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Review: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope - Creativity Overrides Challenge in This Divergent, Delightful Sequel

Captured on Nintendo Switch. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom War was conceived like a fever dream back in 2017. Nintendo lending Ubisoft its poster-child..


Review: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope - Creativity Overrides Challenge in This Divergent, Delightful Sequel



Captured on Nintendo Switch.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom War was conceived like a fever dream back in 2017. Nintendo lending Ubisoft its poster-child franchise? A Rabbit dressed up as Princess Peach Mario wielding a gun? Madness. It was also a brilliant strategy game, one of the best on Switch. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is the sequel to the original. It has replaced the sense of surprise with one of expectation. There is no doubt that Ubisoft can create a decent strategy game using the Mario license. And, perhaps even more surprising, few critics are critical of Ubisoft's inclusion of the chaotic Rabbids in Mushroom Kingdom. The question is now whether Ubisoft can improve upon the formula that was born out of gaming's most surprising crossover five years ago.

Answers to these questions are as complex as Rabbids can be. Many things have changed since BeepO and the Rabbids crossed dimensions into the Mushroom kingdom. Sparks of Hope is a strategy game with light RPG elements. However, it plays very differently to its predecessor. It almost feels like a completely new game. There are no more labyrinthine maps, with blocks-based puzzles to solve and battles interspersed. Sparks of Hope presents five worlds that Rabbids have colonized, each full of quirky characters and challenges. You can also discover little secrets by solving simple puzzles. These puzzles are not limited to the block-based type. You will enjoy classic coloured coin challenges and secret stages that remind you of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.



Captured on Nintendo Switch.

Mario and his friends travel to each world to find Cursa the space-tentacle monster. He has infected the galaxy using Darkmess, a form of ooze that causes our heroes to be transported to another dimension. Cursa's Darkmess has infected the galaxy with dark ice palaces and idyllic beaches. We found every inch of these dense worlds to be a joy to explore, and this shift to opener locales is welcome.

Mario, Luigi and Peach team up again in Darkmess to jump, dash and destroy Rabbid-themed enemies. However, Sparks of Hope is looser in movement and options.

Now heroes can freely move across the map. They are limited by their range and their weapon's ability to fire. To gain an advantage, it is necessary to move your party of three to a position that allows them to launch a series of team jumps. However, most characters can only jump once per round. Otherwise, you can move as freely as you like, including throwing Bomb-ombs at your enemies before repositioning to attack. This flexibility of movement gives you a level of fluidity that is not common in strategy games. It challenges you to see how many havoc you can cause on space-faring villains in arenas both compact and sprawling.



Captured on Nintendo Switch.

Each of the nine heroes has their own weapon to aid in this chaos. Mario's dual blasters can be used to attack multiple enemies simultaneously. Rabbid Luigi can throw a frisbee at multiple targets. Cloud Strife's newcomer Edge throws a huge sword at him, which hits twice in one line. Each hero has an individual ability. However, not all heroes are created equal. For example, Rabbid Peach’s Heal is less impressive than Peach’s powerful Team Barrier. Sparks of Hope introduces equippable Rabbid Lumas known as Sparks. These powerful effects negate the need to use defensive tools.

Sparks can make encounters trivial even on the most difficult difficulty. Each hero equips two at a time. Sparks can give Super Effects to enemies that make them weaker or stronger than their own. For example, the Splash Effect sends Cursa’s Stooges or Wildclaws out of bounds and the Ooze Effect deals additional damage at the start of an enemy turn.

While Super Effect Sparks are useful, some Utility Sparks shine. Glitter Spark is a lure that draws foes across the arena to the user. It allows all three of your party members to use it to instantly unload their area effect Sparks and abilities, and to win against entrenched enemies. We were surprised at how well this combination worked in all the victory situations we faced. Reaching a specific point on a map, beating waves of enemies for six turns and destroying Darkmess eyes. Boss encounters with special mechanics. It's not a problem. All fell before our Glitter Spark strat.



Captured on Nintendo Switch.

We felt like the most intelligent Rabbids in the colony when we came up with creative strategies or combinations to win battles. However, we were disappointed by the lack of challenge. Even if we didn't abuse certain Sparks, it was rare that we had to come up with clever ways to defeat impossible odds. Our cleverness was a catalyst for victory. Our team of three did not lose a single battle, and our team lost only one hero in boss battles that were more lengthy. Yes, even with enemy health and damage boosted to the highest difficulty.

We were eager to use our new abilities against a good number of enemies, regardless of whether we saved a Spark from Cursa’s minions, or increased our level enough to unlock a cool ability like Mario's Jump Shot, or added fire to Bowser’s Rabbid Mechakoopas. We were excited to get on to the next world of Darkmess and solve creative little quests for some quirky Rabbids as we worked our way towards saving the galaxy.

The clunky menus made it difficult to experiment with the nine heroes you could assign skills to, and the 30 Sparks that you can equip. We stuck with our favorite three to four heroes, despite the annoying loading screens that opened and closed the menus and the few button presses required to switch between Spark loadouts and skill trees. We were getting tired of looking at the menu and decided not to use Rabbid Rosalina's enemy freezing Ennui ability. It would have been great to be able to save loadouts and swap characters without needing to pause.



Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked).

Amusing cutscenes that highlight characters - especially the Rabbids- keep the adventure interesting despite our menu-based grievances. A great soundtrack from the legendary composers of Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario RPG and Ori and Blind Forest also helps. We explored the options to increase the music volume and we recommend you do the same. We recommend lowering the volume for Beep-O's voice. His posh and slightly distorted voice made it difficult to listen to from the very beginning. After hearing him recount the 30 hours spent clearing up Cursa's interplanetary mess, we missed his adorable little beeps from Kingdom Battle.

Conclusion

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope's battles are skewed against Kingdom Battle's more challenging and well-curated fights. It is still a fun strategy game. However, the battles are more an evolution of the past than a shift towards freedom and creativity. Unfortunately, Cursa's efforts to conquer the galaxy can sometimes be trivialised. We might have needed to go deeper and experiment to find winning strategies if the difficulty rating had been a bit higher. Sparks of Hope shines outside of the Darkmess matches. This Rabbid-themed adventure is a delight for strategy gamers and Mario fans alike. There are many delightful puzzles, quests, as well as memorable locations.

Creative heroes and talents encourage creativity. Wonderful worlds full of quests and puzzles. A wonderful soundtrack by industry legendsEntertaining cutscenes, characters. Great810 Ubisoft has provided Scoring Policy Review Copy

Review: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope - Creativity Overrides Challenge in This Divergent, Delightful Sequel

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Review: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope - Creativity Overrides Challenge in This Divergent, Delightful Sequel

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Review: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope - Creativity Overrides Challenge in This Divergent, Delightful Sequel

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