Sparks of Hope teaches the plumber to shoot around corners ★★★★☆

Super Mario squeezes his mustache into Sparks of Hope.Image Ubisoft

In particle physics, physicists try to unravel the structure of all matter and radiation in the universe by colliding atoms at the speed of light. In this way, they keep discovering new, smaller elementary particles.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is the Higgs boson in the game world.

The computer game originates from a clash between Super Mario and Rabbids. The first has been Japan’s best-known game character since the mid-1980s, the second a bunch of crazy rabbits who went from supporting roles to leading roles since their debut in a French game in 2006. Like the henchmen of Despicable Me (2010) the rabbis have long surpassed their master.

There is always a risk with such a person crossover, the phenomenon where characters from a computer game appear in someone else’s world. The fans don’t want their heroes messed with. For example, the Internet was too small at the beginning of this month when a trailer appeared for the upcoming cartoon Super Mario Bros. Movie. In it, the world’s most famous plumber no longer produced shrill nonsense beeps, but turns out to speak in American actor Chris Pratt’s impeccable English.

Sparks of hope based on Battle of Kingdoms from 2017, Mario and the Rabbids’ first adventure, which garnered as much praise as amazement. What was Ubisoft, the French publisher behind the Rabbids games, doing in the Mushroom Kingdom, the kingdom where the plumber has spent 40 years rescuing Princess Peach from the clutches of the evil dragon Bowser?

Luigi, Princess Peach and Super Mario (left to right) and their Rabbid look-alikes.  Image Ubisoft

Luigi, Princess Peach and Super Mario (left to right) and their Rabbid look-alikes.Image Ubisoft

live chess game

Battle of Kingdoms turned out not to be the climbing and scrambling adventure that the Super Mario series is known for, but an amazingly deep strategic puzzle game where the player is dropped into another battlefield and must defeat a group of opponents in three turns.

Think of a sort of living chess game where you might not make one move each turn, but you can make three, and where you can also sit the opponent’s moves and then hit back hard and triumphantly. Each new battle requires careful consideration of weapon placement, position and special skills. Sometimes you find the enemy behind obstacles that you have to take down first, for example with grenades that can fly around a corner.

New in Sparks of hope are the cartoon-like stars, sparks that you can win in the game and that provide a tactical advantage or other aid that increases your chances on the battlefield.

Sparks of hope also offers other improvements over Kingdom Battle. For example, your fighters are no longer fixed to a specific square like pawns on a chessboard, but you can freely place Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and their Rabbid lookalikes within a larger bounded area. This in turn gives you all sorts of strategic advantages: you can move out of a shot’s path or into it to lure the enemy out of his cover.

Die-hard fans of Super Mario will shake their heads at many of the liberties the French have allowed themselves with the Mario formula. Rabbids fans too, by the way: the rabbits have lost much of their anarchic madness: the humor is often well-mannered and flat.

But still: this is another game that defies the unfairly ‘childish’ image of the Nintendo and Switch game consoles. Yes, older gamers will have to bite through a thin and inconsequential narrative and sugary sugar coating. But behind this candy-colored disguise lies a formidable strategic challenge.

The danger in Sparks of Hope can also come from above, when there are counterattacks, fires and the whole Image Ubisoft

The danger in Sparks of Hope can also come from above by counterattack, burning and all.Image Ubisoft

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope has been released for Nintendo Switch and is rated for ages 7 and up (PEGI)

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