Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle Hands-On Preview – Independence Day
The disbelief the collective gaming community felt when a Mario and Rabbids title was leaked was palpable. Rabbids, the deformed rabbit-men that once invaded the Rayman universe – and never left – have now made their way to the Mushroom Kingdom. The good news is that Mario isn’t quite as lackadaisical as his limbless pal – those Minion-looking creepers have got to go, and Mario needs the Rabbids to exit ASAP. Rexit, if you will.
But hey now, aside from looking like they were spawned by Satan himself, the Rabbids aren’t all that bad, and what was by far my favorite takeaway from the Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle demo was that they’re not actually as obnoxious as many had feared. Yes, they’re in your team, and the Peach Rabbids looks incredibly unnerving, but when gameplay is underway, it’s actually all fine.
Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle plays out similarly to X-COM, as you position Mario and his two Rabbid pals behind cover and shoot at the enemy Rabbids invaders. If enemies are within your movement range, you can powerslide them to do damage, before hiding behind cover and taking a shot. If your pals are within your movement range, they can give you a boost jump flying you farther into the level – there’s actually a surprising amount of strategy at play, despite the simple and cute appearance.
Though, simple and cute isn’t a bad way of describing it either. This doesn't have X-COM levels of depth – this is still a Mario game, after all – and that’s no bad thing. Still, the overworld is shockingly detailed, and your Roomba-like robot companion BEEP-0 can comment on and shout at lazy Rabbids not helping to clean up the Mushroom Kingdom. Despite being developed by Ubisoft instead of Nintendo, it feels like an authentic Mario title. Stages, environments and sound effects all have that Nintendo sheen and quality we've come to expect from the Big N.
The level of polish isn’t the only thing that feels distinctly Mario either – the Mushroom Kingdom is just as authentic as you want it to be, as you can see on the battlefield. Cover takes the form of familiar Brick Blocks that break apart as they’re damaged, warp pipes litter the stages, making convenient shortcuts to different parts of stages – even if some of them are Rabbids-themed – and even stage hazard enemies pop up, like Chain Chomp, who’ll slowly roam stages chomping and damaging whoever is in his way, friend or foe. This is definitely more of a Mario game than a Rabbid game – and that’s an overwhelming relief.
Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle is shaping up surprisingly well. It’s fun to play, has a good sense of humor, and despite the initial repulsion many may feel at the mere sight of the Rabbids creatures, they’re actually quite palatable and don’t interfere at all with Mario’s brightly colored aesthetic. This is actually a great game to look forward to this year; it will be available on August 29th worldwide, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.