- Reviewed on: Nintendo Wii
- Also available for: PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, GBA
- The Good: An excellent variety of challenging mini-games for single and multi play, that use the Wii controller in interesting ways, created with obvious passion and attention to detail
- The Bad: The game is short and the graphics are occasionally rudimentary; you can't play mini-games in multiplayer until you've unlocked them in solo play
- The Verdict: Rayman Raving Rabbids makes great use of the Wii's unique aspects and offers a very sweet, but short, experience
Created by French graphic artist Michel Ancel in 1992 and the mascot of publisher Ubisoft, Rayman is one of the most unusual characters you could imagine as the star of a bestselling videogame; he's no burly space marine, that's for sure. As a bizarre, limbless being, Rayman is an even less of an obvious hero than an Italian plumber; but even he makes more sense than the enemies in this game being bunny rabbits, right?
Wow, Wonderfully Wrong
Designed by Ancel, the antagonist "rabbids", seen capturing Rayman and a group of baby "globoxes" (frog characters that Rayman's attachment to is never really explained) are a group of freakish, boss-eyed bunnies that call to mind the wildest creations of British animation studio Aardman Animation (creator of Wallace and Gromit) such as the little remembered TV series Rex the Runt. In the anarchic spirit of their design, they appear to kidnap Rayman for no other reason than to torment him by forcing him into a series of more than 70 trials, all for their amusement.
The game was designed with the Nintendo Wii in mind (although versions will be released on all contemporary consoles), and each of the trials makes special use of one or more of the Wii Remote (called the Wiimote) and Nunchuck controllers' special abilities. The initial selection of trials expected of Rayman, for example, include cow tossing (you swing the Wiimote over your head and press A or B to release the chain, flinging a cow in the manner of a hammer throw) and a dance competition (you bob the Nunchuck and Wiimote in time to the music, following the cues of bunnies spinning towards Rayman.) After completing four trials, Rayman takes part in a sort of "boss level" which usually takes the form of an on-rails shoot-em-up or a race (riding warthogs, in many cases.)
The shoot-em-up levels are utterly fantastic, and are, without a doubt, the most natural experience with the Wii controller that this reviewer has had yet. Aiming with the Wii Remote, firing plungers (not bullets) with the suitably trigger-like B button and reloading with a shake of the Nunchuck, these levels are chock-full of action and tiny details that make them addictive (such as certain especially skilled bunnies that wear visors remarkably like those worn by Sam Fisher, star of the Splinter Cell series.)
Man, Marvellous Multiplayer
Even for a game that began with Olympian trials as absurd as flinging cows, they only get more insane as you go on, with Rayman asked to shear sheep; pull worms out of bunny teeth; hit a bunny in its head with a hammer as hard and as fast as possible; and keep bathroom stall doors closed (don't ask.) One trial that remains constant is the regular dance competitions, which is also a constant favourite in this household; each time I've attempted to play it, I've found the controller taken off me by my girlfriend, who won't give it back until it's successfully completed. It's likely that you'll soon find more than one trial that will become a firm favourite of your own, to be played regularly in Rayman Raving Rabbids' excellent multiplayer mode.
With up to four simultaneous players possible, Rayman Raving Rabbids could be the most fun multiplayer on the Wii so far, bar a few minor flaws. Many of the games require, by the nature of their design, that players take turns to compete, and unfortunately the games you can play in multiplayer (or score mode) are limited by the games that you have unlocked by completing them in the story mode. This can be frustrating in a party atmosphere, if you run out of games to play as you're only part way through the story.
Shoot, Spuriously Short
Which makes it a double-edged sword that the game is as short as it is; though several of the mini-games are teeth-grindingly hard, the leniency of others ensure any dedicated player could force their way through the game in a couple of days (but have some very sore arms as a result.) Once the game is complete, of course, there are still plenty of scores to beat and costumes, songs, and other bonuses such as videos to unlock that add to the longetivity, plus the excellent multiplayer mode.
Rayman, Remarkable References
Rayman Raving Rabbids might be short, but it's incredibly sweet, with the unique Gallic charm that has defined the series since Rayman's appearance in 1992; in what other game could you imagine a reference being made to Les Choristes, the 2004 film about a chorus group at a French boarding school, as seen here in the genius minigame "Bunnies Have a Great Ear for Music"? This kind of attention to detail drenches the game; making it something special, and a hidden gem in the Wii line-up.