When Ubisoft announced that it was teaming its bizarre bug-eyed, gap-toothed rabbis characters with Nintendo’s (NTDOY) iconic mascot Mario for a turn-based strategy game, I was less than hopeful. In fact, when the news broke that the companies were working together at E3 2017 and showed a demo of their game, I figured it was going to be awful.
Sure, the game isn’t quite on a level with Nintendo’s best Mario titles, but “Kingdom Battle” is the kind of game that catches you off-guard and pulls you in with its intelligent combat and genuine love for the Mario universe.
The messed up Mushroom Kingdom
The story behind “Kingdom Battle” is almost secondary to the actual gameplay, but it’s there. The rabbids, which come from Ubisoft’s “Rayman” series, have been transported to Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom and have turned the place upside down — thanks to a specialized helmet called a “SupaMerge” that merges objects and rabbids to create new monstrosities.
Your job is to defeat the rabbids running amok in the kingdom, recover the SupaMerge and return Mario’s home world to its former glory, presumably so Bowser can attack it … again.
The rabbids won’t go down easy, though. See, there’s not inherently evil, they’re just, well … dumb. And after being crossed with everything from paintbrushes to sunflowers, the rabbids have been corrupted into creatures that attack you on site.
Ubisoft could have made Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach as crazy and untethered as the rabbids themselves, but instead they play it straight throughout the game, which plays up the rabbids’ insane behavior making for some genuinely funny encounters. It’s not exactly the kind of humor that makes you think — there’s literally a scene where a rabbid pulls a rubbery duck from its hindquarters — but it made me chuckle.
Battling in the fields
In case you haven’t picked up on it by now, “Kingdom Battle” isn’t your normal Mario game. And that carries over into the combat. Rather than jumping onto enemies’ heads and crushing them under your ample posterior, you fight rabbids via a turn-based battle system using a three-person team.
You start out with…