5 Things We Learned From Playing Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope

Mario and Rabbid Rosalina in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.

POPSUGAR recently had the opportunity to play Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, Ubisoft’s new turn-based strategy crossover with Nintendo. Over the course of a four hour session, we played through the game’s intro and jumped into a level a little bit further into the game. Our overall impression is that Sparks of Hope is a magical hybrid that captures the joy of Nintendo games and combines it with a layer of deep and challenging strategy.

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope will be instantly recognisable to anyone who played the first game in the series, but it’s also made lots of improvements — and whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer (and this is from someone who’s played, conservatively, 4 hours of any Mario game in her life), Sparks of Hope will have something that captures your attention and keeps you coming back for more.

Here’s everything we learned about Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope from our hands-on session.

There’s a Big Focus On Exploration

In classic Mario fashion, the game is made up of multiple worlds with their own theme and challenges. We spent time in two worlds: a seafaring world inhabited by a Poseidon-like rabbid and a snowy world centred around a haunted castle.

Secrets, upgrades, items and side quests are hidden in every corner of the world, so you’ll need to explore thoroughly if you want your team to be as strong as possible.

Mario, Peach, Rabbid Luigi and Augie exploring the frozen castle in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.

No More Grids

In the first Mario + Rabbids game, battles were fought on a grid. You could move a certain number of grids per turn, and the range of your attacks was limited to how many grids away your opponent was. Sparks of Hope does away with the grid for a smoother and more free-flowing style of combat.

Now you can use the thumbstick to move your party members during battles, exactly as you do out of combat. Characters still have a maximum range they can move, but you can position characters freely and move within the space as much as you like.

There Are Dozens of Sparks

Sparks come with their own abilities, and equipping a Spark unlocks their abilities for that character. Electrogeddon, for instance, has the ability Skyrain Shock, which causes electrified meteors to rain down on enemies, while Glitter’s ability pulls nearby enemies in and increases the damage of weapon-based attacks by 20%.

Each character can have two Sparks equipped, and changing up the Team Sparks can have a drastic effect on combat. Teamwork and synergies between characters and their Sparks are essential to get the upper hand in a fight, especially when you start going up against bosses.

Screenshot of the Sparks menu in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.

It’s Actually Pretty Challenging

Just because Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is a cute game doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a big bite. You’ll need to plan carefully for battles and build a team with complementary abilities. It’s also important to think out each turn and play characters in the order that best lets you combo their abilities.

Combat isn’t the only challenge, though. There are also plenty of puzzles that range from simple to genuinely tricky, which helps keep the gameplay feel fresh.

Beep-O Is Your Best Friend

Beep-O is back! The lil’ robot assistant can be sent out at the start of each battle to scout the area and scan enemies. Use Beep-O to learn about each enemy’s resistances and weaknesses, and then equip your team with the most useful Sparks for dealing with them.

Beep-O is also handy for setting up ambushes on unsuspecting enemies — send the cheery robot out on a scouting run, then sneak some of your party members into a position that gives you the advantage during an enemy turn.

What Is the Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Release Date?

The game’s coming to Switch on October 20.

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