found enjoyable...sort of.
The story follows a girl who invented a device that can merge two items into one. She also invented a robot assistant named Beep-O, who will be accompanying you in this journey. One day, while the inventor was away, those pesky rabbids showed up with their time washing machine and proceeded to trash the place. But one of the rabbids took the merge device and caused a malfunction, throwing the rabbids and some Mario characters into a strange dimension. But that isn't the only thing wrong with this world. The rabbid that had the merge device merged with the device, and everything he merges, except for your rabbid companions, is corrupted and wants to stop you from cleaning up the chaos that is this game.
When I heard about this game, I thought that the game would focus so much on making a weird concept that the gameplay would be some simplified form of XCOM that was bare bones to a point that would make the game terrible. And while this game is simplified in some ways, Mario Rabbids puts in new elements into the formula that makes the game feel fresh while also feeling like a great place for newcomers into the turn-based genre to start.
Where a lot of turn-based games focus on hunkering down and shooting, Mario Rabbids takes a movement-based approach. Instead of hiding in cover and shooting, the game wants you to use your characters and their abilities as the weapons, concocting combo moves and finishing off each character turn with their weapons like a cherry on top. For example, instead of moving to a cover and shooting dudes, I could make Mario slide into enemy a, circle back to an ally where I can jump off of them like a springboard, land on top of enemy b, and finally jump off of enemy b and land in an area where I can shoot enemy c, finishing my turn just for Mario. Making these combo moves with each character made the game more puzzly than others, and successfully pulling off these moves was really rewarding. This plus other factors like degrading cover, certain enemies, and environmental enemies, and you have gameplay that is different from the rest in a good way.
Other positive aspects I found in the gameplay include diverse enemies , boss fights that were a lot of fun (and sometimes even funny), decent challenges that gave a reason to go back and explore the area, and characters with diverse abilities. But the gameplay wasn't all great. Weapons were not that diverse, with each character having a set weapon style and the only changes between each weapon being damage and elemental effects, an easy difficulty that only gives character more health, team restrictions such as requiring Mario being on the team or requiring at least one rabbid in the team, and more. But what was really bad gameplay-wise wasn't even in the combat. In between each combat level were little exploration areas where puzzles could or had to be solved. At first, I thought the exploration parts and the puzzles were fine, but the more I played the more I hated them, feeling like time-waster to me more than anything.
Despite the unique gameplay, what really stole the show for me with this game was the music. The music, by Grant Kirkhope, elevated the battles with orchestral-heavy music that made the game feel epic. Anything from the peaceful melody of the home base to loud tune of a boss and everything in between, this music was the highlight of the game for me, even above the movement-based style the game makes.
I talked about the best part of the game, now let's talk about the worst. When I first started playing the game, I honestly thought it was a 5/5 game. The first two worlds were incredibly strong, and I was having a great time with the game. Unfortunately, by world three I was done with this experience. I played the first two worlds just like any other game, but it actually took me months to get through the next two worlds. I honestly cannot say why my experience in the second half of the game was nowhere near as great as the first, but my guess is the way things progressed. The first half of the game progressed well in terms of enemies, levels, worlds, puzzles, and more. But the second half just felt like more of the first half, and instead of progression it through hurdles at you and tested the skills you learned from the first half. The second bad half is sole reason why this review is a 3/5. Normally, I wouldn't be this harsh, but this is half of the game we are talking about here. What was an impressive flame this game started out as was snuffed by the second half, and whenever I think of the game I think of the great potential this game had, only to be thrown away by a second half. It's such a shame, because I was rooting for this game up until the release.
The verdict: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a game full of surprises. From the concept to the gameplay and even to the music, this game impressed me with how good a game could be, even with a weird premise. But what started out great ended out weak, and it was the second half of the game that made me wish that this was only the first half of the game at half the price.