I made the grave mistake of mixing Rabbids with my Mario again. Not that the end result is bad (Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was actually quite good), but it does end with that familiar sensation of being stuffed. Like one too many trips to the troughs at a buffet. It’s all gravy until it isn’t.
That’s because the Donkey Kong Adventure DLC is, for better and worse, the same of what you’ve already experienced. The better is fairly obvious: Kingdom Battle has simplified strategy combat into its barest essentials in taut and consequential battle arenas. And that’s all still there.
Plotting for several minutes before wiping out a dozen high-level enemies in one turn is as satisfying as it ever was. It feels like single-handedly cracking the Zodiac cipher, engendering a maniacal cackle or two out of weaker souls (read: me) as death and destruction flows freely from my hands like water from a firehose. You won’t reach the complex sensation of satisfaction from something like, say, a successful XCOM mission, but it delivers success (or failure) far more frequently.
Part of that excitement was uncovering these seemingly arcane tactics across your broad and varied roster, which brings us directly to the greatest weakness of this expansion. Namely, it doesn’t expand so much as it constricts. Whereas before you explored and developed your own personal brand of bubbly violence with a litany of Mushroom Kingdom and Rabbid-skewed characters, this time around, your gang is limited to just three fighters: Donkey Kong, Rabbid Cranky, and a returning Rabbid Peach.
That means if you played through the vanilla game, you are already familiar with a full third of what you’re (mostly) capable of. And without others to swap in and out, the strategies available to you are mostly the strategies inherent in these three characters. This means that without the opportunity to experiment like before, you hit that satiation point far quicker and suddenly you’re not wanting to go back for seconds.
A caveat, though, is that Donkey Kong is a neat twist on what you’re familiar with. He’s a powerful fellow, meaning he can pick up pretty much anyone and anything. You can chuck enemies and allies alike and even hurl cover out of the way. This means you can expose foes to more powerful attacks or open the floodgates for the rest of your team.
They do, however, play Donkey Kong as sort of a wet blanket in the narrative, but I suppose that’s really all you can do with that character when he’s got two Rabbids by his side, often pulling a Jim Halpert and simply glancing into the camera for effect. They had fun and gave Luigi a goddamn sniper rifle; when does Donkey Kong get to have his jollies?
But still, it does manage to bring about some amount of recognizable and simple satisfaction. As long as you liked the base Kingdom Battle, you’ll find more to like here. The only question is if it’s $14.99 (or $19.99 as part of a season pass) worth of liking.
And if you can continue to tolerate Rabbids, the greatest video game crime ever committed.