It feels a little odd reflecting back on this game after not picking it back up since I put it down two weeks ago. I had purchased the physical copy of this game for 15$, which must have been a year or so ago, and never even threw it into my Switch. That’s not something I do often, buy a game and not play it right away, but the price was just too good to pass up.
I’m a huge fan of the X-COM games, I’ve played them on PC, PS4, and even my iPad Pro and love everything about them. That’s why I wanted this game. X-COM on my Switch (that was just announced also, lol) is an awesome concept and to have Mario characters in it is an added bonus, what could go wrong.
The Rabbids though…nobody ever wanted that. I don’t even get what they are or why they exist. I know it’s a Ubisoft thing, but why are they a thing? It’s so confusing, they are so dumb looking, how does that get mixed with Mario? So many questions.
So yea, started playing this game and it was great. It was straight up X-COM with the Mario characters shooting guns and Luigi snipping from across the map with his vacuum cleaner sniper rifle. The first two worlds are great and the combat encounters are really fun and unique, but that’s where I stopped, when I went into world 3. I’ll get back to that in a bit though.
So let’s just get to the graphics, which are awesome. This game is running on the Snowdrop engine, which is what the Division 2 uses. So that just shows an insane amount of scale-ability in that engine and it really does deliver a nice experience on the Switch. I played the game exclusively in handheld mode, like I do all Switch games since it’s a handheld console, and it looks really nice on the screen. The game has FMV cutscenes that look better than I expected from a game with Mario in it. It was just a little strange seeing Mario in a nicely rendered cutscene, perhaps an animated movie is next for him.
Rabbid characters make up the brunt of what you’ll be fighting, while characters from Mario games make small appearances here and there. Fighting the Rabbids is not a problem and that’s not why I stopped playing the game. There’s a nice feature before jumping into a fight where you can hit a button and give yourself a health boost before the match, which is a nice way to alter the difficulty on the fly. Which is how I just started naturally playing the missions as it went along and is part of the reason why this game bothered me so much.
The game itself revolves around your plucky little team, led by a circular floating robot, walking around an over-world solving little puzzles and gaining upgrades. Later on you can go back to previously explored sections and use your newfound abilities to solve puzzles and find collectibles and new weapons. All that is just great. No problems.
Let’s ask a basic question. What makes a good X-COM game?
Upgrading and growing your squad.
Interesting combat encounters.
Fair combat encounters?
You see that last one? Yea, that’s what I don’t like about this game. You just get to a point where all they do is add enemies that have abilities you can’t predict. So get this, you get into a combat situation, decide to play it safe and keep your back clear, slowly progressing in a strategic manner while staying in cover. Sounds good, doesn’t look like you’ll be flanked, Luigi is sniping like the guy from Enemy at the Gates . Nah son, scratch all that, fuck you and your plans, we got a ghost dude that’s just going to teleport right behind you and fuck you up. Thanks game. This just throws the whole strategy element on it’s head and instead makes it a crap-shoot whether the RNG works in your favor or not. Some enemies are just annoying and make you want to turn the game off, I wish this weren’t the case. After world 2 you can clear a battle without a worry, get wrecked the next stage, only to blow past the next with ease.
It all just became a repetitive process in the end, I felt like something was lacking in the overall experience, but I don’t know exactly what it is. Perhaps, if instead of having an environment were you walk around for the home base, if it was setup as more of a hub map. It could change the pace of the game and give the ability to reset your thoughts and focus on something completely different. From this over-map you can expand on the Mushroom Kingdom, building out bases to help in the fight. Perhaps a little extra customization on the characters would be nice, some outfit changes for Peach? A weapon smith to upgrade equipment if you brought back parts found in the world maps, or perhaps you do side missions for them and they reward you with upgraded gear. Heck, keep the ghosts in the game but give the characters the ability to drop a jamming device that has an area-of-effect where the ghosts can’t teleport inside of. That would add an extra level of complexity, while also making the matches more fair to the player.
In the end, it was enjoyable while it lasted, yet I have to put it down for a good while. Maybe one day I’ll pick it back up again when the mood strikes me. Nintendo just announcing a Switch port of X-COM 2 might put a huge damper on that one though… A good game with a great opening act that quickly turns into a frustrating experience.