Mario + Rabbids has an exciting history. Initially, players thought it was so unlikely it had to be fake, only for it to be revealed and be critically successful. The unlikely pair is back in a brand-new adventure with the sequel Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. Given the improvements, further refinement of the formula, and decades of experiences, is Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope an instant classic, or does it fail to capture the same magic as the original?
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope takes place after the events of the Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, with a new threat known as Cursa threatening the kingdom. Their goal is to consume Sparks, an unusual cross between a Rabbid and Lumas, and spread darkness across the universe.
The terrifying Cursa
It’s a fairly basic premise that works to guide the goofy adventure. As players progress, you’ll learn more about the Sparks, recruit some help and visit a variety of places that need your help. Not only does it capture the same charm of both franchises, but there is also a good mixture of serious and silly to keep players entertained. Not to mention a few cute references that older players will likely enjoy.
In addition to the main story and each area’s central conflict, there are various characters to interact with and side quests to complete. This might include a small joke, an incredible idea, or just some additional insight. Most are a line or two of dialogue that helps make the world feel alive. Plus, these optional tasks can give other resources that will help you in combat.
Designs Have a Lot of Charm
The gameplay is broken up into a couple of different and distinct modes. Initially, players start in an overworld that works like a 3D Mario adventure. Here you’ll find the characters above you can interact with, along with various puzzles, optional stages, and vendors. Most puzzles are your standard action or platformer fare. Move boxes, find a key to unlock a place, locate a hidden path, and get the point. None of these are complicated, though they make for a good break from the combat portions of Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.
Like Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, combat is similar to XCOM. Players can move within a set area, use objects for cover, and must make the most of their attacks to come alive. Early battles start relatively slow. Either they introduce a new mechanic, like bob-ombs will explode or be thrown to damage distant tricky enemies that have a tough gimmick, or just a weirdly designed stage.
Despite the cute look and seemingly straightforward concept, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is more than happy to punish players. Enemies will commonly move to shoot you behind cover, poorly placed units will take multiple attacks, and even selecting the wrong units can vastly increase difficulty. This is especially true for boss battles, as they typically have a lower margin of error.
This is primarily due to increased damage, though many have additional mechanics. For example, the first mini-boss will immediately move toward any unit that attacks it. As a result, close-range fighters are not advised, and this mechanic is something you can anticipate. These include, but are not limited to, using Sparks that increase and decrease damage, using Luigi’s technique that immediately attacks the first unit that moves in his range, and trying to defeat as many adds while damaging the mini-boss.
The vast majority of fights are not as complicated, though that doesn’t mean they’re not without their challenges. Multiple enemies make position extremely important, they will sometimes have a variety of elemental strengths/weaknesses or have more dangerous foes ready to punish. These elements combine to make Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope an engaging and tactical experience.
As you battle foes, every character on your team will level. This prevents anyone from falling behind and vastly increases your tactical options. When a character levels, there are a wide variety of perks you can unlock. These range from increased range to additional damage, allowing players to refine their team further. Even if more power is good in the short term, better heals, more content, or just moving further might be more critical in the long run or a specific stage.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Review Verdict
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is more fun than you might think. Even on lower difficulties, the gameplay is deep enough to make things interesting. The various mechanics also extensively use the concepts found in both franchises. This, along with an amusing story, makes a solid idea perfect for a long play session or just a stage here and there. So if you were a fan of the first or just enjoyed tactical games, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is a solid choice for Nintendo Switch.
[Editor’s Note: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, and a copy was provided for review purposes.]