Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure (Switch eShop) Review
Following on from the surprise success of Ubisoft’s zany XCOM-styled crossover Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, the new DLC expansion Donkey Kong Adventure bookends the base game brilliantly with the two new playable characters among the game’s best.
Following Rabbid Kong’s defeat at the conclusion of Kingdom Battle’s World 1, Donkey Kong Adventure begins with a mishap involving the behemoth himself, the time machine, and Rabbid Peach’s beloved phone, creating a vortex to another dimension. During transit to the tropical dimension DK Adventure takes place in, the machine breaks down, scattering its parts everywhere. Rabbid Peach teams up with Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky to repair the machine and take down the power-hungry Rabbid Kong.
Donkey Kong Adventure focuses solely on the team of three characters and is a significantly tighter and more focused experience because of it. Both Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky feel completely different than any of the characters in Kingdom Battle, and the genius level design takes full advantage of this newfound variety.
In a departure from the base game, Donkey Kong is the only character who does not possess a dash melee attack. Instead, the main Kong is able to pick up one object each turn to use as a projectile. Similar to how other characters can dash into opponents before continuing on with the rest of their turn, DK can move, pick up an object, move into his resting location, throw said object, and then use whatever remaining abilities as required. It’s worth mentioning that by “objects”, I mean pieces of cover, enemies, and even your teammates. DK defies the laws of physics to scrunch up his chosen projectile into a ball, before proceeding to volleyball spike it across the map.
For example, DK is able to pick up a piece of half or full cover and use its elemental damage (if any) as a hand grenade of various effects. Additionally, enemies can be hurled at their comrades, causing damage to both enemies, but throwing teammates causes no damage, instead serving as a handy and quick way of moving friends into more advantageous positions. This is even without discussing DK’s “Bwahnanarang” primary weapon, a large banana that curves in a loop, hitting multiple enemies in one throw if angled correctly. Combine this with his ability to draw opponents closer with the Donkey Konga bongos, and deal huge amounts of damage with the area-of-effect ground slam attack, the leader of the bunch – whom we know well – is a powerful ally.
Alongside DK, the crafty Rabbid Cranky brandishes the “BoomBow”, a shotgun-crossbow hybrid with a large damage spread primary attack, and a secondary attack featuring a bomb projectile. Arguably Rabbid Cranky’s greatest ability is that of shooting enemies beneath him mid-team jump, freezing them into being unable to use their special abilities for that turn. My favourite combo saw the senile simian dash into an enemy, team-jump off an ally while shooting a group of enemies within his landing proximity, get thrown by DK triggering yet another landing shot, followed by whichever attack and secondary ability suits the scenario best. Pairing up the two Kongs leads to regular outputs of massive damage – especially when you include Rabbid Peach’s multi-dash capability.
Spending most of her time soaking up the sun and teasing the smitten and immensely jealous Rabbid Kong, Rabbid Peach plays very similarly to her base game self. She’s the melee specialist with shielding and healing abilities that acts as the cohesive glue bringing the tactics of the two monkey allies together. And she’s damn funny. Often acting as the comic relief character with substance, Rabbid Peach routinely breaks the tension between the feuding Kongs to hilarious effect – nothing stops a family fight better than an impromptu selfie! As the aloof foil to the straight-faced robot companion BEEP-0 from Kingdom Battle, Rabbid Peach is among the best new characters seen in a recent Nintendo game. Probably because, unlike her inspiration who is often relegated to the weary damsel-in-distress role, Rabbid Peach is always at the centre of the action.
Challenging tactical gameplay shocked the gaming world when Kingdom Battle dashed onto the Switch last year. A Rabbids game with deep and challenging gameplay? No way! While there’s still challenge to be found, DK Adventure finds itself in an odd spot, likely due to the DLC requiring only World 1 of the base game to access. When playing through the new content, I easily achieved the gold trophy on most levels, with the rare outlier along the way. However, because DK Adventure focuses solely on DK, Rabbid Cranky and Rabbid Peach, each encounter feels more tightly designed to take full advantage of each character’s abilities. While failing levels was uncommon during my time with the game, I found I spent much more time deliberating over each move than I did during Kingdom Battle. Especially because of DK’s map-spanning mobility which can be used to transport teammates large distances each turn.
Refreshingly, DK Adventure adds some nice mission variety, including destroying Rabbid Kong’s banana stashes and reclaiming stolen washing machine parts. Thankfully, the annoying Toad and Toadette escort missions are missing entirely – not being able to team-jump during those encounters was excruciating. This added variety, plus the post-game challenge levels, reinforces a mastery of the new and old characters, continuing Mario + Rabbids’ reputation for being the Switch’s premium strategy experience. Wait until you see the final challenge levels – the sheer scale is jaw-dropping.
Unsurprisingly, Donkey Kong aficionados will love DK Adventure’s vibrant locales and the brilliant soundtrack from returning composer Grant Kirkhope. DK Adventure is packed with deft visual and audio motifs as nods to the king of swing’s previous adventures, ranging from the Donkey Kong Country series, Donkey Kong 64, right through to the recent Returns and Tropical Freeze games. The Mario-themed coin currency from the base game is replaced with bananas, where collecting the potassium-powered snacks elicits the exact same sound heard in the rebooted Country series. Without spoiling anything, the decent raft of additions to the weapon roster is one hell of a nostalgia trip.
Arguably a step up from Kingdom Battle’s already gorgeous visual design, DK Adventure’s world is an astounding mix of vibrant greens and blues of the tropical beach levels, with just the right balance of yellows and browns of the game’s mysterious ruins. Taking inspiration from the original Super Nintendo Country title, the jungle-themed third section of DK Adventure is a runaway highlight. I could Rabbid on about beautiful scenery or the tactically interesting level design, but Kirkhope’s fully orchestrated rework of David Wise’s DK Island Swing is downright masterful.
I’m no expert in music composition, but I love the way Kirkhope delicately weaves in such a stirring mix of heavy and light sounds throughout the DK Island Swing piece. Commencing with the signature opening percussions followed a deep, blaring brass and cello section, the music keeps the toe-tapping melodic nature of the source music with the dainty woodwind section. This is before the song blasts into a chilling cinematic-styled version of the melody, complete with string section. Be sure to keep an ear out for the terrific original music, in addition to Kirkhope’s revisiting of his Donkey Kong 64 material – the soothing DK Isle theme is another highlight among many. A lifetime of memories is lovingly packaged into DK Adventure – I’m getting goosebumps just writing about it.
If you put a Bwahnanarang to my head and forced me to nitpick DK Adventure’s misgivings, I would struggle to think of anything detrimental to the overall experience. Like the base game, DK Adventure suffers from some dodgy frame rate drops when exploring the hub world. While it occasionally impacts the otherwise strong presentation, does it detract from the game? Absolutely not. I could mention how easy some of the levels were, but again, the levels were never boringly simple. I took my time with each scenario and found that each level was engaging in its own right due to how well they encourage you to use the new and exciting abilities. The only other negative I can think of is a bug I encountered in one of the final challenges, where DK hilariously threw his Bwahnanarang off the map, never to return. Laughing too much to care, I restarted the level, never to encounter the issue again. Each “flaw” in DK Adventure does nothing to take away from the thrill of playing this value-packed DLC.
A DK-lover’s delight, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure condenses the best parts of the base game into a single, self-contained experience. A narrower focus on three characters enhances the strong tactical experience while keeping the goofy Mario & Rabbids charm. Musically, Kirkhope’s best-of compilation elevates DK Adventure to a must-play for Donkey Kong enthusiasts.
+ Donkey Kong & Rabbid Cranky are fantastic and drastically different characters
+ Donkey Kong Adventure feels like a tighter, more focused version of Kingdom Battle
+ Gorgeous visuals and colour palette filled with DK motifs
+ Grant Kirkhope
- Difficulty doesn’t crank up until post-game challenge levels
- Frame rate drops during exploration
- DK’s Bwahnanarang ran away that one time