Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Az Elias 02.11.2022

Review for Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope on Nintendo Switch

A surprise combination all around in terms of franchises, developers, and genres, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was the result of Nintendo's well-placed trust and a whole lot of passion and respect. Ubisoft's Milan and Paris studios took both the Rabbids and Mario IPs into territories neither had explored before - that of the turn-based strategy realm - and delivered one of Nintendo Switch's most delightful (if a little challenging) games in the console's release year. Five years later, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is the long-awaited sequel that takes a familiar group planet hopping across the galaxy.

Given the subject franchises that have been meshed, it certainly feels like this series takes place in an alternate reality of some kind, because who would expect to see Rabbids roaming about Princess Peach's castle grounds after teaming up with the Mario gang to defeat the Megabug from the previous game? That's exactly the case at the beginning of Sparks of Hope, though, where a giant statue of Rabbid Peach sits in front of "normal" Peach's grand old home. The concept is still just as bizarre half a decade on from Kingdom Battle, yet - just like the first title - the developers have managed to somehow make it work.

Clearly the team has a soft spot for Super Mario Galaxy, as the familiar crew goes travelling through space, with Rosalina and the Lumas (the latter appearing in an infused Rabbid state, known as Sparks) playing a major role in the story. This means the Mushroom Kingdom isn't the focus for exploration as in Kingdom Battle; various themed planets are the locations for the events that ensue. Semi-open environments contrast with the more linear paths taken in the first game and give Sparks of Hope an RPG feel that hasn't been seen in the Mario series before - a necessary one, at that.

Screenshot for Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope on Nintendo Switch

Roaming each planet to defeat the "Darkmess" tentacles in both main and side quests - sticky, black substances mass produced by the new villain, Cursa - the heroes enter arenas in another dimension, where the turn-based strategy affairs take place. The big difference this time is the ability to freely move around the battlefield upon each character's turn, mirroring what the team now does out in the open field. The change neither seems better or worse, but just different. It feels like a preferred style, but the overall flow of the game plays the same.

Much of how the original title worked applies to this one. Characters get two action points per turn to spend on an attack, a special move, a Spark ability, or an item. Once two are used, that character's turn ends. Move around before spending all action points to get the best shot and hide behind cover. It's a simple game of tactics, but one where each character plays a more unique role than before.

Screenshot for Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope on Nintendo Switch

Mario can now be switched in and out at will, instead of being forced as the party leader, but his dual pistols mean he can hit two different targets in one attack. Luigi is still the long-range sniper, while Rabbid Peach acts as the primary healer of the group. Newcomers Bowser (explosion specialist), Edge (an original Rabbid that has good area of effect attacks), and Rabbid Rosalina (destroys cover with a multitude of rockets) offer further possibilities in battle, meaning team selection is more important than before.

Sadly, Yoshi and his Rabbid counterpart don't return for this instalment, and with the DLC content recently announced, the green dino's fans will be disappointed to learn he's been left out cold completely, which is especially sad when considering his late appearance in Kingdom Battle, too. Maybe in the third game there will be some Yoshi's Island-Rabbids shenanigans.

Screenshot for Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope on Nintendo Switch

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was notorious for being a rather tough affair, and a patch was later introduced with the option to apply additional health at the start of each battle. Thankfully, that feedback has been doubled down on, as Sparks of Hope offers a broad range of difficulty options and choice in how much help is granted to the player, even so far as providing complete invincibility for anyone having a tough time or just wants to play for the story.

The hardest difficulty may be how Kingdom Battle pros prefer to play, but as before, many will quickly realise that Rabbid Mario - on top of him being one of the more humorous characters in the game - is an overpowered beast. The close combat specialist can absolutely pummel his enemies, especially once a few upgrades have been applied to him and certain damage boosting Sparks have been utilised.

Image for

It is the Sparks that provide that extra and necessary customisation for pre-battle setup, and the Mario Galaxy theme rears its head once more with the option to feed star bits to upgrade their powers. While many can apply special burn or freezing effects to attacks, other Sparks grant the heroes additional damage, area of effect moves, health regeneration, invisibility, and a whole lot more. Again, simple role-playing-type stuff, but a feature that adds just that little bit more depth to the proceedings.

Boss battles deliver on the strategic scale, where multiple phases play out one after another. These more expansive levels require players to utilise height and cover more effectively, as well as specific characters and Spark combinations tailored to their move-sets. Analysing the battlefield before entering combat allows the opportunity to set the team up, but with the ability to redistribute skill points in each hero's ability menu, it does mean there isn't much risk involved when deciding what to learn next. However, the additional freedom granted in this game proves superior over Kingdom Battle.

The weird and wonderful human world-Mushroom Kingdom crossover as the setting of the first game was incredibly charming and creative. While that carries over to an extent in Sparks of Hope, it does feel like the more generic side of themed locales takes prominence over anything eye-catching, outrageous, or humorous - sort of the opposite of Kingdom Battle. Something is definitely lacking on this side of things.

Image for

What is also lacking is character variety compared to this game's predecessor. Almost the entire cast makes its way over, and the newly playable characters don't offer too much in the way of surprise. Once they are recruited, the story doesn't deliver very highly, except in brief moments of laughter from the Rabbid characters - particularly Rabbid Mario, Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Rosalina. Whether it is passed down as an order from Nintendo not to mess with their beloved characters or not, the Mario crew is so formulaic that it is difficult to muster up much amusement from them, with the same repeated voice lines from previous games dominating their limited moments of story time.

Interestingly, the Rabbids and Beep-0, the travelling companion returning from the previous title, as well as JEANIE, a new AI helping to gather information for the team in their adventure, have gained unique voices of their own in Sparks of Hope. While Beep-0's fully voiced dialogue can grate at times, the Rabbids' more constrained phrases and quips not only greatly add to their distinct personalities but provide the light-hearted comedy they nailed in Kingdom Battle. If the same freedom was granted to the Mario characters, perhaps there could have been better and more interesting interactions between the heroes. As it is, the Rabbids steal the show once again, as the Mario cast tags along for the ride.

Screenshot for Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Semi-open worlds with quests in the form of real-time strategy battles provide a sort of 3D role-playing game spin on the continuation of this odd match-up of Mario and the Rabbids. While Sparks of Hope improves on the formula introduced five years ago, some charm has been lost in the more generic lands the heroes traverse, with a story that doesn't offer much thanks to plain characters outside of the Rabbids. Battles are still as fun as before, with plenty of customisation possible, but there isn't much to think about when skill points can be redistributed at will. That may suit the target audience, though, and the additional difficulty options are pleasing in that regard, as well. Kingdom Battle fans will enjoy this, and there is some solid tactical gameplay to be found, but it's a bit too familiar and unsurprising to elevate it beyond the original.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Comments are currently disabled

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?

There are 1 members online at the moment.