When the first rumors and leaks of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle appeared around the web, many Mario fans feared the worst. Our concerns started to dissipate after the game was officially revealed at E3 earlier this year, but they didn’t quite went away.

Now, after playing the game at Gamescom, I can assure you there’s nothing to worry about. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is one of the most promising games for the Nintendo Switch.

The game, for those who missed the official announcement, is a tactical shooter that meshes together the world of Super Mario with Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids franchise. Combat is rather similar to games like XCOM and Fire Emblem, and the world is pretty open for exploration like in many other Mario games.

The Gamescom demo started with a short cutscene showing Mario bumping into Rabbid-Peach and Rabbid-Luigi. All the dialog was in German, and since I never took German in high-school I can’t really comment on what was said. Fortunately, the conversation was really short, and the group was soon ready to explore the map.

You are free to move in all directions on the world map, but since this is a demo, the game funneled me towards the next encounter. Presumably, paths will branch out more in the full game.

I soon stumbled across a group of hostile Rabbids, and the game seamlessly switched to combat mode. On their turn, your characters can move around the field, jump, slide and then attack. Naturally, the enemies can do the same thing.

If an enemy is close enough to you, your character can perform a pretty cool slide to get up close and personal, and attack them twice in one turn. Jumping, or rather boosting, is also quite useful. One character can throw another to higher ground or further up the battleground. It can help you flank your enemies.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle slide

The battle wasn’t difficult at all, which makes sense since it was first battle of the demo. After breezing through another combat encounter I reached a maze I had to clear to collect gold coins. Gold coins are used to buy new upgrades for your characters, so you want to find as many as you can. I also discovered that completing red coin challenges can net you special upgrade. I passed through an orange ring that spawned a bunch of red coins. Once I managed to collect all of them in the given time, I received a new weapon upgrade.

After wondering around the map for a bit, I got to the third and final combat scenario of the demo. That was the first time I encountered the giant Rabbids. This time I didn’t have to defeat all the enemies, but instead reach the other side of the battlefield. If the giant Rabbids weren’t bad enough, a Chain Chomp spawned in the middle of the map. At the end of every turn, it attacked the character nearest to it, even if it was on the enemy’s team.

Luckily, that was when I unlocked my characters’ special abilities. Mario has a sort of an “overwatch” ability that lets him fire on any approaching enemy, even outside his turn; Rabbid-Peach can heal; and Rabbid-Luigi deploys an energy shield around nearby characters.

This battle gave me plenty of opportunities to interact with the environment. Near the center was a warp pipe that lead to a different area on the battlefield. I could also instruct my characters to take cover behind some blocks, though those had a tenancy to crumble after a few shots.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle combat

After a challenging fight where I lose Rabbid-Luigi, I managed to reach the far end of the field and win the fight. What followed was another scene in German, and the end of the demo.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle requires quite a bit of tactical thinking, and the combination of Mario charm and Rabbid weirdness works perfectly. Seeing Rabbid-Peach making faces for her Instagram selfies was so stupid I couldn’t help but laugh. I see a bright future for this game, even if some people dismiss it as “too silly”. It’s a good tactical shooter that has the benefit of been a Mario game.

It was surprising to see how deep the gameplay was; the many ways you can complete each combat scenario will definitely appeal to fans of strategy games. In fact, I enjoyed the demo so much, we awarded it a “Game of the Show” nomination.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle comes out on the Switch on August 29.


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