Ubisoft wheeled out some of the industry’s biggest hitters to unveil Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle at this year’s E3 Show – Nintendo’s Mr Mario himself, Shigeru Miyamoto, along with the French publisher’s genial CEO, Yves Guillemot. And why not? You could see why Ubisoft would want to shout about a crossover game in which the worlds of its anarchic (but sometimes annoying) Ravin Rabbids and the moustachioed plumber merged. Miyamoto took pains to point out that he had one stipulation for the game’s development team: that it come out with something completely unlike any existing Mario game. It certainly succeeded in that aim, but what we weren’t expecting was that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle would turn out to be quite so good.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is pretty easy to describe to a hardcore gamer:
it’s XCOM, set in a version of the Mushroom Kingdom which has invaded by those pesky Rabbids. Which means its a turn-based tactical combat game. If that not sound wildly exciting in this day and age, don’t fooled: it proves to be as addictive as crack, and to provide plenty of laughs (often slyly undermining the decades of lore that underpin the Mario games) along the way.
Story-wise, it kicks off in the human world, where a Mario-obsessive geek has created a VR helmet called the SupaMerge, which can take two objects and combine them. A dimension-travelling washing machine full of Rabbids crashes the party, and ends up getting beamed to the Mushroom Kingdom, where havoc ensues. The home of Mario, Luigi, Peach et al ends up not only littered with giant versions of human objects (you often spy things like a Bullet Bill ensnared in a pair of underpants) but infested by armed Rabbids.
Meanwhile, Bowser Jr nabs the Rabbid with the SupaMerge – dubbing him Spawny in the process – and Mario and chums embark on a quest to catch him and restore the Mushroom Kingdom to equilibrium. That quest spans four worlds, each containing nine chapters plus one secret one (which you must revisit each finished world to find).
Mario has a three-strong team for battling the Rabbids (plus environmental hazards that pop up like Chain Chomps, Boos and the like). Initially, the other two members are Peach Rabbid and Luigi Rabbid: the former, in particular, generates some hilarious moments, such as when she meets the real Princess Peach. As you progress, you accumulate other team members, including Rabbid Mario and the real Luigi.
Team members specific skills:
Rabbid Peach, for example, can heal nearby team members, while Luigi can move further than the others. And sometimes after a battle, your team members not returned to full health, so swapping your team around is a crucial tactical consideration. Especially since new types of Rabbid enemies continually appear – such as healers and giant tanks which are pretty dumb and move slowly, but cause vast amounts of damage by hitting your team members with big slabs of ice.