Rayman Raving RabbidsThe limbless wonder that is Rayman has tried his hand at platforming a few times with some success, and so like numerous other leaping stars he wanted some of the spinoff action (because, you know, no self respecting platformer star should be without a spinoff or twenty). While most would go for the safe tried and tested karting experience, Rayman decides he's diving into a mini-game collection in what may well be one of the craziest video games to hit the market this generation.
In Rayman Raving Rabbids there are effectively two game modes, consisting of Story Mode and Score Mode. Story mode is a little deceiving though, as the 'plot' of the game simply involves a bunch of jelly things and Rayman getting captured by the lunatic rabbids and thus resulting in Rayman having to play through lots of mad mini-games to win his freedom. Yeah, this is basically the main single player mode and is where you get to unlock the main content that is kept away from you at first. Score mode is where you can play through any available mini-game at your leisure, and more importantly is where you can engage in multiplayer battles to the bloody end (if RRR had blood, that is). Regardless of which mode you choose you're basically playing through little challenges.
These mini-games can be reasonably split into three groups: the bunny hunt games, the rhythm dancing games and the rest of them.
Bunny hunt hands Rayman a toilet plunger launcher and tasks him with firing them at the various rabbids. These games are probably the most complex of the title but things are still relatively simple. The levels are basically on-rails, so you can focus on aiming with the left stick and unleashing plunger hell on the rabbids while Rayman moves for you. The right trigger fires a plunger while B is used to reload the gun. The left trigger has a rather amusing function as it allows you to grab nearby rabbids, which can then be either used as living shields until you need to fire or can be launched as living missiles to knock down other rabbids like bowling pins.
Naturally, moving a targeting cursor is nowhere near as handy as having a light gun or wiimote that this was obviously made for but it works well enough, and the level design is fantastic. As Rayman dashes and dives around each setting - all of which are typically themed after one thing or another - rabbids and even some bizarre contraptions will continue to pop up and attack. Rabbids may charge you with pitchforks, take up sniping spots to rain down plungers from on high or will duck behind cover to evade your attacks. Along the way you can break open crates for powerups and some scenery can even be activated or destroyed by hitting it (try turning the radios on for a cool effect). Indeed I found these levels quite addictive and the levels are kept pretty varied in their layout and attacks. Bunny hunt is clearly the star of the show.
Then we have the rhythm dancing games. Best surmised as a cut-down DDR, you are required to press the left and right trigger buttons in time with the dancing rabbids as they move onto the platform markers either side of Rayman. The better the timing the more points you can rack up, and successfully pressing the triggers for the yellow rabbids will cause a rabbid to appear on stage behind Rayman. There's a rather healthy selection of different music tracks on offer and a wide range of difficulty levels too. Early tracks will be really simple while later music will send a vast amount of rabbids in rapid succession at you to try and time button presses with. While variation isn't quite as immense as the bunny hunt games these rhythm games can be quite fun.
OK, so now we come to 'the rest', and the reason why they are labelled as such. There are quite a few tasks to perform here that range from bizarre to... well, alright, they're all totally nuts. You could be delivering a present about to explode by hammering the trigger buttons, moving a cursor and hitting A to slam doors shut on the rabbids, spraying carrot juice at them or even taking a cow and performing a hammer toss with it. Not a single game here makes the slightest bit of sense, although that is merely part of the game's charm.
The game's are all pretty simple to get into and understand. Many rarely require more than a button and the left stick to execute actions. The goal is always straightforward too. Yes, these games are fun... at first. However, this is RRR's biggest problem. There's little to no replay value in these games. To begin with, many of these are pretty short lived, with some managing to end in less than a minute at the best of times. They also lack the addictive quality one would need from this type of thing. Swinging a cow around just doesn't demand I come back to try again. Even the racing games - which seem to try and come off as big as the bunny hunt games - lack depth and come off as pretty bland. Then we have the concept of idea reuse. Some games just blatantly reuse concepts from other mini-games - sometimes to the point of being named the same thing but adding a number to the end. As a result I found a played a game a couple of times and didn't feel a need to go back to them. I'd experienced them and that was enough.
Another issue at times can be the controls offered. Like Bunny Hunt, most of these games will obviously designed with the wiimote in mind. As a result, there's a notable disparity when moving to the more traditional control pad. Moving a cursor around the screen isn't as friendly as aiming the cursor yourself, and the analogue stick can be a little too sensitive in some games, sometimes causing the player to skip over their intended target. It's not broken, but it does require the player to work a little harder with adjust to the awkwardness.
In an effort to spice up the gameplay you can gather some pals around and get in some multiplayer gaming. Up to four players are supported, although the extent of this support varies. Some games are simply alternating where players take turns getting high scores, which is little different from going solo. Some games allow for simultaneous play, like having two plungers on the Bunny Hunt or facing off on the Rhythm games. Playing against a friend does indeed offer a little more that the single player can't, but this only holds true for those games that allow for playing at the same time and even then, those other games still lose appeal quickly.
Load times can be a bit of a pain as well. The game has to load whenever entering or exiting a mini-game (though thankfully not for retrying). The waiting time isn't excessive but a bit longer than expected, especially given how quickly some of these games can be over with. The game puts on some amusing little animations while loading occurs, but there's only a few so these become old really quickly.
The visuals are incredibly charming. The graphics are pretty smooth, detailed and colourful. Compared to other 360 titles there might be some degree of lacking, but the game still looks excellent regardless. What makes the whole setup work is the way the game is presented. This is due in no small part to the rabbids themselves. As mad as they come, the way they prance and dash about is brilliant. Equipped with an obsession with plungers and a penchant for dressing up in varied costumes (even going so for as to present cameos, ranging from Superman to Sam Fisher), these crazed rabbits steal the show with their antics. Their screams and expressions will get you the most. What could easily have become annoying becomes such a driving force behind everything.
Mostly the music is nice enough but nothing too remarkable. It tends to beep along in the background and is often ignored in favour of the laughs, screams and general ramblings of the various rabbids that litter most games. Not that it's too bad a thing as it is the rabbids that gives the game its mad flavour. The rhythm dancing is an exception, featuring some cool remixed tunes from different genres of music that are very nice to listen to and do the rare thing of taking the front seat in the games.
Rayman Raving Rabbids was obviously built for the Wii, and in all honesty if you want the game then the Wii version is probably going to be the one to opt for first. It's not that the 360 version all out fails, but the control interface is clearly inferior. On its own merits the game has some cool games and some mildly interesting ones, but too much of it lacks the replay value the game needs, so the enjoyment from many of the games diminishes quickly. Taken as a simple party game it's decent but don't expect too much from it.