Developer/publisher Ubisoft (Paris, Milan) Format Switch Release August 29
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Metroid Prime 4, Rocket League, Sushi Striker: The Way Of Sushido, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Fire Emblem Warriors, Yoshi, Metroid: Samus Returns, Kirby
The last thing we expected the Rabbids to have was a brain. Yet the detestable creatures’ next outing sees gaming’s most beloved avatar fights side by side with Rayman’s furry, moronic annoyances. And it’s smart. This turn-based strategy RPG borrows much from XCOM. Yes, including the guns — we’re still struggling to process that. Miyamoto asked Ubisoft to “try and make a Mario game that has never been made before”. Job done.
Our three-hero squad consists of Mario himself alongside — bite your tongue, now — Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi. The trick is manoeuvering each into favourable squares within their allotted movement fields (indicated by a blue border). You must set up attack rounds for your team while minimising the damage from the enemy Rabbids’ turns, using various kinds of offensive and defensive positioning — including half or full cover, as in the XCOM games — keeping team members with key skills close, while leaving emergency escape options open.
Not that there’s much in the way of crisis in our demo. It’s frustrating that the AI doesn’t put up much of a fight, because movement options soar way beyond XCOM’s stilted traversal. We can send a character directly to an enemy square for a melee slide tackle, then select where they skid to afterwards. They can then perform a follow-up shot from their blaster — if the percentage chance is high enough to allow a hit.
This combo proves essential, and we’re soon incorporating the white warp pipes along the sides of the board. In a single turn, we can use them to get around the back of an enemy, tackle them, then whizz through the pipes to the other side and into cover for a second shot at a different target. Sending them to an ally afterwards also reaps dividends: slide-striking an enemy with Rabbid Peach, perhaps, then moving her to Mario to be thrown behind cover.
One section featuring a Chain Chomp that attacks the character closest to it requires a little more care over positioning, but otherwise, it’s plain sailing. Perhaps it’s aimed at a younger audience, but there’s significant depth under Mario + Rabbids’ vibrant surface. Characters and blasters offer specific abilities: Rabbid Peach can use her built-up energy meter to heal the team, for example, while the Piranha Pelter has a chance to deal enemy-slowing ‘honey’ damage.
It’s a lot to take in, which is either a brilliant surprise or intimidating, depending on the age of the person picking up the game. Whether it contains that Nintendo magic to cater to all ages is still doubtful – and such a drastic new style of game is quite the risk. But if there’s anything we’ve learnt, it’s that Nintendo retains the capacity to counter expectations. So, on this evidence, does Ubisoft.
Battles are broken up by gentle exploration, as you guide your gang around the Mushroom Kingdom via a sort of sentient roomba named Beep-0