Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope picks up some time after the events of the previous game.

Big empty open worlds, monotonous quests, and rack-ups – that’s the kind of phrase you hear in Ubisoft’s current games. What is madness. The hero of a famous series of games claimed that madness was the exact repetition of the same action, over and over, in the hope of some change. But we’ll get back to those components. We’re interested in a series of crazy games involving harmful and ultimately screaming rabbits. We are, of course, talking about the Raving Rabbids franchise, its spin-off Mario + Rabbids: Battle for the Kingdom and its sequel Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, which we will now consider.

The original Mario + Rabbids: Battle for the Kingdom was a bold and curious experiment in which the characters and elements of both game franchises harmoniously blended and complemented each other. The game attracted with its bright appearance, good humor and insanely simple but incredibly exciting combat system. It had some drawbacks, including a very uninspired plot and an incredibly low level of complexity. Has anything changed in the sequel? And was Ubisoft able to bring something of its own to the series, despite the strict control of Nintendo. Let’s find out.

The story of Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope picks up some time after the events of the previous game. The rabbits, in a world unknown to them, eventually became an integral part of the Mushroom Kingdom. Peace and harmony reigned in the kingdom, but as is often the case, it was short-lived. The Spark is a hybrid of rabbits and Luma stars pursued by a giant skata monster. The skater managed to take in not only part of the Spark, but also Rabbit-Pitch, who decided to take a selfie against the backdrop of a flying freak. Who they are and how they got into the Kingdom. As it turned out, all of this was the work of the evil Curse, who was trying to take over the world and the galaxy with the magical power of the mysterious Spark. To save her, as is customary, only our wardens, who are now on their new journey.

As with the original, the story in the sequel is presented in small chunks, designed to provide a sense of direction rather than a full-fledged presentation. When the player goes through an exclusively story-driven component, this looks uncritical: humor saves the day. The rabbits’ crazy antics dilute the convoluted narrative. The problems start with a full survey of the locations and the clearing of all the extra tasks, increasing the passage time to fifty hours. There’s no plot in them, just small, unrelated stories that, when combined with the new, relatively open world, don’t look very good.

The main charm of Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is far from the plot. It’s secondary and it’s just a marker for movement. The gameplay is the key here. Like it was in the original. Linear locations, hidden secrets with challenges and enemies. Mario and the company of howler rabbits have five huge open biomes available for exploration. Mini-games, shops, and various NPCs, the locations have grown in size and become multi-layered. The key point during the passage was that the player was not distracted while exploring locations. The battles and the global map were independent of each other. The main change is the enemies, who now roam the map on their own and rush towards the heroes, barely noticing them.

Much more global adjustments have come to the combat system. Arenas are no longer divided into square segments. Our heroes can move within their own pace and distance as they please, switching between each other without any restrictions. There are three player-controlled characters, and a host of opponents on the other side of the barricades. The only rule to consider is that the character who fires the shot is unable to move and use the jumps until the end of the move. To reach Bowser to the enemy, hit him in close combat, then switch to Rabbit-Pitch so that she can run closer and “reach” our ward with her healing ability, and then return to the original position. The game does not suggest such combos, but it does not restrict the player’s experimentation. In this context, the new freedom of movement looks very appropriate. Or use the spark’s magic power, which gives the hero the power of the element of water, to lift the enemy into the air. It’s easy.

There are nine of them, but each has unique skills, abilities, and weapons. The abilities of these characters are well known to those who played the first part. The greatest interest is represented by a few newcomers. The first is the eternal villain Bowser, who carries a huge “Boozuku” The second newcomer was the apathetic Rabbit-Rosaline, who shocked the enemy with boredom and a load of shots from her machine gun-Kabumer. The last one is the mysterious bunny Edge, who wields a huge boomerang blade, capable of attacking dozens of monsters at a time, which has helped me many times in my journey.

The gameplay is also diversified by the simple character pumping system. Heroes can no longer change their weapons to more powerful ones, as they did in the first part. All characteristics are automatically raised when they get a new level. Characters also receive skill points, which they can use to open cells in the skill tree. New Sparks can be changed on the fly, leveling them with skills and abilities that are lacking in the characters’ own characteristics. Extend the range of the ability, increase the maximum health or increase the number of strokes, or reduce the recharge time. It should be noted that you cannot “break” a character by not pumping it properly.

Not all aspects of local gameplay are equally good. The game allows players to access a large number of characters from the very beginning. This slows down the pace for those who have not played the original. Who do you choose when you can only keep two characters in a squad at first? Where to take the time to just play around with the abilities and skills of all the characters. The second point is the absence of many characters from the first part, such as the iconic universe of Mario Donkey Kong. Why? Did you include it in the DLC that’s already been announced? It’s not clear yet.

The game has an insanely low difficulty, even when it is at the highest level. The local monsters can not stand against our armed to the teeth squad. What’s the point of enemies walking around in the open if defeating them isn’t any fun? The battle just ends before it starts. The only things that bring joy and a certain “challenge” are the pre-staged battles. Each such battle artificially prolongs the game, taking five extra minutes each time. Why add battles where you just have to take out one opponent? Needless to say, the heroes often don’t even have to move to do it.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope looks great, has the most striking artwork, and has a simple but beautifully crafted music. The last things I want to mention are the visuals and the technical aspects of the game. You want to enjoy the game, it’s exciting and it’s not going away until the final credits. The only objective negative is the glitch with the Wall of Darkness, which is opened with a key. The animation is stretched out by five to ten seconds, while reducing the frame rate to incredibly low values. I’ve played the game in portable mode, and there’s been no outburst or any bug that breaks or interferes with the gameplay.

A good sequel to a great game that could have been a lot better if you wanted it. Ubisoft’s developers have managed to make this insanely simple combat system even more exciting. The strategy, especially the tactical one, should have a complexity that will not frighten the interested player, but at the same time will not let him get bored. If you’re looking for deep tactics, you’re in the clear, but if you’re looking for a simple, no-strings-attached game with the elements, then take control of the crazy rabbits and go save the galaxy. You’ve had enough of the fun and the humor and the annoyance.

The review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game, which was purchased by the publisher. All screenshots used in the article were taken directly by the author of the article on the platform.

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