Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle - Donkey Kong Adventure Review
Review By Steve Farrelly @ 06:03pm 29/06/18
Ubisoft really needs to learn to shorten the titles of their games. It’s terribly inconsiderate to online editors and our system slug/URIs. But, we’ll forgive them this once because Donkey Kong Adventure -- the first major additional gameplay expansion to the critically successful Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle -- is excellent.
So excellent in fact, it might even be better than the base game, but without the base game it wouldn’t exist… so they’re about even, maybe. Okay, DKA is perhaps a whisker in front because of a few things it addresses that people might have had minor issue with in M+R:KB.
Namely, controlling your party. In Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, people found it weird controlling Beep-O over Mario and often got frustrated when approaching some of the timed coin challenges and block movement puzzles. And it’s a fair criticism, despite the narrative setup of the game. And how this is addressed in Donkey Kong Adventure is that, while still controlling Beep-O, he has a hitchhiker in the form of Rabbid Cranky who rides him like one of those weird hipster motorised monowheel dealies you see people in Newtown, Fortitude Valley or Brunswick ‘riding’. But by effectively controlling an actual character and not a Danozdirect robot floor vacuum, it’s much easier to navigate the game-world and conquer puzzles.
Additionally, Donkey Kong Adventure is also a more intimate affair. You only have Rabbid Peach, Rabbid Cranky and Donkey Kong here, alongside Beep-O, of course. Rabbid Peach and the game’s main baddie -- the brilliant Rabbid Kong -- have kind of a ‘thing’. This is obviously Ubisoft playing up to the King Kong and later, original Donkey Kong, Ann Darrow and Princess Peach Kongnap storylines, and they have a lot of fun with it. But it also means you get a chance as the player to more intimately manage your team by way of weapons and skill-trees. Juxtaposingly, Donkey Kong Adventure is a more streamlined adventure but also features a more varied cast of unique enemy-types. And this opens up your tactical planning conflict-to-conflict.
The story, as with Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, is ridiculous, but it does carry over from the base game. In fact you can’t tackle the new content until you’ve completed the first world in Kingdom Battle because Spoiler: Rabbid Kong requires a narrative base for revenge, and in the original game, you send him flying from his pedestal both literally, and emotionally figuratively. And, for whatever reason… let’s say, locational context, our heroes are warped to a new, mysterious island (Donkey Kong island) where Rabbid Kong has eaten some gnarly, mutated bananas that make him infinitely stronger, and now he’s king of the land and has his Rabbid minions out trying to collect up all the bananas they can to try and make him stronger. Your goal, obviously, is to stop that. And off we go.
Humour here is king, and while Donkey Kong himself is kept relatively wrapped in Nintendo cotton wool, Ubisoft has gone next-level with their Rabbid Nintendo alter egos. Rabbid Peach is as gloriously ignorant and obnoxious as ever, while their treatments of Rabbid Cranky -- a parallel to the already hilarious Cranky Kong from Rare’s days behind the Donkey Kong franchise -- is comedy gold. And his delivery is made all the more impressive because he, and Peach, as well as all the Rabbids, don’t speak. It might seem odd to have this as an elevated point in a review about a game, but when nestled deep inside Nintendo’s biggest franchises and characters, to see Ubisoft continue to flex their comedy muscles (with a bit of adult humour thrown in for good measure), it just adds the overall charm of the product.
Of course, the game’s charm is another juxtaposed side to design here, because once again Donkey Kong Adventure throws down the challenge gauntlet, and then some. Levels are more intricately designed but the way in which you can stack abilities, weapons and movement this time around is ten-fold to that of Kingdom Battle. And when you throw in the more varied enemy-types, you start to see a game that’s whole is the sum of its myriad parts. There’s lessons learnt here from the first game for sure, and a maturity that stems from that, but largely the confidence Ubisoft has spread across both game is the reason why they’re so damned good. It’s one thing to be handed a Nintendo license to create within their own worlds, but it’s another to actually do so with competent gameplay that translates to serious challenge.
You’d be hard-pressed finding follow-up content of this calibre in most new franchises, but the completeness to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle - Donkey Kong Adventure is absolute. It’s stunning and creative, artfully confident and poignantly funny. It’s an ever-challenging experience that expands upon the base game’s already brilliant pacing. There are moments here and there where framerates drop and some screen-tearing -- while docked to a TV -- occurs, but it rarely happens enough to be a problem. And when I say this thing is gorgeous I mean it: playing on my Samsung Curved 65” QLED Q8C TV just presents a visual dream. It might not be in 4K or utilising HDR, as I also said in my Mario Tennis Aces review, but Nintendo games -- with their colour palette and overall presentation -- in HD are just glorious to look at.
There’s hours of gameplay across both Kingdom Battle and now Donkey Kong Adventure, if you haven’t already bought into this new franchise. And with the added capacity to take the game on-the-go as a portable gaming experience, the value for money and Nintendo Switch buy-in here, and with Nintendo’s other key exclusives, is starting to look harder and harder to resist. At least from where we’re sitting.