IGN Review of Rayman Raving Rabbids
Nintendo fans will be the first to say that too many games are ported from PlayStation 2 or Xbox to Wii with weak controls slapped on, but hardly refined. Well, for once the opposite is true. Rayman Raving Rabbids was designed for the Big N's tiny white system and now it's made its way to PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and PC with significantly lessened control schemes. The end experience is still enjoyable on some level, but dozens of the mini-games that worked so well with the Wii remote are on the other platforms either too easy or too difficult to master. And it doesn't help that Rabbids debuted on Wii several months before it finally launched on the other consoles.
Purists, traditionalists, conventional snobs -- none of these people will be happy to read it, but Ubisoft's Rayman Raving Rabbids completely ditches the franchise's trademark platformer background. Let's be clear to avoid any confusion: there is no platforming to be found in this Wii-exclusive title, which arrives from the undeniably talented Beyond Good & Evil team, led by Rayman creator Michel Ancel. In place of those run-and-jump levels are mini-games designed around the Wii remote. There is a central storyline that sews the minis together, but make no mistake: this project is Ubisoft's deeper, prettier WarioWare. The platformer mechanics are missed, especially since Rayman 2 was a fantastic undertaking, but at the same time the new focus on mini-games is a refreshing departure for the franchise.
The limbless mascot is enjoying a picnic with some Globoxes on a bright and sunny afternoon when the festivities are interrupted by underground-dwelling bunnies. In a well-animated cinematic that is indicative of the funny storyline sequences to follow, the bunnies dig through the ground and then stare blankly at Rayman until he is snatched up - kidnapped, actually - by Serguei, a gigantic beast of a rabbit who seems to act as the muscle for the race. As it turns out, although these bunnies appear to be especially stupid, they have been planning to take over the world for years.
The story eventually lands Rayman in prison, where he is forced to compete in a series of games for the entertainment of the bunnies. Only by winning these challenges will he also win over the unanimously not-so-bright beings and gain access to toilet plungers, which he can use to escape his cell. If none of this makes any sense to you, you're not really alone. The game chucks realism in favor of comedy and is a success exactly because of it. Although we could honestly take or leave Rayman himself, Ubisoft has with the bunnies created characters with more personality and charisma than 10 of the most popular videogame mascots combined. The developer seems to have realized this, too, which is why the rabbits - not Rayman - usually take center stage in the various mini-games that follow. The result is a variety of situations that will make you laugh simply because they are so silly or so wicked, which puts Rabbids in a very exclusive class of games that are just as funny as they are fun.
The bunnies infest the mini-games and you are constantly invited to torture them in new and inventive ways. The problem with the PS2, 360 and (to a lesser degree) PC builds of the title, however, is that none of them use the Wii remote. We don't mean to sound like Nintendo-loving snobs, either, but there is no getting around the fact that all of these minis were designed with Wii's unique controller in mind. Ubisoft has merely taken gesture-based freehand-style control configurations and slapped them onto either a dual-analog setup or a mouse and keyboard, depending on your platform. None of the above, however, successfully replicate the original experience - a true disappointment.
Some of the minis have translated better than others. For example, there are several DDR-style dance sequences in Rabbids where players originally motioned downward with either the Wii remote or nunchuk attachment in alignment with on-screen cues. Now, they simply tap buttons instead. It works well and it's still fun, even if it's less immersive than using gestures. Even tracing objects in a mini-game that revolves around feeding a hungry rabbit chef works, although performing these maneuvers is far less intuitive with an analog stick than it is with the Wii remote. There are dozens of minis that squeak by in a similar fashion and in a few rare cases unobservant gamers may never even realize that the controls weren't originally developed for a traditional pad.
But as more and more minis become unlocked, so do the inadequacies of the port. Take, for example, the several on-rails shooter levels featured in Rabbids. These stages were amazingly fun on Wii because of the pixel-perfect targeting accuracy the remote afforded players. Not so with an analog stick. The process of targeting bunnies in these stages is as slow as molasses and practically no fun to boot. The mouse setup utilized for the PC version is, of course, nearly as fun as using the Wii remote. However, there are a number of minis that require gamers to use both the Wii remote and nunchuk and these suffer greatly on the PC incarnation of Rabbids.
Easily the biggest offender, however, are the minis in Rayman that were created in order to give gamers a brief, but frenzied workout. Shaking the Wii remote and nunchuk violently for several minutes on end, for example. It's just not the same when the workout is all of a sudden restricted to two thumbs on a traditional controller.
As a mini-game fest, Rabbids delivers a surprisingly addictive single-player romp, which is not praise that can be leveled at the majority of offerings in this genre. Oppositely, though, many of the minis do not support simultaneous play for two or more players, which is a big oversight so far as we're concerned.
Rabbids features a central hub world that is a coliseum, from which Rayman can take part in four challenges in the context of the game day. It's a fun setup that reminds us of the movie Gladiator. However, while the load times are usually speedy, there are a few too many of them when going back and forth between levels for our liking. This is a nitpicky complaint, but we're nitpickers.
The PlayStation 2 build of Rabbids looks just as good as the Wii one, while the others sport visual improvements. The BG&E team has pushed style and art in favor of cutting-edge graphics techniques to give Rabbids a look that is pleasingly atmospheric. The bunnies are fabulously designed and frequent levels complete with remarkably varied and moody backdrops. Rayman parachutes from the clouds onto a rocky desert scene in one mini and races through a dark and rainy swamp in the next. The fluid character animations, which are usually funny, help bring life to these unique locales. The game generally runs at 30 frames per second and supports a 16:9 widescreen mode. The graphics are complemented by a soundtrack that features bunny-sung remakes of Girls Just Want to Have Fun and La Bamba, among others, as well as an endless supply of bunny cries, yells, laughs, and burps.
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