Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Genre(s): Adventure, Strategy, Tactical, Turn-based strategy
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 20/10/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Back in 2017, the Mario and Rabbids announcement was a bit of a shock, not least a gamble on behalf of Ubisoft, who combined one of gaming’s greatest icons with one of its most irritating spinoffs. Well, boy do we have something for you! Its sequel has recently been released, bringing more Minion-like antics to the mushroom kingdom, and beyond.
The story takes place some time after the events of the first game, and the Rabbids live side by side with the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom. All of a sudden, star shaped Rabbids, known as Sparks, fall from the sky. These friendly creatures turn out to have been followed by a large flying manta ray that quickly covers everything in a dark substance called Darkmess. During a victorious standoff, a strange hooded entity named Cursa appears, looking quite similar to a friend, and mind-controls some Goombas to attack. Mario and the rest of the team are now tasked with travelling across the galaxy in order to defeat Curse’s Darkmess, gather enough purified crystals, and find out if Rosalina is safe.
A Whole New World(s)
Fans who’ve played the first game, will be pleased to see some great improvements to the turn-based, strategy RPG mechanics. One noticeable improvement is the way the game treats the exploration segments. Rather than its predecessor, levels are fully fleshed out landscapes which invite players to explore. The level will have NPCs that will require help with a myriad of side quests, which reward items, money, new Spark companions and World coins. One personal criticism of the first game was the lack of interactions, and restrictions of movement within the map sections. This time, the game truly feels like a true Mario 3D game, albeit without the jumping mechanic.
Combat has also seen a nice change with each character behaving more akin to a class type through their weapons and skills. All will have a single use dash attack, as well as a propeller hover, which can help traverse over obstacles and enemies, and a special ability. This really plays into who to use and how their traits will aid you. Mario has two pistols and is an all-rounder of sorts, and can aim at two enemies in a single turn, or focus the entire attack on one. Both Mario and Luigi have an overwatch mechanic as their special, which will cause them to fire at any enemy within their line of sight.
Rabbid Peach is more of a healer, with her special focusing on mending whoever is within range. During combat there is no grid system, as you are allowed to travel within a radius and have two actions before your turn ends. I did feel that this complemented the overall fluidity of the game, and although not a cake walk, attention is needed and planning can be the difference between victory or defeat. This is especially true, since I had no means of reviving a downed teammate during the first ten hours of my playthrough.
After the battle ends in your favour, the whole team will level up, whether they partook in the fight or not, and points can be allocated to skill trees. Don’t worry if you regret spending points on specific traits, as they can be refunded and placed somewhere best suited.
Spark de Triomphe
The Sparks that are found across the galaxy become useful allies, both in and out of combat, aiding the team as extra elemental attacks or passive buffs. There are some that are needed to shatter specific rocks or that reveal hidden items during the exploration parts of the game. With a decent thirty Sparks to join your quest, it becomes a real incentive to complete every mini quest and check every nook and cranny. They especially become an incredible asset when they synergize with the character’s specific skills, or when many are equipped. Some are better suited for combat than others, but their broad variety promotes experimentation, which in a game like this, is important.
A Work of Spark
A lot of charm has been infused into the visuals and audio, with each Rabbid in your party being fully voiced. This really brings out their personality and adds to the humour, albeit it won’t be to everyone’s liking. I found Rabbid Mario’s quotes particularly funny, especially when punching enemies, as he counts “1, 2, 4!” The soundtrack is whimsical and the visuals, although slightly rough-edged at times, are truly beautiful, especially when landing on each of the different biomes. This is especially true when the Darkmess ooze has consumed the area, giving it a bleak and sombre tone. It is very rewarding to defeat the Darkmess and restore the world to its original, radiant and colourful beauty. I did feel that the camera could have zoomed out slightly more during the exploration segments, as I couldn’t really appreciate the Dali styled surrealism of enlarged crockery and food that littered the landscape.
To Infinity and Beyond
As a fan of XCOM style games, I can truly say that this was a must have in my ever growing library. What sets this apart from the rest, is the sum of all its parts; especially the refined exploration segments and the abundant amount of collectibles to hunt down. The game does have that Ubisoft touch of imaginative and aesthetically pleasing visuals and audio, but what has truly captured my attention is the variety of different builds that can be created from combining your team with Sparks. There are some minor imperfections but nothing really noteworthy. I am personally looking forward to the DLC as it arrives in the future.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can buy Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope in the Nintendo eShop
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.