I was a little disappointed that more imagination wasn't extended to the design of these worlds as they follow Mario conventions a little too rigidly. Elements of the Rabbid world that are brought to the game are limited to white pipes that are functionally identical to their Mushroom Kingdom counterparts. This feels like a bit of a missed opportunity as the 'wackiness' of the Rabbids is never really taken particularly far.
The player takes three selected characters, one of which must be Mario, and engages them in battle across a battlefield in turn-based combat that utilises a grid system. Each character chosen by the player has specific strengths and weaknesses, and so choosing the right team for the right battle is an important tactical consideration. Characters can be upgraded via a skill tree, but fortunately even if characters are not part of a battle they still receive skill points. This is a relief as I found in later stages that characters I had previously ignored were much more well suited to the battles at hand.
Battle objectives vary between the standard 'defeat all enemies' to escort missions and others where the goal is to simply escape without being defeated. Battles usually take between 15 and 20 minutes to complete, meaning that failure does not feel too punishing.
However, the game does feature rather odd difficulty spikes. On several occasions I easily defeated a number of levels and then found myself stuck, with the following level suddenly feeling significantly easier once I had been victorious.
This is particularly egregious in World 3, the low point of the game, where I found myself frequently running into difficulty spikes. One level in particularly took me nearly the whole of a car trip to Leeds with fellow host to The Computer Game Show, David Turner, to beat. He was rather tired of the expletives the level generated and couldn't understand why, after I had finally beat it, I felt so satisfied.
The core battle design in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
is excellent and, aside from the aforementioned difficulty issues, extremely fun. It is a shame that in between levels traversal of the world map is rather joyless.
In order to add some diversity to the gameplay, or perhaps extend the length of the game, the player must frequently engage in rather tedious block-pushing puzzles. The first one I did was okay, the second felt like busy work, by World 3 I began to dread the time outside of battle. Perhaps simply having combat would have led to accusations of limited gameplay, but more thought could have been given to activities in the overworld. Perhaps the inclusion of some platforming puzzles, utilising the abilities that the characters gain throughout the game would have worked. I would have preferred the game to have stuck solely to what it is best at, the solid combat mechanics of the turned-based battles.
Overall, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
is an enjoyable game, let down somewhat by conservative design choices regarding gameplay and visual styles. As a strategy game it excels, offering a good level of depth and variety to make battles engaging and in many cases very memorable. Improvements in world traversal and the reigning in of the cutscenes could have turned this from being a good game into a great one. I certainly hope that we might see a return of the Rabbids to the Mushroom Kingdom in the not too distant future.
+ Battle mechanics are well realised.
+ Charming character design.
+ Well executed cross-over.
- Cutscenes are overly long.
- Tedious block puzzles between levels.
- Conservative world design.
SPOnG Score: 7/10