Gambling’s for mugs, and I’ll tell you more after the 3:30 at Kempton


Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (2017)

People sometimes ask me why I don’t gamble, or why I love launching into unwanted explanations as to why gambling companies are the devices of Satan. In theory, I should love Paddy Power. They’re sort of Irish, like me. And better than that, they spend their days making mega bucks and they absolutely adore exploiting and robbing the poor. It’s sort of like my dream business model, so why do I want them to fail so badly?

Could it be their zany advertising, where sporting memes, contrived personalities and tap-in humour are made out to be more important and relevant than what’s actually happening out there on the pitch? Could it be that, in a moment of weakness, I find myself feeling sorry for the numbskulls they exploit? Or could it be that they, like all bookmakers, do everything they can to avoid paying out to winners, up to and including shutting down the accounts of people that win too much?

Yes, that actually happens. They say the bookies always wins. That’s true, but it’d be true anyway even if they didn’t shut down the accounts of those who dared to take more than a couple of hundred quid away from their vast troves of cash. Doesn’t exactly make it a fair contest, does it?

This will have all sounded very bitter, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that I’m ranting about all this because I was once one of those bottom feeders who thought he could beat the dealer but ended up with no house, no wife and even no shirt. Well sorry to inform you, but my gambling experience extends to a few World Cup football bets (all shockers) and one Grand National each-way bet where my winnings were so small, I didn’t bother walking the 5 minutes it would have taken to get my 27 cent back.

I did however once open up a Betfair account when I turned 18, had my own debit card and even had a little bit of tasty wonga to play with. A disaster waiting to happen, right? Or should that be a dream waiting to come true for the evil suits behind the betting exchange company. Well, I put twenty quid into my fledgling account and got rolling with crazy €2 accumulator after crazy €2 accumulator. The result of this, and you’re not gonna believe this I know, but after all of my ham-fisted bets backed by absolutely no research or studying of the odds, I actually ended up a little bit ahead. Just short of €40 in fact. I almost doubled my money! This lark was easy!

But, because I am fundamentally weak and not given to thrills, I decided to play it safe here and withdraw my money. Now, I could have just reinvested the 40 squids and kept going with it. Gone for 2/1 “surefire” bets, doubled my money every time, gotten to over a million Euro in a mere 15 additional bets. The power of exponential numbers. Why not? Like you wouldn’t take fright and run a mile the minute you’d lucked your way into 1,280 sovs.

Well, here was the problem, or at least it was a problem for me: getting my money into the account had been easy. I just needed to provide my card details, which is mistake number one, and then choose how much I wanted in my account. I then won some bets, which for any addict is mistake number two.

Finally, I wanted to withdraw the money. This, however, goes beyond a mere mistake: it is a mortal sin. Obviously the company doesn’t want you doing that. If Betfair was an anal, narky middle manager, it would have said to me “What, you’ve paid for our service, and now you want something for it? At our expense? You think you have some sort of right to the tax-free money you won fair and square? Sod off”

Sod off I did when I tried to withdraw my massive winnings, only to be slapped with legal requirements. They said they needed Photo ID, like a passport, and something like Bank Statements and Utility Bills to verify my address. Along with a whole ream of other personal details, of course, on online forms the length of your arm. Well, that’s a turn up isn’t it? They were free to prey on an 18-year-old’s meagre coffers, but God forbid I should want something back. It was laziness really that resulted in me never feeding Betfair the info they wanted. Of course, I just idly gambled the rest of that golden forty quid away, and that was that. I never bothered with betting companies again.

I’m hardly missing much. When you see spanners on your Facebook feed posting screenshots of them getting a nice bet in, a lovely little victory over the bookies, do they really think they are ahead? Do they think you will be fooled? It’s worth noting that you’ll only see these posts once in a blue moon. If you had access to the win/loss history of these pigeons’ accounts, do you think they would be in the black or in the red? Actually, that probably depends on whose side you’re on, doesn’t it?

Well, my distaste for gambling looked set to present a problem for me when I got Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle with my lovely Nintendo Switch. Mario Rabbids is the crossover that probably nobody asked for, in a genre that nobody would have expected. The stars of the show aren’t even Mario and pals, but those weirdly popular Rabbids. Rabbids are ugly spin-off creations from the Rayman series, miles worse than the green aliens from Toy Story and full light years worse than the Minions. You just have to grow to accept it and think around it, like an ugly fat pimple on the inside of your nose.

There is some sort of hackneyed story about how the world of Mariodom and Rabbidhood have been mixed together, and now Mario, Rabbid Mario, Luigi, Rabbid Luigi (you get the idea) have to battle their way out. These battles take place in a similar manner to the XCOM games – a turn-based hootenanny where you will move your fighters each turn; fire at opposition saps with long and short range weaponry; keep your HP up; use buffs, debuffs and counterbuffs; and generally try to keep ahead of the AI enemy Rabbids, who cheat and do their own thing at all times.

Seriously, you’ll be clearing house on the battlefield, no more enemies left on that particular turn, but then more will spawn in and they have the ability to move and fire immediately. Sometimes your tactics or squad setup (you can have 3 fighters at one time) are wrong from the start, and the temptation is to just restart and put it on Easy mode, where everybody is healed and they get a health boost into the bargain, and you can get past some of the cheaper, more depressing battles far more easily.

Probably the best part of the game is exploring the world for coins and secret treasures in between battles. I don’t know about you, but when the battles actually get going in games like this, Advance Wars and Fire Emblem, I sort of have to be jolted into it. You’re there reading all of this jovial dialogue, shockingly written of course, but oddly entertaining. But then suddenly it’s thinking caps on.

I’m probably stupid and alone in this silliness, given that the battles are the actual meat of the game. But to me it’s a bit like having a nice old enjoyable lunch hour and then sluggishly going back to school or work. You don’t get any kind of respite at this point either, no matter how full and stodgy and logey you are – it’s back to peak performance, otherwise you lose, your time is wasted and you look foolish. No easy battles here.

In spite of all that though, Mario Rabbids is a game that you can certainly have fun with, even if one or two nonsense elements may see you drift from the game for a few weeks or months at a time. It’s not top quality, and I wouldn’t pay full whack for it (even though I pretty much did) but there’s a fair amount of hours here, and multiplayer co-op and versus options too if you’re blessed with friends. Just try not to grit your teeth too much at the Rabbids laughing at you after they whack your fighter to 0HP with impunity, before disappearing just out of reach of your Bullet Bill Bazooka.

But actually it’s the random chance element that will turn your stomach the most. Here is a game that was frequently asking me to commit to firing shots that would have a 50% chance of hitting the opponent. You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you? I wouldn’t even use Tackle in the early days of Pokémon because it was only 95% likely to hit.

Would you press a button that would grant you a million bucks on each press, but there’s a 5% chance a King cobra would jump out and kill you instantly with a venomous bite? I know I sure wouldn’t. And if you don’t know, 50% in games like this does not mean 50%. Your 50% is markedly different to the opponent’s 50%.

So it is inevitable that these gambles you have to make will backfire, your characters will miss vital shots, and subsequently your blood pressure will be sent rocketing. But at least there’s no chance you’ll lose your house, right?

26 April 2018

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