In a brand new raving adventure, the Rabbids and the Mushroom Kingdom (or some of them, at least) the gang have returned to take on the powerful Curse in a battle of galactic-proportions. Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope brings back the strategy RPG mechanics, but this time, with much more freedom and manoeuvrability. In the sequel to the game we never thought would ever exist in the first place, Sparks of Hope goes where no Rabbid has gone before... I assume.
Everything just feels nicer here in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope in comparison to its predecessor, Kingdom Battle. The combat UI is more cleanly optimised, the menu systems to upgrade players and, in this game, the Sparks are smoother, and the game simply presents itself in a way that is a seamless joy to progress through.
While I enjoyed panning my camera and exploring the nooks and crannies that the first Mario + Rabbids entry had to offer, the free roaming camera in Sparks of Hope goes such a long way in providing a much grander level of scope and exploration. Gone are the days of linear rail-road progression and now, you can explore planets with their own maps, fight in random encounters to train, visit shops and undertake side quests. The free roaming even extends to combat where it gives each character a certain radius to move. This provides a whole other dimension to the combat as, for example, you can move one character so that it's within the radius of another, use that character to perform a team jump, letting them bounce off and glide much further, and then go back to the initial character and continue moving to an opportune position for combat. The possibilities are just so much more robust here and every player who played the first iteration will be thankful for it.
A big update in this sequel is that many characters are either voice-acted or partly. Beep-O, the gang's trusty Roomba pal, has the honour of being fully voice-acted, which is apt considering he drives much of the narrative and provides tutorial context. In addition, the main Rabbid characters also have voice-acting, but they're only graced with occasional quips within cutscenes and key moments of gameplay action. Unsurprisingly, the primary Mushroom Kingdom characters maintain their wahs and woohoos, provided by the ever-reliable Charles Martinet; I suppose Chris Pratt, Charlie Day and Anya Taylor-Joy were too busy working on the movie.
- Quality of life improvements
- Free roaming
- Voice acting
The additional combat encounters are nice and work great for grinding, but boy did Ubisoft go a little too heavy on them! Most of these encounters feel tacked on and purely there for the purpose of padding out the game's runtime. Also, these smaller encounters tend to lack much innovation in stage design, resulting in short, repetitive battles that simply feel as though you're just going through the motions.
As someone whose favourite genre is the 3D platformer, the camera control is arguably one of the most important aspects in exploration; and there's just something off about it in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope. It's default setting had the camera movement to be painfully slow, so adjusting that in the settings was one of the first things I did, but overall, I found that it got stuck behind objects and terrain much too easily. You can press the R button and that will snap the camera back to behind the camera but at times, I found myself pining for the more fixed camera of the original, which just sounds like a contradiction based on how I praised the free roaming previously. I'm conflicted with it, I truly am.
While the voice acting is a nice addition, some of the lines are a tad cringy and questionable. The main party tends to stick with quippy one-liners, and Rabbid Peach, with her teen-like phone obsession, tends to rely on current Gen-Z trends like "Hashtag Winning" and "TikTok". While I'm not going to go bashing Gen-Z trends here as we were (or are) all that age at one point in our life, but I feel as though having these quotes shoehorned in can result in the game feeling even more cringy and outdated in years to come. It's like if we looked back on a game from 6-8 years ago and they're making references to poking on Facebook; it ruins the evergreenness of the game and will ultimately be causes for further eye rolls by those who come back to the game when it's deemed retro.
- Repetitive, tacked-on encounters
- Awkward camera
- Cringy, non-evergreen quotes
Final Score: 8/10
For a sequel to a game that no one would ever think would ever exist, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope delivers on all that it promises. The new depth of exploration that the new entry boasts provides a wealth of world (galaxy) building and, while I never thought I'd say this, it makes me curious as to the future of the Rabbids' universe.
Sparks of Hope brings new life into the series, but it still lacks in certain areas that many strategy RPGs can suffer from. However, above all, the new entry demonstrates that the future is bright for the unlikely clash of mascot-strewn franchises.
Thank you for checking out our Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope Switch review, thank you to Ubisoft for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: