When a game hits on a good idea, some developers are content to play it safe for the sequel, making a few refinements but largely stick to what worked the first time. That totally makes sense. But Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is not that kind of sequel; even though Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle surprised us all with its smart XCOM-style tactics in Nintendo clothing, this followup maintains its best ideas but reinvents itself to the point where it immediately feels very different. It’s bigger and better in nearly every way, with a more freeform and customizable take on combat and an almost completely rethought overworld that’s much less linear and absolutely packed with puzzles. The story’s all over the place and the Switch can’t always handle everything smoothly, but it’s a fantastic game that can be played as either an enjoyable cakewalk or a deep, demanding tactical challenge, all while maintaining its zany sense of humor.
The amazing thing about Mario is that this character is still meaningful, while at the sametime being anything.