I nearly spit out my cola when I first saw the trailer for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battleat the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June. I mean, the game has a Rabbid Peach? Why?
So it wasn't a surprise when I learnt of this game's rather convoluted story.
A young genius' experiments, which include object-merging goggles and a time-travel washing machine, have gone wrong, causing the worlds of Mario and Rabbids - crazy rabbit-like creatures that love to cause havoc and speak gibberish - to collide. And the denizens of both worlds are somehow teleported to the Mushroom Kingdom and are wreaking havoc there.
You have blur Rabbid Luigi and selfie-loving Rabbid Peach joining the likes of the real Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Peach to battle rogue Rabbids to save Mushroom Kingdom and return all back to their rightful worlds.
At the start of the game, you get to control Mario, Rabbid Luigi and Rabbid Peach with a vacuum cleaner-like robot with bunny ears, called Beep-O (who does not do battle), who leads you around Mushroom Kingdom to solve the mystery behind this predicament.
You are later joined by the real Luigi, Yoshi, Peach and other characters. You can inter-change them to form your team of three for battles.
It is all a bit "cartoony" but at least Mushroom Kingdom is beautifully crafted with smooth graphics and bright vivid colours. It is pure eye candy, whether playing on the Switch's screen or the TV set.
As you traverse the Mushroom Kingdom, you get to pick up coins and solve puzzles in order to gain access to the next area, before moving to places where battle is activated.
When battle is activated, you get to first survey the battleground to see where the enemies are located and where there is good cover for your team members before heading into the fight.
During battles, you move each team member to get good cover or strategic high ground. You can use one team member to fling another further into the battleground. You can also engage in melee attacks.
Each of your team members has special abilities with cool-down timers (that are recharged after three turns) as well as primary and secondary weapons.
PRICE: $89.90 (Nintendo Switch only)
GENRE: Turn-based strategy
For example, Mario possesses the special ability to attack when enemies appear within his line of sight during the enemies' turn to move. You can opt to increase these abilities or gain new abilities later on.
The gameplay and controls might be simple, but the game actually requires careful strategic thinking - because, after your turn, your enemies will similarly move and attack your team. At times, they will outsmart you by flanking your positions if you choose the wrong spot for cover.
Your enemies are varied, from Rabbids to a big boss like Rabbid Kong. Some enemies might not have ranged weapons but will immediately react to your attacks with melee attacks.
It was really great fun thinking of the shortest way to win a battle by moving each character to advantageous positions and using all the weapons and abilities at your disposal.
The game progresses in terms of difficulty. If you think it is getting too difficult for you, you have the option to go for the Easy mode before the battle starts. Doing so will heal your team members and increase their hit points by 50 per cent.
You are rated according to how many turns you take to finish the objective, which might be defeating all of the enemies or getting to the exit point.
Do so with fewer turns than stipulated, and you will get to earn more coins. With more coins, you get to buy better weapons that will aid you in battles.
• Verdict: Beneath the whacky humour and vivid colours, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a deep, turn-based strategy game that requires careful and strategic thinking. This is one game that Nintendo Switch gamers must buy.