Following the suction-cupped footsteps of Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion, the paid Donkey Kong Adventure DLC for Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a swinging good time from start to finish. After proving last year that the Super Mario Bros. and raving Rabbids make an incredible combo, the new content pack proves this crossover is more than just a one trick donkey.
Mario + Rabbids is one of my favorite and most-played games on Switch. The core game provided dozens of hours of challenging tactics gameplay as well as genuine laughs by way of the quirky Rabbids. Impressively, the Donkey Kong Adventure DLC improves on the main game in almost every way and feels more like a sequel than just extra content.
Watch the video review below. The full review immediately follows.
The New DK Crew
This time around your party is locked to Rabbid Peach and newcomers Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky Kong. Rabbid Peach retains her same moveset, while Cranky Kong has adopted human Peach’s shotgun, grenade launcher, and overwatch attacks. The main difference, other than being a sweater vest-wearing ape bunny, is the ability to put enemies to sleep.
Donkey Kong is a powerhouse who possesses viable attack or defensive options for almost every situation. His primary weapon is a boomerang that can hit multiple enemies at once. His secondary weapon is his own two hands that will strike any enemies immediately surrounding him. Combine that with his ability to draw enemies to him with his bongos and you can already imagine the strategic possibilities.
Donkey Kong can also pick up allies, enemies, and cover and hurl them incredible distances. If there are two baddies with low health, pick one up and throw it at the other. You’ve just defeated two of them at once and you still haven’t even used your main weapon yet.
Additionally, DK is able to jump up ledges without a pipe and across chasms using blue tiles. All of this combined means you can do a heck of a lot in one turn. Imagine grabbing Rabbid Cranky, scaling a tall platform, swinging to the other side of the map, and then hurling Cranky at a nearby enemy while he blasts it with his passive ice ability. Both you and Cranky can use your weapons and Cranky can still move around and reposition himself. There are many opportunities to chain moves together like this and it feels so satisfying each time you are able to pull off a big combo.
Your team’s combined abilities make them a near unstoppable force. With some strategic thinking, it’s pretty simple to earn perfect marks on every stage. But playing as Donkey Kong is just so dang fun, that an overall easier experience isn’t a detractor. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of defeating a horde of enemies with a ground pound and watching them burst into bunches of bananas.
Mobility seemed to be the emphasis for the DLC. While maps can be quite large, you’ll find that you can reach most tiles within a single turn or two if you position yourself well the turn before. The gameplay has an intoxicating sense of speed and momentum that I’ve never before experienced in a turn-based tactics game.
Reinventing the Peel
New mission and enemy types reinvigorate the gameplay. Summoners aren’t a huge nuisance, but they will spawn a powerful enemy if you don’t deal with them quickly. Collectors will steal the items you need to complete the level and will run away when attacked. Tracking them down may mean separating your teammates and leaving them more vulnerable to attack and possibly out of rescue’s reach.
Toad escort missions were thankfully removed and replaced by other mission types, including one that asks you to destroy caches of “bad bananas” or keep enemies from entering an end zone. I appreciated how both the new enemies and mission types are contextualized by the story.
Puzzles also make a return. The puzzle design in Donkey Kong Adventure is cleverer, and therefore, more challenging than that of the base Mario+Rabbids. It is harder to stumble across the solution which makes solving each puzzle feel more rewarding than the treasure chest it gives you.
Monkey See Monkey Do
In between fights, you’ll navigate through a tropical overworld. The lush forests and sandy shores are gorgeous locales for the game’s stylized art direction. You’ll be able to observe the scenery freely as this DLC fixes the restricted camera, a major annoyance from the first game. The animation loops of the Rabbids found throughout the world are hilarious distractions on your journey 6–12 hour journey.
The entire adventure is set to a wonderful orchestral soundtrack by famed game composer Grant Kirkhope. I thought Kirkhope’s compositions were generic and uninspired in the main game, so it delighted me to hear his whimsical renditions of classic Donkey Kong tunes. Whether in the background as you explore or synced to a cinematic, the music is memorable and epic.
And speaking of cinematics, there are a lot of them. While at least half the size of the main game, it feels like there are twice as many cutscenes all of which are beautifully animated. Even though the story doesn’t take itself too seriously, there is an impressive amount of care in the character animation, “voice” acting, and cinematography.
The Donkey Kong Adventure is a great proof of concept for the inevitable +Rabbids sequel. You should buy this DLC even if you haven’t beaten the core game. The confident Donkey Kong makes a much more interesting protagonist to watch and play than Mario. While Mario + Rabbids is an excellent game on its own, it’s hard not to think that Donkey Kong should have been the star all along.