Nintendo is mighty stingy at lending its main mascot to other publishers, so when a third-party Mario game pops up it's always worth a look. "Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle" offers a fresh take on the Mushroom Kingdom squad, being so bold as to hand Mario and company firearms.
True, the guns are goofy-looking blasters rather than cap-busting nines, but it's still eyebrow raising to watch the cartoonish heroes scamper behind cover to line up headshots.
Taking cues from the "XCOM" reboot and its sequel, Ubisoft's bizarre mash-up largely succeeds where the likes of Nintendo's similar effort, "Code Name: S.T.E.A.M." stumbled. With an accessible interface -- thanks much in part to an isometric view reminiscent of "Super Mario 3D World," the gameplay manages to simplify a complex, high learning curve genre for the masses. Noobs will be able to pick it up and grasp the mechanics, while there is enough depth and disparate objectives to challenge experienced gamers.
With more than 250 weapons and a slew of characters from both genres participating -- complete with the trademark, out-there Rabbids style of humor -- "Kingdom Battle" is a joyous, intense slugfest that excels as much as the strategy front as it does in narrative thrust. Bite-sized missions make the game play just as well in quick-hit portable mode as it does when you're at home, glued to your couch for marathon sessions on your TV.
The lack of online multiplayer -- at least there's couch co-op -- is disappointing but expected. With the Switch's online system still in its beginning stages, there was little upside for Ubisoft to take it online. That thankless task is best left to Nintendo's first party obsessions, such as "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe" and "Splatoon 2."
With an enthralling campaign and savage gameplay lining every step of the way, "Kingdom Battle" is a welcome introduction for a non-vehicle riding Mario to Nintendo's newest system. Sure, when "Super Mario Odyssey" drops in a couple months this game will be little more than an afterthought, but until then this is peak Switch Mario.
Publisher provided review code.