Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – Donkey Kong Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was one of the biggest surprises last year in what turned out to be a huge year in gaming. As a franchise mash-up, the developers could have easily fell back on this and produced a marketable but mediocre game. Instead, it turned out to be a game that was lovingly crafted down to the smallest detail as you can see in our review. With a Season Pass available, it was known early on that this was not the end and now the Donkey Kong Adventure is out to beautifully bookend one of the best releases of last year.
As with the base game (and like almost all DLC), this could have been a lazily thrown-together piece of content that relied on people who had already bought in. It could have reused the same areas, the same characters and added a simple new story on top. Instead, it has brand new areas, characters and mechanics that make it a genuinely different experience.
In this adventure, you are limited to just three characters with Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky joining Rabbid Peach. The events going on here seem to be set during the Mario adventure after you have defeated Rabbid Kong; the first boss in the base game. Rabbid Kong ends up transported to Kong Island where he begins causing trouble with his rabbid minions. The story doesn’t much matter on its own but there are plenty of hilarious moments to see as you progress the adventure.
This content progresses largely as the last one did. You traverse between each battlefield with puzzles to solve and a few secrets to find. You now of course collect bananas instead of coins and the new environments are all inspired by the Donkey Kong series. There are plenty of references to the series scattered around with weapon names and rabbid antics often referencing the series.
Of the two new characters Donkey Kong is the most radically different; being highly mobile and able to swing between platforms and use height to his advantage. He can also pick up blocks, hazards and enemies and use them offensively. The other team members can also be picked up and thrown out of danger, on to higher platforms or just into better positions. Donkey Kong uses a variety of banana shaped boomerangs for his long-range attack but his main advantage is with his mobility. In close-quarters, Donkey Kong can unleash a powerful slam attacks and can make use of his bongos to bring enemies closer to execute the attack.
As with the previous game, the task isn’t always simply to defeat all the enemies. There are a variety of scenarios some new ones which include preventing enemies from reaching certain areas, and retrieving items from specific enemies. However something all have in common is the immediacy of each scenario. From early on you are encouraged to hit fast and hard and this remains so throughout the game. Some scenarios are time sensitive but many also just have new enemies spawning regularly making speed and efficient use of abilities a necessity.
Donkey Kong Adventure has roughly a third to a half of the content of the main game depending on how you measure and each scenario is noticeably briefer. Along with this there are the same collectables, unlockables and even some new challenge maps. There are also plenty of puzzles to find throughout the adventure and as in the more recent Donkey Kong Country games, puzzle pieces to collect. There are even a few bonus stages that take inspiration from the series.
The only real criticism I have is that it will likely be too easy for veterans – especially those who battled to perfect every level and completed the challenge maps. I never found myself stumped and was able to get a perfect on almost every scenario on my first time through. There was one environmental puzzle that had me scratching my head for a time but that was really all the trouble I had in the main adventure. While not particularly challenging, it was always engaging. One other minor criticism I will add is that Rabbid Cranky and Donkey Kong are not made available outside of this DLC. It is minor because the original maps were not designed with these characters in mind but it would have been a nice little bonus regardless. I suppose I should mention that the game also froze on me a couple of times. I did not experience this in the original game so it seems related to the DLC. I have no idea whether or not this is a common problem but it did happen!
This game reminds this old timer of when what is now DLC was better known as an expansion pack for PC games. These were sometimes lazily produced level packs but more often than not, they were a thoughtful and significant addition to the main game. That’s what this is and if most DLC was like this, gamers wouldn’t be nearly so cynical as they’ve become. An absolute recommendation for anyone who enjoyed Mario + Rabbids.