Review by wannabepunktony
"An invasion of single player fun, multiplayer antics and rabbits!"
You have to hand it to Ubi Soft. Out of all the third party companies that developed games for the Wii's November 19th launch date, they are the company that took the greatest of risks, releasing one original game, Red Steel, and one huge departure from a known commodity, Rayman Raving Rabbids. Originally planned as a multi-platform 3D platforming sequel to Rayman 3, the development team focus and game plan was quickly changed upon series creator Michel Ancel's introduction to the Nintendo Wii and its motion-reading controllers. The final product is a mini-game explosion, not unlike Nintendo's own Mario Party series, boasting over seventy motion-controlled trials that all involve making the lives of Rayman's newest nemesis, the off-kilter bunny-like rabbids, that much harder. Delivering on both the single player and multiplayer front, only a few unrealised or unmemorable mini-games can bring this awesome game down a bit.
RRR opens with Rayman enjoying a picnic with the frog-like Globoxes. In the middle of this shindig, the raving mad rabbids come up from the ground to wreak terror and kidnap everyone in sight. Next thing he knows, Rayman is standing in the middle of an enormous, bunny-filled arena, as they wait for him to perform for their amusement. Rayman soon realizes that his only chance of returning freedom to both him and the Globoxes is to overcome every trial set in front of him - think of Russell Crowe's Gladiator with insane bunnies instead of Romans!
Though their distribution is different for each mode, the trials fall under three main categories - bunny hunt, sports and dance. Instead of normal titles for each trial, each one is introduced with a sentence describing how the following trial will better or worsen the lives of the rabbids. Thankfully, very few of these are for the better and every single one will have you laughing. Some of the highlights include "Bunnies Have a Soft Spot for Plungers," "Bunnies Sometimes Recycle the Scenery from other Games" and "Bunnies are not Ostriches." I'm not sure what is funnier - reading these out loud or having to think them up in the first place.
Bunny hunt trials have the term FPS attached to them, but this is a misleading attachment. While each of these trials, set in various themed levels such as Wild West towns, sunny coastlines and rainy graveyards, are played from the first-person perspective and involve shooting, they are more accurately the Wii's first light-gun games. Using the Wiimote for aiming - with the help of an on-screen crosshair - you must blast all the rabbids that get in your way with your trusty plunger gun. Instead of shooting off-screen to reload, the light-gun staple, simply shake the nunchuck once to pull more ammo from your unlimited stash. If a rabbid comes into close proximity, you can grab hold of it by pressing the Z button on the nunchuck to shoot your left arm out, then you can use it as either a shield or a projectile. All of the movement is handled by the game, so you only need to worry need to worry about the speed of your trigger finger.
Stepping back into the light-gun era may take a few people by surprise, considering the overabundance of FPS games on the market, but considering the difficult task translating the potential of the FPS on the Wii into reality, you will be grateful for the decision. With fluid controls, plenty of different enemies to shoot at and perfect pacing, these trials never lose their sense of pleasure. You might not notice it every time, but each level has quick flash cameos of rabbids engaging in tomfoolery. It's hard to not laugh out loud when you catch Clark the Super Rabbid preparing to jump off of a wooden shack, rabbids dressed as tumbleweeds running by and all the rabbids sleeping in random, uncomfortable spots, just waiting for Rayman's plunger wake-up call.
In the Dance trials, Rayman must get his groove on while knocking out, literally, the rabbid competition in an homage to the Sega Dreamcast musical classic, Samba De Amigo. To the tune of amazing 'rabbidized' covers of popular songs such as Miserlou, Good Time and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, you use the Wiimote and nunchuck as Rayman's arms, making vertical motions in the direction of incoming rabbids. These rabbids are musically inclined though, as they only attack in time with the song, so their death screams blend inconspicuously into the background. Hearing each song is enough of a treat as it is, but slapping down rabbids to the same songs proves to be an overwhelming satisfyingly experience.
The Sports trials are broken down into four categories - workout, precision, racing and skill. Workout trials are the most labor-intensive of the entire game, as the majority of them involve using the Wiimote and nunchuck in unison. These include pumping carrot juice with the nunchuck as you fill the snorkels of approaching rabbids with the Wiimote, pumping each controller one after another to run an exploding package to a waiting rabbid before the fuse runs out and using the running motions of the exploding package trial to milk a cow. There really is no downer in this bunch of trials, with the only complaint being the eventual burning feeling in your arms, especially when pushing yourself at competition speed for an extended period of time.
Unlike the breakneck speed of the workout trails, the precision category is based around slow, precise movements, the majority of which involve the Wiimote. Here you find yourself tracing the outlines of edible, and not so edible, items with the Wiimote, traversing a maze without touching the sides, like the popular board game Operation, and sneaking a mine-sniffing pig across enemy lines without being discovered, using the nunchuck to move and the Wiimote's speaker to hear if your friend-in-arms has caught a whiff of trouble. This is where the majority of the troublesome trials make their appearance, with the cutting out of pig noises in the pig sneaking trial and random jolts in the tracks during the "Bunnies are A-Mazing" trial. Since precision is the key, having the game react without it can be quite unnerving.
