Subversive hybrid a bonkers delight
Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch) ★★★★★ Age: 7+
Nintendo is famously protective of its crown jewels, yet here it permits another publisher to splice, dice, mock and generally take liberties with iconic characters such as Mario and Luigi.
Kingdom Battle has no right to turn out as good as it does, but this bonkers cross-breeding of Ubisoft's madcap Rabbids franchise with Mario and co's sunny disposition knocks it out of the park. Even stranger, it succeeds by cloning the turn-based strategy of sci-fi potboiler XCOM.
MRKB runs riot with the idea, tossing out hilarious riffs on Nintendo's heroes and dropping in copious Rabbids-themed mayhem as it pits three characters against a mob of enemies. Like a game of chess on acid, the XCOM-style battles play out in a small arena, with each character permitted to move a certain number of squares before firing on an enemy and taking cover.
Depth aplenty stems from the ancillary options, such as the warp pipes that transport you to other parts of the arena or the assist move where one hero flings another to a more advantageous position.
It's all wrapped in a layer of wilful silliness and playful ribbing but the strategic complexity, while not quite on XCOM's level, is the magic ingredient that makes MKRB such a surprising delight.
Eden Isle: Resort Paradise
(iOS) ★★★★ Age: 12+
App stores are littered with cash grabs: greedy psychological manipulators masquerading as free entertainment. The best free-to-play games (Hearthstone, etc) pull in millions of dollars a day in revenue without picking your pocket.
Management sim Eden Isle tries to stay on the right side of that line, offering up a tropical island ripe for transformation into a lively resort. It's a familiar premise - build accommodation, provide facilities, attract guests, reap the profits, rinse and repeat.
But Dublin developer Simteractive freshens a well-worn idea with flashes of humour and lovingly illustrated visuals. From the guest vignettes (eg, planning a wedding, protecting butterflies) to the wacky demands (the hipsters who require a Beard Artistry Centre), Eden Isle doesn't take itself too seriously. Except when it comes to the hard sell. Like all free-to-play apps, it has to make a living and misses no opportunity to encourage the player to spend a bob or 10.
Agents of Mayhem
(PS4/XO/PS4) ★★★ Age: 18+
The twisted minds behind the Saints Row franchise - where too much excess is never enough - pivot the formula in a new direction with AoM. But this open-world superhero RPG set in a near-future Seoul lacks the memorable script, the outré character moments and the sheer variety.
Mayhem is most at home in its crisp gunplay but without any meaningful multiplayer you're left revisiting the same scenarios as your tag-team of three heroes tackle a procession of baddies - none of whom, disappointingly, is called Kim Jong-un.