HANDS-ON PREVIEW: ‘Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope’ is Unfiltered Chaotic Joy

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Mario + Rabbids

Mario + Rabbids is a collaboration of pure joy and epic chaos. The turn-based tactic game series began with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and is expanding the adventure, gameplay, and characters with Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope—developed by Ubisoft Milan and Ubisoft Paris. I got the chance to go hands-on with the game thanks to Ubisoft and I have to say, I’m in love.

To be completely clear, I’m not the biggest turn-based or tactics fan. I get impatient with how long turns take thanks to how quick my brain moves (thanks ADHD) and that often means that I tap out of playing them all together and put down the controller or I don’t pay enough attention to my surroundings and get myself in bad tactical situations. But even for my squirrely brain, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is the perfect distillation of action, open world, and RPG-lite skills skill trees that make the tactics of it all extremely accessible. On that note, you can change the difficulty at any time if you find yourself stuck in a boss battle.

At the hands-on preview, we got the chance to play through three levels. The introduction is set at Peach’s Castle, Beacon Beach, and the “Winter Planet.” Here, we got the chance to play the game with two characters, three, and finally four. This let me understand how the game works by slowly getting me comfortable moving through the combat stages. To help you take stock of the field you can use the tactical view to move around the map and see where enemies are located to plan out both your next moves, what cover areas to choose, and who to attack first.

This ability helps plan out your path and with large circles dictating your area of movement versus designated paths, you’re able to move more freely than you would in a traditional tactics game. Mixing turn-based tactics and real-time action, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope has a pretty innovative combat system that allows Heroes to dash at enemies, team jump on allies, hide behind covers, or take advantage of their special abilities to get the most out of every turn. Out of everything though, the dashes (the number of which varies on the character) are the best piece of combat. Dashes essentially give you a free damage action that can be paired with Sparks actions that can give you a damage buff. This helps pull the combat into something more active before you switch turns and can be the difference between beating a boss and losing to one.

One of the most endearing qualities of the Mario + Rabbid collaboration is how the developers have blended classic Nintendo characters with the iconic Rabbid style. This blending allows parody to push these chaotic twists on characters we know and love in such a great way. And while Rabbid Peach was a fan favorite with the last game, there are plenty of new additions to Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope that will make you laugh and become an easy favorite.

One of the is Rabbid Rosalina whose “completely over it” attitude stands in stark contrast to the snarky and social media-loving Rabbid Peach. Rosalina just looks sleepy and ready for the combat to be over and this works so exceptionally well to balance the game’s humor. She also has an invaluable ability: she locks enemies where they are. It’s one of the best skills that can help you take full advantage of the playing field.

Additionally, as the title says, introduces Sparks into the mix. Sparks are little adorable pudgy creatures that are held by Luma and half Rabbid. With Luma bodies and Rabbid eyes and ears, these adorable little creatures offer a variety of buffs and abilities for your character. With each Spark taking some of the characteristics of the abilities they offer you, the diversity of color and aesthetic is truly perfect. They’re cute, fun, and make a huge combat difference, they all have a distinct power and personality, ranging from energy shields to powerful elemental attacks.

Finally, the story of the game isn’t anything new. You free different locations from an encroaching darkness, or rather darkmess energy. It’s a gaming objective that’s time-tested and here, it works well. Your job, with your team, is to prevent Cursa, a malevolent cosmic entity, from plunging the galaxy into chaos. Determined to consume all the energy in the galaxy, Cursa and its minions are hunting the Sparks, uncanny creatures formed by the fusion of Lumas & Rabbids, and will destroy all who stand in its way. Players will have to locate and save the Sparks to have them join the adventure, opening up new tactical possibilities to help Heroes get the upper hand in battles.

That said, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope doesn’t just hold players on a locked-in path to purify darkmess energy, instead, each location comes with a robust amount of side-quests. Completing these will help you get used to new team combinations, and earn you Star Bits (which are also earned when you destroy enemies) so that you can level up your sparks. If you’re like me, these side quests are vital to learning more about how to play the game as well as leveling up your character to prepare them for the main quests.

There is a lot to do in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope and there is, even more, to love about it. The game is hilarious, chaotic, and jam-packed with joy. For those looking to pick up a game they can sink hours into, this is shaping to be that. Not to mention, the innovative combat is perfect for those who like tactics, are new to tactics, and even those who usually steer clear of the game type. With only a couple of hours in, I can’t wait for the game to come out fully.

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope releases exclusively on the Nintendo Switch October 20, 2022. 

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