Mario + Rabbids Spark of Hope Review

So as someone who enjoyed the first Mario + Rabbids game I wasted little time in getting a copy of the sequel. Now I went into this series really with no prior experience with Rabbids but I am a huge fan of Mario and I love strategy games so that was enough for me to really get invested in this series. Furthermore, I found I really enjoyed the humor the Rabbids added to the first game in fact I liked it far more than I expected. The story continues really where the first game left off but shows that the problems of the first game are far from over as a new enemy Cursa was born and Rosalina is missing so your party has to venture into space to save her. So for this game, I went into this with a couple of big questions. What did this game do to improve upon the first one, and how much value does the new original character Edge add to the game?

Normally when I talk about game reviews I talk about the story first but this time I really want to start off with the gameplay. For those curious as to the style of gameplay, it’s a turn-based strategy where you have all your characters move on your turn and you place them in spots within their range and use their various weapons and skills to combat the enemies. In many ways, it’s a lot like the previous game and takes a lot of the good parts of what that game had to offer and simply improves upon it. This game features a lot more customization using a hybrid of Lumas from Mario and Rabbids to create Sparks that add unique powers that can be equipped to each hero. This made for a wonderful way to mix and match powers to see which powers worked well with each character. Each hero also has unique skills that you can level up as you gain skill points which dramatically changes or improves upon what the characters are capable of. The game ventures away from the grid-like movement that we’ve seen in games like Fire Emblem to a style where you have free movement within a set range which I found to be a big improvement. Each character also comes with unique skills and unique pros and cons to their weapons. For example, Rabbid Peach has a weapon that can overcome physical barriers and has excellent healing powers. Luigi doesn’t far well in close-range combat but is one of the most destructive heroes if he can get some distance from his target and has the most mobility to be able to do that. So there’s a lot to consider when planning out a particular map. For areas where the map is small, I might use characters like Bowser but switch to Luigi for bigger maps or maps where I have to get to a particular destination to win.

The out-of-combat maps in this game are where you will find the biggest improvement from the first game. In the first game these areas are very linear with only one possible direction to go down and you just simply traverse until you get to the end of the level. However, in this game, the maps are very complex full of twists and turns, and tons of stuff to find. You have your main quests but you also have a ton of side quests scattered about in places both easy and difficult to get to. Now I did find the controls in your movement to still be a little clunky so there were times when I struggled to do some puzzles on the map because of that but it wasn’t a game-ruining experience by any means. I do wish the maps were designed a bit better or with some better means of navigation because it was rather easy to get lost and there were a lot of moments where I had no idea where I was going.

Another thing I loved was how customizable the difficulty settings were. I played on normal for most of the game, but towards the end of the game, my day job had a very busy and mentally stressful week which meant I was not up to par to play at my usual level of skill so I found changing the difficult to fit the kind of experience I wanted very easy. It really felt like the game features levels of difficulty for all types of fans. You have higher levels of difficulty which were very challenging but you can also set it to where you take no damage at all if you just want to see what the game has to offer with no risk of defeat.

The story sadly does take a slight step down because while the humor was still there it just for me didn’t work as well as the humor presented in the first game. I still found myself very entertained by the jokes but more from the random stuff you found on the map than the stuff you had to view for the story itself. It was still very entertaining and works very well but the first one clearly outshined in this area. Then you have Edge who is this mysterious ally that seems to be against Cursa and her Spark Hunters, but the reality is Edge offers no real addition to the story at all. Sure her design is really great but the reality is you could remove her from the entire game and the story would not change one bit for the most part she just provides the names of the bosses you go up against on your way to Cursa. This leads to another reason why the story in this game isn’t quite as good which is that the characters themselves interact far less frequently. In the first game, you had several moments where you see the Rabbid versions of the Mario characters create moments where the character’s personalities bounced off of each other but you didn’t have that near s much here.

Overall this is a series that is clearly focused on gameplay first and story second. The gameplay improves significantly with more versatility in your character design as well as more mobility and more to find on the maps within the game. While some of these improvements could have been more successful overall it was a very welcomed change that added so much to this game. Combat was more fun the puzzles were more interesting and it warranted investing more time into just looking around and seeing what you can find. The story, while entertaining, takes a step down from the fantastic story we got in the first game. The best parts of the humor are not even part of the cut scenes and the original character Edge offers very little importance to the story to the point where I forgot about her most of the time. I do feel like if you enjoyed the gameplay of the first game you’re going to love this game far more but if the story is what made you love the first game then you might be better off waiting for this game to go on sale.

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