Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was one of the Switch’s early delights, plonking Mario and friends into a fantastic turn-based, tactical RPG that somehow even managed to make us love those pesky little Rabbids. Almost outdoing its great gameplay, though, was its pure charm and the evident bucket loads of love that had clearly been poured into the project. All of this made us excited to take on the game’s DLC expansion – Donkey Kong Adventure – and we’re very happy to report that things are just as lovely as ever.
Let us start by explaining that this is very much an extension of the main game; rather than playing like a sequel, the story takes us on an alternative adventure that takes place alongside the main shenanigans. You will need to have completed the main game’s first world in order to play, though, as certain plot points centre around what happens during that first boss fight.
The story is a little less dominant than before, with a comical intro scene seeing Rabbid Peach nonchalantly plugging her phone into a highly dangerous washing machine, accidentally whisking herself and Beep-O through time and space. It’s not long until Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky appear on the scene, too, and together, the foursome is ready to explore a whole new set of battles, trying to fix the washing machine once and for all.
As you may have guessed given the expansion’s title, the gameplay is very much centred around DK himself, but much more so than we initially imagined. Yes, he’s clearly the star of the show and he has some unique abilities, but the stages are entirely built and designed around the way in which DK can be used, bringing with it a whole new way to strategise and organise team-based attacks.
His moveset is pretty wild, and in some ways he actually feels pretty over-powered. His main attacks consist of a banana throw, which acts like a boomerang hitting several opponents, and a ground pound that can also deal serious damage to multiple enemies. A separate special attack uses a bongo dance to draw lots of opponents to him, and combining this with the ground pound can be devastating, wiping out multiple Rabbids in one go.
He can also move around stages with ease, swinging from platform to platform via ‘DK’ spaces on the map. On top of this, he can actually pick up opponents, teammates, and even the elemental blocks on the stage, throwing them around to inflict additional damage and providing extra mobility options for your team. Barrelling around as Donkey Kong is a true joy, and his large variety of moves give you several tactical options within each and every battle. Assessing the battle’s particular layout before jumping in can often give you a good idea on how best to utilise his collection of attacks.
Fighting alongside DK are Rabbid Peach and the also newly-introduced Rabbid Cranky. Rabbid Peach acts and plays in exactly the same way as she does in the main game (which is appreciated as she’s usually a very useful character to have), and Cranky acts as yet another highly offensive option. He can attack multiple enemies in one go with his cane – which doubles up as a bow and arrow – and does extra damage when being launched from a teammate. He can also bore opponents to sleep using a special move, essentially rendering them useless for one turn. You’ll find that your team can stand up to your enemies a little easier this time around, either thanks to their strong move pool or maybe some game balance tinkering under the hood, and the game progresses at a slightly faster pace as a result.
While all three characters are great in their own right, and naturally make a great team, it does present a level of repetition that wasn’t present in the main game. Before, you could choose which of the eight different characters you wanted to take into a battle, completely mixing up your tactics on the fly for each round, but this DLC forces you to use these same three teammates for every single battle. DK is absolutely fantastic, but we would have loved to have seen what he could do alongside other characters like Luigi or Rabbid Mario, for example, and this lack of additional strategy takes something away from the experience on the whole.
In fact, everything is completely separated from your main save file. All of your weapons and skill trees start from scratch, and the items you unlock are different to those found in the full game. There are obvious nods to the initial release throughout, and having journeyed through that game first definitely helps, but it does play as a very different experience – almost as if it’s a different mode rather than a story extension.
The expansion is split into four new areas, each with their own unique themes such as ‘Lagoon’ and ‘Jungle’. They’re not quite as visually varied as the main game, but they do have a new DK twist that adds yet another layer of love to proceedings. The soundtrack has been infused with little nods to the Donkey Kong franchise, collectibles now resemble the puzzle pieces that are present in games such as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and all these little things add up to make the expansion truly feel like a new adventure.
Depending on your play-style, you’ll likely get somewhere between seven and ten hours of gameplay from this DLC package, and if you loved the original it’s certainly worth it. Despite its differences, this expansion probably won’t win over those who weren’t particularly keen with the main game. What it will do, however, is provide Mario + Rabbids fans with a whole new bunch of content that has a slight twist on the gameplay they’ve come to love. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a treat to experience.
The Donkey Kong Adventure DLC brings a fresh angle to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, giving fans of the original something different to get their teeth into. It’s less daunting than the main game, with some truly powerful characters often making short work of the slightly-lessened enemy onslaught, but blasting through the campaign in this way offers a nice way to enjoy the comical ride. The lack of character options is perhaps the only downer here, taking away some of the deeper strategy involved in the full game, but we still loved every moment of our time with DK and friends. If you’re craving more Rabbids mayhem, give this one a whirl.