The racing trials are about as straightforward as they come in this game, which is a letdown. Here you control Rayman atop a warthog as he races against warthog-riding rabbids for the gold. Using the analog stick on the nunchuck to steer, the B button on the Wiimote to move and quick flicks of it to engage a speed boost, these are the only trials to involve standard controls, which is the only thing more disappointing than that the racing itself. There is little chance of pulling away into the lead, as there are no shortcuts, no weapons and no ways to stall the competition. Nor is there anyway to gain, other than taking corners on the inside and using a boost at the home stretch. There's little skill involved at all and if it wasn't for the short races, these would invoke snores before the finish line could be crossed.
Finally are the skill trials, which contain some of the best multiplayer action. These trials all involve repeating a technique over and over again, such as jumping rope, slamming bathroom doors in the face of rabbids and distance cow tossing. Unlike workout, where you find yourself using both Wiimote and nunchuck in a rhythmic unison, in the skill trials you find yourself utilizing both - not always simulatiously - in ways much different than before. In the trial, "Bunnies Don't Like Bats," you control Rayman riding a bat as he finds and delivers pigs back to their pigpen. Using the Wiimote exclusively, you dip forward to dive down, dip back to go up, lilt left or right to turn in that direction, all while holding the B button to have the bat flaps its wings. These controls are very touchy, throwing you off at first, but with practice they become natural. These trials aren't dubbed skill for nothing, as the difficulty ramps up quickly here, making these perfect for high score competition.
The gameplay may have a few downsides, but the majority of what you will find here is of the upward nature. As much as I'd like to dig deeper into all the games, that would deplete the fun out of discovering them for yourself! Two quick notes though - I would not recommend this to any gamer who has yet to get their feet wet with the motion controllers in Wii Sports, as acquiring the feel and timing from that game flattens the learning curve of most of the trials here significantly. And despite story mode being a single player only endeavor, I highly recommend playing through it with a couple friends, each taking a turn, as rabbid insanity is definitely a spectator sport.
When it comes to presentation, RRR would take the cake if the cake were made with nails, springs, concrete blocks and hot dogs. The graphics scream only slightly above what was accomplished on the Gamecube, with the most noticeable upgrade coming in the form of cleaner textures and lighting effects, but it's what Ubi Soft did with them that really matters. The majority of areas in the game are very limited, with some consisting of no more than one screen, which allowed the developers to focus their attention, producing visuals superior to an open-ended game with countless things to create and render. Textures are clean and have a great amount of definition, as do the environments, all thanks to the very full and unique color palettes, one for daytime and one for night. Environments are filled with nice, non-interactive objects where space permits, giving even wide open areas specific characteristics.
The lack of progressive scan options is a huge disappointment though, especially considering that the instruction manual claims their existence. There is supposed to be a video menu, accessible from the main menu of the game, but this is nowhere to be found. At this moment I have yet to hear an official statement regarding the missing menu, but as an owner of a HDTV, the option of progressive scan would have further brought the game to life and may have raised my graphics score up a point. How much of a pipe dream this is I don't know, but a patch to return access to the video menu I know would be greatly appreciated by the countless number of people who have bought, or are planning to buy, the Wii's component cables.
There is no lack of quality in the sound department either, as Ubi Soft have put together a near-perfect package for your ears. The background music is solid, comprised of mostly nutty tunes, but all music takes a backseat to the songs in dance mode. The covers are downright unbelievable and no words can truly describe them properly. All I can say is have you ever heard a Naughty by Nature song sung by crazy bunnies? I thought not! As great as the music is, it still falls short of reaching the mantle that the sound effects rest upon. The audio crew must have had a blast working on this, as they needed sounds for so many weird things from plungers to pig squeals to juice pumping. But how they ever came up with the sounds that come out of the rabbids is beyond my comprehension - the little guys make so many brain-scratching sounds that it's hard to keep track of them all, except their screams. This bloodcurdling scream, which I think usually stems from confusion, will go down as one of the most memorable sounds in gaming history. Hearing that delectable scream so many times, I began to hear it just when seeing a picture of the rabbids. Excellent.
On the surface, it appears as if RRR is going to come up short on lasting appeal, but that's just not the case. Story mode may be short, taking around twelve hours to fully finish, but that is just the beginning. As you beat games in Story, you unlock them in Score mode, where you can unlock tons of fun stuff, such as videos and additional modes, by earning points for finishing each game. This is also where multiplayer lives, which allows for up to four players to enjoy the craziness and challenge for the high score on the in-game leaderboard. You might not always be playing simultaneously, but do not let that deter you from inviting your friends over to join in the fun!
Did you just grab an awesome high score you wish you could share with the whole world, much like Xbox 360 gamers have been doing since day one? Well, Ubi Soft is in your corner for this one, as every completed Score game spits out an Internet code that can be taken to the official RRR site and entered into their growing high score database. Now you can complete with Wii users all over the world for both individual trials and overall high scores! It's a shame that Nintendo's 'Internet service' forced Ubi Soft to set up everything themselves, but huge kudos to them for going through with it anyway, leaving me to try 'just one more time' for hours on end trying to beat high scores.
While other companies prepped only ports of existing games, Ubi Soft found time to port games and bring new titles built specifically for the Wii. Following through on a game plan of innovation and entertainment, they stuffed the game to the brim with personality and called it Rayman Raving Rabbids. Standing as one of the brightest spots in the Wii's current library, there is no denying the rabbids their ambitions of world domination this holiday season as they penetrate households across the planet. Being invaded has never more enjoyable!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/02/07
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