A hop, skip, and a jump: into spaaaaaaace!
Sometimes unexpected combinations can be delightful. Imagine being the person who discovered the joy of peanut butter and jam? (Jelly for any American readers). Or the pioneer who found that the Muppets could make literary film adaptations better than anyone else? Or the genius who cast Chris Pratt as Mario in a major motion picture? Uh, well not quite. While that news may have sent the internet reeling in a bad way, the good news is that Mario’s second team-up with Ubisoft’s Rabbids in Mario & Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a tactical triumph.
Sometime after the events of the first game, Mario, Luigi, Peach and their trio of lupine doppelgangers are attacked by a cosmic horror, the stuff of Jordan Peele’s dreams. Thrust into a new adventure the party travel to various realms, battling enemies in a series of tactical cover-shooter scenarios. Every character has unique weapon properties as well as special abilities that can help you effectively plan your attacks or save your ass in a bind.
These encounters offer incredible flexibility in how the player tackles them and are far more intuitive and welcoming to genre newcomers than an X-Com or a Fire Emblem. By no means does this make this solely a cakewalk but the rough edges and irritations have been sanded off to make this a joy to interact with. Not being restricted to a grid makes a huge difference, with slick 3D movement taking the edge off tense tactical trials.
The worlds you explore are beautifully realised, with side-quests and fun details to discover. As the first title proved that these two worlds could combine far more naturally than expected, the sequel runs with this aesthetic. This gives the Rabbids a more cohesive (and less annoying) tone while giving Mario more anarchic freedom than his mascot status can usually allow.
New characters joining your party include Bowser, Rabbid Rosalina and a new Rabbid edgelord named: Edge! More Mario characters rather than Rabbids would have been welcome, especially with the loss of Yoshi (he’s not dead! Just not in the party anymore). The promise of Ubisoft mascot Rayman joining the party is a promising sign but being gated behind a season pass is disappointing. Free your own mascot Ubisoft!
The bastard children of Rabbids and Lumas, the titular Sparks add a few more wrinkles to the combat. Adding additional abilities to any character they’re assigned to, these provide slight customisation. Hardly worth their place in the game’s title but a layer that should placate the more hardcore strategy fans who dip in.
The surprisingly great Sparks of Hope arrives in a very busy October for the Switch but definitely is no hare-brained endeavour. The humour may grate but hop in and you’ll find an amazingly rewarding strategy experience.