Release Date: November 14, 2006
While the Nintendo Wii has a number of exclusive games that take full advantage of its unique control method, the same can't be said for cross-platform titles. Luckily, a number of companies have realized that even if it's technically the same "game," the Wii controller allows for an opportunity to completely change the play style of the title. Perhaps the most notable of these titles is Madden 2007, but an unsung title is Rayman: Raving Rabbids. Technically, Rabbids isn't a Wii-exclusive game, but it's nearly impossible to imagine it on another system. As of this writing, Rabbids should be coming out on non-Wii consoles shortly, but I can't picture it being even a vaguely similar game on those systems.
Rayman: Raving Rabbids is the latest in the Rayman franchise. Don't feel particularly bad if you haven't played Rayman before. Prior to Raving Rabbids, Rayman had been primarily a platform adventurer. Although his games were not particularly terrible, they didn't attract the attention of Mario, Sonic, or even Crash Bandicoot. Rayman himself is a rather charming character, his unique "limbless" design is rather adorable, and he is enjoyable enough.
However, the real stars of this game are the Rabbids from the title. Rayman is kidnapped by these bizarre creatures, which resemble brain-dead rabbits. These strange creatures are cheerful, violent and have a bizarre love/hate relationship with plungers. Rather than talking, they let out an oddly adorable cry of "DAAAAH," and overall, they are among the most memorable characters in recent video game memory. The Rabbids force Rayman to compete in a series of gladiator-style games for their pleasure, while Rayman must use his prizes (plungers) to escape.
Okay, so the "gladiator-style games" are actually a series of mini-games through which Rayman must battle. This is the meat of the title, and a big reason why I can't picture it on any other system. Each of the games takes full advantage of the unique Wiimote. The variation in the mini-games is rather impressive; one mission may have you guiding a sensation through a Rabbid's brain by twisting and turning the Wiimote, while another has you pulling worms from a Rabbid's teeth by flicking the Wiimote, or you could be dancing along with classic hits such as "La Bamba."
The way the Wiimote is used in Raving Rabbids really shows the capability of the system better than any other current title does, with the possible exception of Wario Ware. That is not to say that all of the mini-games are perfect; a few of them have issues, especially one that relies heavily on the Wiimote's built-in speaker. The sensitivity may be too high, the scoring system may be askew, or perhaps the in-game instructions just aren't clear enough. While the number of enjoyable games is significantly higher than those that have major flaws, it can still prove to be a controller-breaking experience after a while.
Let me give you another head's up about these mini-games: Most of them are going to hurt your arms. A lot. Games that involve shaking or pumping the controllers rapidly can quickly grow tiresome, especially when you have to do it quickly for more than a minute. Unfortunately and frustratingly, this hurts the party value of the games. Many elements feel more like work than play, and it can be rather depressing. The carrot juice-pumping game wasn't difficult, just tiresome and painful on the arm. (It was also rather embarrassing to play in public.) On the plus side, it makes a great workout if you're willing to go along with it!
One aspect I really feel I need to discuss in further detail is the awesome rail shooter segments. Popping up sadly not often enough, these portions are so incredibly fun that I found myself wishing that the entire game consisted of only these segments. Set in a House of the Dead or Time Crisis-like first-person view, Rayman moves along a rail, shooting down enemy Rabbids with his plunger gun. The controls are simple and smooth; the Wiimote aims, the B button fires, reloading is done by shaking the nunchuck attachment, and the Z button launches Rayman's "hand" to grab a nearby Rabbid, which can then be used as a weapon or shield.
Many elements of Raving Rabbids are so solidly polished and well designed that it puts the other mini-games to shame. A headshot on a Rabbid, for example, isn't an instant kill on strong enemies; instead, the plungers stick to their faces, leaving them vulnerable to further attacks as they try to pull off the implements. Each stage hides a boom box, and shooting it causes the Rabbids to boogie down rather than attack, and, as previously mentioned, the rail segments really shine. Wii game designers, take note: This is how you do gunplay on the Wii.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest disappointments is the multiplayer mode. The Wii is a real party system, but most of the mini games in Raving Rabbids lack simultaneous multiplayer. This is a real shame, and it severely hurts the replay value because it's no fun just taking turns when you could be playing at the same time. While playing this title with friends, people were amused for a while, but the multiplayer just didn't stand up to offerings like Wii Sports. When combined with the exhausting nature of some of the mini-games, it hurts the party atmosphere that Raving Rabbids should rightfully be fostering.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of the Wii iteration is the graphics. While not terrible by any means of the word, they are not what one thinks of when they hear the words "next-gen." The models are nice, but a bit simplistic, and the backgrounds are pretty bland outside of the excellent rail shooter stages. Please, don't get me wrong: I am not saying the graphics are terrible. They are, at worst, just a bit bland. However, even compared to other Wii titles, Raving Rabbids feels just a bit weak. With that said, the character designs are solid and memorable, and the expressions on the characters' faces, particularly the Rabbids, add a lot to the appeal.
Luckily, the audio experience of Rayman: Raving Rabbids is top-notch. Every element fits perfect with the game, and many of the sound effects add a lot of atmosphere to the various mini-games. The Rabbids' cry of "DAH" is both annoying and loveable at the same time, the licensed music in the disco scenes can't help but bring a smile to my face, and overall, it's just an audio treat. It somehow takes a number of elements that should rightly be annoying or bland and makes them shine. However, I did experience some trouble with the Wiimote's speaker in the mini-games that involved it; I've never had this trouble with any other Wii titles, so its occurrence here is particularly odd.
If you're looking to buy a Wii or already have one and are looking for a good game with which to show off, Rayman: Raving Rabbids is one of the top choices. Although the gameplay has issues and the multiplayer is weak, the variety of mini-games is a perfect way to show off exactly what the console can do. While Rabbids is coming to other systems soon, I feel confident in saying that the Wii version is the one to get. There seems to be no way that a regular controller can match the goofy fun that the Wii version of Rabbids provides. Now if I could only find a Rabbid plush doll ….
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