No, I didn’t think a crossover between the worlds of Mario and the Rabbids would work either, but somehow, it does. Perhaps it’s partly because the gameplay doesn’t borrow from either party, and Mario + Rabbids becomes its own thing. Instead of precision platforming or nonsensical minigames, this game provides a fun turn based strategy game interspersed with some puzzles (mainly of the switch pressing or block pushing variety).
It’s not quite Xcom or Ubisoft’s earlier Nintendo title Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (which was excellent), as it takes that gameplay but twists it. As well as moving your units (a collection of Mushroom Kingdom regulars and Rabbid-ised versions of Mushroom Kingdom regulars), each move you can perform sliding tackles, jumps (which can let you move further, heal status effects, and allow stomp attacks). There’s also two special powers each character has that have cooldown timers and can be triggered in addition to moving and attacking. These vary from defensive shields to attack boosts, to “movement sensors”, where when an enemy moves either during their turn or as a side-effect of another attack, your character gets a free shot.
Each character is different too, with different move limits, skills like being able to jump on two heads in succession, able to slide tackle up to three enemies per move, and weapons. Some weapons have a “damage cone” whereby the further away from the source you go, the wider the blast goes but the less damage it does. Some weapons can destroy cover blocks, and others fire over blocks, set fire to characters, or stop them from attacking, moving or using special skills.
Then there’s environmental stuff to take into account. Some levels have raised areas that give you an attack bonus if you’re shooting lower-down enemies. Pipes let you travel to other parts of the area and add a bonus set of movement spaces when you emerge – some levels you can zip around really quickly as a result. On other levels, lava rains down on certain spots every so often, and sometimes hidden in cover blocks are crates that, when hit, cause negative status effects on anyone stood next to them.
There’s a lot to take in, and considering the blue skies and silliness that coats Mario + Rabbids, there’s a surprising amount of strategy. Having to take into account how some enemies react to attacks, or can only be damaged from behind, or will take advantage of your three team members being bunched up together, plus there’s needing to remember that your shots could damage your own team (particularly important when setting up for a “movement sensor” attack) and how some enemies can heal or teleport.
That said, it isn’t especially difficult. Apart from having to try again, you lose nothing for failing a mission. You’re given bonus awards if all three of your chosen team remain alive at the end (after which they’re revived anyway) and if you’ve won in under a certain number of moves, but again, there’s no major penalty for not managing this besides getting fewer coins with which to buy better weapons. Coins are everywhere, however, so you won’t go short.
Outside of the main levels, you explore each of the four worlds and solve little puzzles, look behind scenery, and so on in order to get more coins, unlockable art and music, and – most importantly – skill upgrade tokens. Yes, each character has a skill tree, and these skill tokens are spent adding movement distance, damage, HP and skill cooldown timer buffs.
Mario + Rabbids is a great looking, ridiculous concept which is far more fun than it deserves to be. It’s addictive, and although it’s easy there are loads of challenges that open up as you play with additional harder ones once you’ve finished. And even the Rabbids somehow fit.