Rayman Raving Rabbids Review
After playing games like Red Steel, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on Nintendo's new Wii console, I've come to a conclusion that might wind up being unpopular: I don't think these are the best games on the system. I think the best one is Ubisoft's crazy new title, Rayman Raving Rabbids. Sure, it looks a bit like a kids game with its goofy main character and cartoony graphics, but this one is actually a hell of a lot of fun for both kids and adults in the same way that movies like Cars or Shrek were.
This installment of Rayman is pretty different from all the past games. It skips on the platform action and instead throws Rayman into an arena full of these insane rabbits, forcing him to go through these hilarious mini-games in order to fight his way to freedom. And most of these games are easily better than what we saw in Monkey Ball on the Wii - I think it's mostly because of the sense of style and excellent creativity of Ubisoft's Montpelier studio. The Rabbids are in pretty much every mini-game here, and they really add a kind of amusing charm that I got from classics like Earthworm Jim and Toe Jam & Earl.
That being said, once you get into Rayman's mini-games you're going to have a hell of a lot of fun. From aiming and shooting toilet plungers into little rabbit faces, to closing the doors on the poor Rabbids' port-a-potties, to playing hilarious dance/rhythm games with an odd yet infectious soundtrack, it's got it all. You'll be jumping rope as some very mean creatures look on and Rabbids pop into view to distract you, flicking both the Wiimote and Nunchuk as fast as you can to run to the end of a course, and facing an onslaught of snorkeling Rabbids whose masks must be filled up with your water gun. It's way out there but as soon as you get into each game you'll be gyrating wildly (at least in some cases) and going nuts. Wii Sports might eventually get players to do the same thing once they get into the game, but Rayman starts off with exactly that and goes up from there. This is probably the best game to get if you want to get some sort of low-impact workout when playing the Wii.
Some of the mini-games wind up being really tough, and the developers have allowed the player a little breathing room on this. Every day's worth of challenges offers four mini-games for you to pick from in any order. You'll need to win at three of them to unlock the final stage for the day, which is always a toilet-plunger-shooting game reminiscent of Area 51 or Terminator 2: Judgment Day from the arcades, but here you'll be aiming with an on-screen crosshair controlled by the Wiimote. If you beat all four games as well as the final stage for a day, you get to unlock new stuff like the ability to play back the songs from the music mini-game as well as some other things.
The Wii controller is used all kinds of crazy ways here in Rabbids. You'll twirl the Wiimote around your head like a lasso as you try and fling an unsuspecting cow over 100 meters out into the distance. You'll need pinpoint accuracy as you draw the outlines of food for a particularly hungry Rabbid. You'll be flicking controllers to the beat in the music games, and the running game will truly get your blood pumping. Many of these mini-games are also playable in a two-to-four player mode, and they are just as much fun there as when you're playing alone.
The graphics are pretty simplistic and won't be winning awards, but it's the animations and overall art style for the Rabbids (especially in the shooter stages - Ubisoft even makes fun of their own games, like Splinter Cell, with Sam Fisher-style goggles on some of the sneakier Rabbids) that really add to the charm. You'll forget whether you need or even want an HDTV once you get a few friends over and play this game, and that's a good thing. With the soundtrack covering stuff like classic rap to Cyndi Lauper and even Misirlou (made popular in Pulp Fiction), it's got at least one or two songs everyone will love.
When Nintendo first started touting the Wii as a console that really redefines how you have fun playing video games, I think that at least at the start, what they were envisioning was exactly what Rayman Raving Rabbids delivers. We'll see how that is evolved and tuned even further as the Wii matures, but this is definitely one of the best games to launch with the system. Even if there aren't any kids in your household, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up if you've got a Wii.