Mario's Rabbid spin-off sequel does an incredible job building upon the fun foundation of the original game while providing new and engaging elements we haven't seen before. The silly interactions, overworld puzzles, and satisfying strategic battles make it a title you definitely want to have in your library.
Satisfying strategy options
Engaging overworld puzzles
Unique attack styles
Multiple ways to defeat enemies
Amusing main characters
Cannot turn off battle animations
Battles feel repetitive after awhile
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When Ubisoft combined Rabbids and Mushroom Kingdom characters for XCOM-like strategic battles in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, I wasn't sure what to expect. However, the game proved to be just the sort of tactical game I've always wanted. Now with the release of Sparks of Hope, Ubisoft builds off of the first spin-off's successful gameplay and manages to provide an even better experience than before.
So what's the story in Sparks of Hope anyway? A powerful being known as Cursa has taken over parts of the galaxy by controlling Sparks — strange Luma and Rabbid hybrids. It's up to Mario and friends to set the Sparks free and end Cursa's malevolent dominion. As with the first game, there are Rabbid counterparts for the three main Mushroom Kingdom characters, but the team is also joined by a mysterious Rabbid named Edge, who has black and green hair and wields a large sword. You'll learn more about this Rabbid's background and bump into even more characters as you play.
|Oct 20, 2022
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope: What's Good
All in all, it took me a little over 20 hours to beat the game on my Nintendo Switch. However, if I was to go back and attempt to 100% it, I'm sure I could play for five to 10 more hours. The game offers five worlds to explore, each filled with several puzzles that Mario and Co. must solve in the overworld to venture further on any given planet. These puzzles grow in complexity as the game goes on, but I never felt they were overly complicated; just challenging enough to be enjoyable.
Enemies also prowl the land on each planet, and if a character runs into them, the team is transported into a turn-based battle. Similarly, certain main quest battles must be completed before the story can progress. Overall, these encounters do an excellent job of keeping players on their toes since the objectives for winning are different each time. For instance, you might need to defeat all enemies on a board, defeat a boss, outlast several rounds, or make it to a specific area to come out victorious.
Satisfying combat with plenty of strategy
There is an incredible amount of satisfaction to combat if you plan ahead and play it smart, which makes Sparks of Hope one of the best strategy games on Nintendo Switch. Each character can perform two actions in addition to moving around the board. That way, you can do things like run to an area that gives you cover, fire off a shot, and also heal yourself with a Mushroom.
Familiar enemies like Goombas and Magikoopas appear on the battlefield alongside Rabbid enemies of different kinds. These foes can have weaknesses or strengths against specific types of attacks. So you'll want to use the right elemental moves to take opponents down faster. For instance, Lone Wolf enemies are weak to Burn but resistant to Frostbite, so hitting one with a fire move can kill it in fewer moves. Fortunately, you can view an enemy's strengths and weaknesses at any time on the battlefield using Beep-0 tactician abilities, making strategizing easier.
When two allies are near each other, one can throw the other into the air, allowing them to hover across the arena to a further location they couldn't reach on their own. I often use this ability to get my characters to higher platforms that it would taken several more turns to reach if I went the long way. It almost makes me feel like I'm cheating and can help end a battle much faster. However, it does require planning to get all of the characters into the locations you want them to be in.
After every team member has had the chance to make their move, all enemies in the arena will take a turn, and then it will be your team's turn again. Since each character on a team can perform two actions, players can even swap between characters multiple times before ending the turn to make things work best to their advantage. For example, getting Mario and Bowser close to Peach, having the Princess perform her buff move on everyone, and then moving Mario and Bowser away to attack an enemy now that they have increased attack stats.
Although the main Rabbids dress up like counterparts to Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach, their attacks and play styles are all unique. For example, Mario has decent range and can blast two shots off in his turn, but Rabbid Mario is a brawler who must be close range to deal with devastating attacks.
