We were big fans of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle when it arrived on the Switch; it took established ideas from the turn-based tactics genre, did away with some annoying norms (such as the dreaded 'accuracy' of shots in XCOM, for example) and added its own twists. Quirky, colourful and surprisingly deep, it even managed to make this scribe almost like the Rabbids; that's quite an accomplishment, right there.
It's unsurprising that among the limited editions, figurines and other promotional doodads up Ubisoft's sleeve there is also a Season Pass. Structurally similar to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's setup, early on after release you got small extras with the promise of two notable updates - additional missions / challenges and then secondly new story content. Surprisingly, though, Ubisoft hasn't promoted it a great deal, with release dates coming out via eShop receipts and limited details found buried within official 'support' web pages.
And so the 'Ultra Challenge Pack' initially arrived with little fanfare, though after its release Ubisoft has now thrown out a trailer. Either way, it's the first notable arrival in the season pass - at launch you could get 'Pixel' weapons, and a little while later Steampunk equivalents arrived. There's nothing wrong with these extras, as such, with the pixel items looking rather fun on the battlefield, but they're not particularly useful for those working through the late game. Mid-range in power, in reality most will have already picked up weapons far more suitable, making the add-ons a superficial pleasure at most.
The Ultra Challenge Pack has actual new content, though, so let's consider what's on offer.
Ultra Hard Challenge Maps
The first part of the offering comes in the form of eight new 'Ultra Hard' challenge maps. As those that have made progress in the campaign will know, each world has various routes and areas that you can only access once your party has more exploration abilities. In addition, going back to cleared worlds means you come across Rabbid Toads waving challenge flags, and these are mostly quickfire battles that test your abilities. Varied in objectives, there are ten standard challenges in each world to find and take on, with rewards in the forms of coins and / or skill tree orbs.
To access these eight new challenges you need to head to the 'secret area' in each world to find them; this is a bit of a nuisance, in a sense, as it's easy to forget where these secret sections are. A minor complaint, yes, but each world is rather large (with a couple being maze-like in design) so tracking down the secret areas is challenge number one, with the main warp options not including a simple 'put me in the secret area' option even if you've already been there previously. If you can't remember where they are and don't feel like finding them all over again, the internet and YouTube videos are there to guide you. In one regard it makes sense, however - the secret areas are normally found after you've progressed in the game and strengthened your group, so the DLC is primarily targeting those that have either seen the end credits or are well on the way to that goal. Also, once you've attempted the new challenges at least once you can fast-travel to them later using the 'Washing Machine' in the hub area.
To be completely fair, the DLC makes clear who it's targeting with a name like Ultra Challenge Pack. When you find them you quickly realise that sloppy tactics or mistakes will cost you a run, no matter how juiced up your characters and weapons are. This is especially the case in a few examples that are more about smart strategy than brute strength; in multiple cases you need to clear the challenge in one turn, making clever use of dashes, overwatch style power-ups and in some cases explosive weapons. Team selection becomes even more important than usual.
There's decent variety in objectives, too - in one case it's not really about attacking enemies at all, but rather getting them to assault you in a certain way (it makes sense when you play it, we won't spoil all the details). There are also a few longer challenges where you need to defeat a lot of foes, so they'll keep players thinking a little harder. With the limited scope for errors - our team is tooled up but still vulnerable in these missions - there's pleasing challenge here, and at least a few of the maps are sure to trip players up and require multiple attempts. It should be noted, though, that all of these challenges are in simple or re-used environments, so in that respect they feel like a modest add-on.
The 'Cataclysm Kerfuffle' Co-Op Campaign
Next up is the 'Cataclysm Kerfuffle' campaign in the co-op mode. Unlike the challenge maps, this is easy to find as it has its own section within the co-op level selection area - called the 'Buddydome'. As we suggested in our review the co-op element is actually optional, albeit the game insists that you synchronise two controllers - or both Joy-Con separately - before letting you play. It is more fun with a buddy, as you can strategise and enjoy the madness together, but as it's entirely turn-based you can in theory play the mode solo.
What's nice about this campaign is that its five stages each take in one of the main environments - the tutorial matrix-style area, the sandy desert, a volcanic land and so on; it's a nice quick way to sample the different types of areas with a buddy. As in the other cases you can choose easy or normal difficulty for each stage (with hard being unlockable) and you set out with two teams of two.
All told this campaign of five maps is a solid addition, with a few of the levels being genuinely tricky and requiring forward planning and teamwork. The objectives shake things up a little too, with environmental challenges weighing in alongside occasional objectives such as escorting Toad and Toadette. They're all ideas familiar to those that have played through the game, but they're relatively meaty and interesting maps to tackle alongside a gaming buddy.
In our view the co-op content is the stronger addition, overall; it finds a nice balance of challenge and delivers some additional twists on the standard environments. Co-op stages can take a little while to work through, as well, so there's a solid 2-3 hours needed just to clear them, while determined players can go back for the 'Hard' difficulty setting.
So, Is It Time to Buy the Season Pass?
All told we're still a little unconvinced by the eight Ultra Hard challenge maps. Balancing is a little questionable, with a couple being relatively easy and others taking the difficulty a little too far down the 'Ultra' root. A bit of fortune is needed alongside good planning in a couple of cases, but at the very least they're good to their word of pushing a player's capabilities to the max. There's also decent variety, though a few require you to meet an objective in a single turn, so can potentially be over and done with very quickly. Nevertheless, don't tackle these unless you've put a lot of orbs into skill trees and invested in the strongest weapons.
The co-op addition is a little more solid, offering more bang for your buck and showcasing some nice map designs. Sure, you can in theory also play this solo if you swap between controllers, but if you've been dabbling in this multiplayer with a friend the new levels are worth trying out.
So, is it worth buying the Season Pass now? Perhaps, but only just. It offers more of a good thing, ultimately, but it's questionable whether it's worth putting down the full price - at this stage - for the pass. For those yet to finish all of the core content, or are perhaps still unconvinced, it'll do no harm to see what January's new story content delivers before taking the plunge.