Yahtzee reviews Mario + Rabbids.
Nintendo, what the steaming, cross-eyed fuck is this? I'm still trying to get my head around it: a crossover between Mario and Raving Rabbids using turn-based XCOM-style combat? What is this, a fucking Mad Lib? Or did someone lose a bet? If only you'd won the beer pong tournament at the last game dev party, Sony would have had to develop a city-management sim starring Crash Bandicoot and Pyramid Head?
Look, I'm not ragging on you for doing something unexpected; I applaud that. If you only ever gave people what they asked for, every game would be an identical fucking multiplayer hero shooter with a range of unlockable nipple tassels. But when you set out to partner up with Ubisoft, was Raving Rabbids honestly the best option to cross over with Mario? I mean, the Assassin's Creed series is also frequently based around jumping on people and already has a bunch of comedy Italians in it. Tell me you couldn't picture it: Mario in a little Assassin robe, jamming a wrist spike into an unsuspecting Koopa Troopa to make coins fly out.
My point is, when was the last time Raving Rabbids was raving relevant? They haven't had a non-iOS game in years, since those Minion things ripped off their entire shtick, and it was never much of a shtick to begin with, was it? They look funny and run around hurting themselves while making high-pitched mouth noises in a startlingly insensitive depiction of the mentally subnormal that wasn't particularly funny when the first medieval court jester did it, but three-year-olds and the inbred kings of 11th-century Europe dutifully laughed and clapped their hands, and so such things persist.
My point is, Rabbids are complete non-characters, but here they are, sharing equal billing with motherfucking Mario! That's like a political marriage between the prince of Denmark and the daughter of an up-and-coming sausage manufacturer. And then I guess you hold the wedding in the fucking Sea of Tranquility, because neither Mario or Rabbids have ever been associated with strategic gun-battling, and more to the point, three-year-olds and inbred monarchs probably wouldn't have the patience for it. Well, let's not spend five minutes boggling at the premise alone; the execution has lumbered up and rested its deformed skull on my workstation, and now it's up to me to tell it if it's ever going to be a real boy.
The intro spent just a bit too much time establishing the incredibly contrived series of events leading up to the crossover, so I'm assuming Ubisoft had the larger hand in that side of things; if it had been left to Nintendo, it would have been "Mario and Rabbids meet in a field, Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach, and here's some horrible motion controls we're not going to let you turn off". Basically, someone invents a device that combines two things into one thing, Rabbids randomly show up and nick it, and the lab is, for some reason, full of Mario action figures. And for this reason, they all get teleported to the Mushroom Kingdom, where Mario and Princess Peach are going through the tense motions of yet another day of meaningless royal ceremony and passionless pity sex. Mario and chums must then restore order by murdering all the unwanted foreign immigrants with the aid of some Rabbids who have dressed up like Mushroom Kingdom residents to show their willingness to collaborate with the Peach administration's genocidal atrocities. And everyone gets a gun, somehow.
I warned you it was contrived! You may notice that at no point did I mention Princess Peach getting kidnapped, because this is one of those rare occasions when she gets to be a party member with some appropriately twee skill, like group healing, or umbrella floating, or in this case, wielding a giant, explosive close-range death cannon. Somebody asked me during the week if the Rabbids actually add anything or if it might as well have just been a Mario game. Well, they do if you are one of those people who find it eternally amusing when someone's eyes are far apart and they go "Bwah!" a lot and are no longer allowed in the Down syndrome center.
But the same question seems to have haunted the developers; there are eight playable squad members - Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and Rabbid equivalents of each - and only three to a squad, so what if the player only uses Mario, Luigi, and Peach the whole game? It wouldn't be "Mario + Rabbids" at all, then; it would just be Mario murdering Rabbids, and we've been skating on thin ice with the racism thing ever since we gave Mario an outrageous comedy Italian accent, so the game flat-out forces you to put at least one Rabbid character in your party. No explanation is offered; the game just grays out all the home team Mushroom Kingdom lads if you've already got two. So if you want to team Luigi's long-range focus with Peach's short-range superiority, then you can eat feces fettuccine, my friend. This might be the first example of a gameplay mechanic introduced solely for the sake of the contractual obligations of its characters.
But let's take that initial question a step further, matey: does it being a Mario game actually add anything? That business with giving Princess Peach a giant shotgun implies that it is basically just an XCOM combat engine with Mario art assets stretched over it, like a lunchbox or a children's bedspread, for Mario is now merely a brand, a Windows desktop theme. And if adding Bayonetta to Smash Bros. didn't already tip you off to this, today's Nintendo demands integrity and consistency only of its quarterly income. But none of that should get in the way of your enjoyment of the gameplay, which should appeal to anyone who ever watched their last surviving XCOM squad member hold a shotgun six inches from the face of an alien berserker the size of the cliffs of Dover and somehow miss. Here, it's nicely straightforward: if they're in range and out of cover, and you haven't mistaken your gun for a giant, uncomfortable suppository, then you're guaranteed to hit, and the Warp Pipes and jumping abilities give a full range of ways to get into position; you're not stuck creeping your squad forward bit by bit, slamming on "Overwatch" like it's the snooze button.
But as much as I appreciate the simplifications, I'm on the record as enjoying XCOM combat, and by the end of this sentence, will be on the record as not enjoying this very much. The difficulty gets annoying after a while, possibly because we unlock new, better weapon upgrades with each victory, but I couldn't always afford them, so there's a subtle obligation to grind, as well as some very unsubtle ones, like when your path is blocked by a huge, sexually aggressive panda and the game goes, "Whoops! You'd better replay this level after you unlock the Chinese Zookeeper's Wanking Gloves!" But also, in XCOM, there's a constant sense of discovery, from both revealing the current map and our ongoing understanding of the alien threat, whereas I feel like we go into Mario games with everything pre-discovered; I'm going to assume Bowser will be involved, and in the end, Princess Peach will refuse to put out.
I'd also like to note that XCOM made me actually give a shit, evil aliens trying to kill us all when we'd rather not be killed, thank you very much. Here, it's just "There's Rabbids, and they're generally bringing down the whole tone of the place". Again, it's designed by contractual obligation; I'd like to ask for slightly more motivation than propping up Nintendo and Ubisoft's failing marriage.
- Mixes his toasties: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- So can you feed rabbids with normal carrots or do you have to buy special 'carrods' that are formulated for retards
- Next week, a crossover between Manhunt 2 and Awesome Possum