Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Review
Five years ago, Ubisoft released the first Mario + Rabbids game. I loved it! You can read the review here. With the highly-anticipated sequel, can they improve on that peanut butter/chocolate magic? The short answer is yes. The long answer is more like yes? Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope manages to build something new atop an already solid foundation. While the game contains a lot of familiar elements, it still feels fresh and exciting.
The biggest change is the Sparks themselves. In keeping with the tone of the series, the Sparks are literally a fusion of Rabbids and Luma. Furthermore, they serve as both characters and abilities. To be fair, they are mostly abilities. Pretty remarkable ones, in fact. Sparks can give elemental boosts to your attacks, shield you from damage, and lay waste to your enemies. And this is on top of the unique skills each character already has. Between the Sparks and the expanded character roster, you can really make your team your own.
Aside from the Mario characters and their Rabbid counterparts, there’s also Edge. If nothing else, she’s aptly named. As far as new characters go, she’s totally fine. Ripped directly from the notebook of some moody 12-year-old, yes. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Rather, no one can hold a candle to the Rabbid princesses. Peach and Rosalina’s Rabbid doppelgangers are temperamental, mouthy, and practically insufferable. I dearly love them both. Rabbid Peach in particular is still my absolute favorite character. No one from the Mushroom Kingdom has even a portion of her personality. Also, she’s a healer! So, top marks all around.
Bursting With Personality
Whereas the previous game had a Mario Bros aesthetic, Sparks of Hope is Rabbids all the way down. The biomes are more seasonal, less ‘Worlds 1 through 7,’ if that makes any sense. It’s a welcome change, albeit a subtle one. Aside from the stages, the characters also have more personality to them. Some of the dialogues are partially voiced, for example. Your robot companions have a whole comedy duo routine going, which slowly grew on me. Rabbid Peach’s voice is perfect, of course. Although in truth, I was speeding through the cutscenes. I just wanted to get to the battles that little bit faster, you see.
Sparks of Hope is crammed with all sorts of RPG/adventure extras, all designed to make the game feel more complete. And the game does feel that way, I just didn’t need it to. You’ve got an open area to explore in every world. Each one is full of sidequests and secrets. There are people to talk to, items to dredge up, and local currency to collect. It’s all implemented well enough, I just didn’t care for it. For me, everything outside the battles was a pacing problem to be solved. I love wrapping up sidequests, don’t get me wrong. They just can’t compare to the combat.
The battles in Sparks of Hope are best described as tough but fair. Your enemies have more or less all the same moves that you do. Mario and Luigi’s counter shots, all of the elemental attacks, and even the shields will be a constant threat. You and your opponents also have the same shooting skills. If you’ve got a clear shot, so do they. But the fight’s not a hopeless one. You’ve got a pile of Sparks to choose from, and three slots to fill for your team. Even though I never bothered with the sidequests, I was still tough enough to take on all the story missions. If I ever got stuck, I just had to adjust my strategy to succeed.
Always A Way To Win
There are a ton of side missions, though. If you feel like gaining extra levels, you’ve got plenty of options. Of course, some of the extra battles are way harder. Which is fine if you’re into that sort of thing, but be warned! Since you don’t regain all your health between fights, the cost of victory can be quite high. Relying on items and passive skills was terribly expensive, which is why I had a healer at all times. Even then, it’s easy to find yourself strapped for coins at the worst possible moments. My advice: there’s a passive ability that gives you 15% of your health back after winning a battle. Unlock that immediately.
Rather than just coast off the ingenuity of the first game, Sparks of Hope reaches beyond its predecessor. The Sparks give an extra layer of agency and choice to the player, while handing those same deadly tools to your enemies. The battles are fast-paced, clever, and compelling. So much so that the sections outside of battle feel like an exhausting slog by comparison. The dialogue is at turns both witty and insufferable, while the actual plot exists only to justify the action. Don’t let my bizarre set of blinders deter you, though. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is an excellent follow-up to the remarkable original game.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- The Spark system rules
- Battles are tons of fun
- Rabbid Peach is still the best
- Non-combat pacing drags
- Healing gets expensive
- Barebones plot