Each character feels powerful but needs to be used differently in a battle to provide the best advantage to the player. Luigi is a long-range sniper whose special attack allows him to shoot an enemy that moves within range when it isn't his turn. Meanwhile, Princess Peach is an absolute tank that can damage any enemies or objects within a triangular space in front of her. This is a welcome change from her usual role as a healer, like we've seen in many games like Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
I often used Luigi to take out distant enemies that encroached on my space while I had Peach get up close and personal before destroying everything. Most satisfying of all, there were multiple times when I planned and put a character's passive effects into play which allowed me to defeat an enemy when it wasn't my turn.
Sparks, customization, and leveling up
There are 30 Sparks to encounter, and they provide plenty of customizable battle tactics when equipped. For example, the Spark called Pyrogeddon gives a character a fire-based meteor attack when equipped, while the Spark, Pulser, increases healing effectiveness. At first, only one Spark can be equipped, but eventually, the ability to equip two Sparks gets unlocked, giving you plenty of ways to customize your team's attacks, stats, and skills.
Some Sparks also allow a character to provide stat buffs to allies within range. These equippable perks give players further incentive to explore every area of a planet to unlock all Sparks in any given area. Additionally, Sparks can be leveled up by feeding them Star Bits found around the planets, which is a fun nod back to the same mechanic found in the Mario Galaxy games where Lumas made their debut.
As you battle, the entire team of characters earns experience and becomes more powerful, even if they aren't used on the battlefield. Because of this, taking on as many enemies as possible in the overworld is essential, so your team is strong enough to take on critical missions. In most cases, you'll be able to have three team members at a time, but there are also memorable battles that will allow more or restrict you to two. These changes help vary the gameplay, though I wish it happened more frequently, as combat can get repetitive after a while.
Silly scenarios and character antics
One of the things that makes Sparks of Hope so enjoyable is seeing the juxtaposition between the crazy Rabbids and the Mushroom Kingdom characters. Rabbids are very talkative and find themselves in the weirdest scenarios, while Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Bowser are calm and rarely do any talking. Sometimes this feels a bit mismatched as the Mushroom Kingdom characters feel more like mimes compared to their over-the-top Rabbid friends.
But overall, the situations the characters find themselves in, mixed with the interactions between Rabbids and other characters, put a smile on my face and had me looking forward to the next crazy thing I'd encounter.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope: What's Bad
The game's most frustrating part is that you cannot turn off the special attack battle animations. For instance, whenever I select Mario's Hero Sight attack, a short clip pops up showing the plumber wielding his Dual Slingers. It's cool to watch the first few times, but it gets tedious to see after a while, especially since I use these attacks multiple times in each battle. Unfortunately, there's no way to turn these animations off in the settings menu, and while you can skip them by pressing B, there's a delay (even after changing settings), and it takes far too long to move on each time.
Worse, none of these unique attack animations were skippable during the final battle. It's safe to say I had seen them many times leading up to this boss fight, so it upset me when I couldn't breeze past them and get back to my gameplay faster.
Speaking of repetition, the game attempted to do an excellent job of varying battles, but the grindy nature of the game makes it so that combat does feel repetitive after a while. You can change this by equipping different Sparks or selecting other team members, but it would have been nice if there was just a little more landscape and enemy variation to keep things more interesting.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope: Should you buy it?
If you like turn-based battles and strategic thinking, you must check Sparks of Hope out. The worlds are vibrant, the characters are silly, and combat can be satisfying. Each character brings powerful abilities to the battlefield and can be used masterfully to make you feel like a professional tactician.
The game keeps things interesting by varying enemies, locations, and objectives, but it can still feel repetitive. That's especially true toward the end of the game after you've gotten used to what the game has to offer. Still, changing up your team or swapping Sparks around can revitalize the experience and will give you something you're happy to play. This is an excellent strategy game that players of all ages will enjoy.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
Mario and his Mushroom Kingdom pals join together once more with their Rabbid counterparts for strategic battles. Use each character's strengths to get the upper hand on enemies as you make your way into space to defeat the big bad.
Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.
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