TUCSON, Ariz. — The spirited platforming of Mario and the wonky humor of the Rabbids isn't a natural pairing, but somehow it just works.
"Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope" melds the two franchises together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Icons Mario, Luigi, and Peach team with their Rabbid counterparts for a roster of nine heroes who take on new levels, bosses, and standbys.
The follow-up to the 2017 Switch launch title "Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle" seems intent on providing a more traditional Mario-game feel.
While the original game delivered some spirited turn-based tactical battles, the sequel includes more free-roaming, "Super Mario Odyssey"-style exploration.
The tactical battles are still present, with some free-moving adjustments that make gameplay feel less stiff and stifled.
Strategy amounts to selecting and positioning your party members in spots that take advantage of enemy weaknesses, then deploying your special attacks, buffs, and health boosts at key times to turn the tide of battle.
Developers Ubisoft Paris and Ubisoft Milan manage to capture more of the traditional Mario spirit than the first game. Rather than feeling like a Ubisoft-crafted spinoff, "Sparks of Hope" feels more like a Nintendo-manufactured title that draws from the Ubisoft universe.
Impressively, "Sparks of Hope" is a more satisfying foray into the most recent Mario-themed entry into tactics and exploration-based effort, "Paper Mario: The Origami King" (2020).
While "Sparks of Hope" could frustrate younger players because it lacks the pick-up-and-play ease of use of the mainline Mario games, the amount of depth and management helps it appeal to mature gamers who are looking for more than the standards racing, jumping, and projectile-hurling.
The sequel proves that the fusion of Mario and Rabbids is worth more than just a fling and is now officially a thing. Here's hoping for future team-ups with this level of polish and execution.