Ubisoft's limbless mascot returns for his most unusual adventure yet, one that involves saving the world from a wacky warren of demonic bunnies. Players will control a revamped Rayman who wears outlandish outfits from different eras, including a purple afro and '70s-style threads, to further enhance his powers. The character is joined by a number of creature comrades, many of which can be ridden to help traverse treacherous areas or to combat the rabbit regime. Player can hitch rides atop spiders, sharks, and other animals while exploring an assortment of colorful, free-roaming environments. Rayman's creator, Michel Ancel, reprises his role as lead designer for this offbeat installment in the successful platform game series.
We are happy to welcome back our favorite limbless hero, Rayman, who embarks upon a completely new journey, which, yes, largely has to do with rabbits. Mind you, they're not just your everyday carrot-chewing rabbits either. They are sinister, mean little buggers who are out to get you if you're not quick enough.
The first distinctive trait, separating this game from earlier iterations of Rayman, is the absence of classic platform-jumping elements, which were always a trademark of Ubisoft's popular series. So, the usual action-flavored platformesque gameplay, like the one we've witnessed in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, is just not in there. This time around, the entire experience is focused on completing a series of 'challenges' (which is just a fancy term for "mini-game"), involving kicking and pushing bunnies around.
Rayman enters a world where a bizarre race of crazed rabbits is keeping a great number of his closest friends captive. Unfortunately, Rayman also got captured and is forced to do some porridge, so to speak. Luckily, he'll get a chance to set his friends free by participating in the wackiest challenges ever conceived by man or bunny. As luck would have it, most events consist of clobbering, poking or slapping tiny bunnies. Although it may sound cruel, believe me that they deserve every single punch, throb, stab or whack. In fact, these long-eared cabbage-munching loonies creep me out, with their beady eyes and psychotic cries. But, that's just me.
Essentially, the game is quite simple. You enter an arena, choose a sport and try out a mini-game until you emerge triumphant with a satisfying score. As you step into the arena, you'll immediately notice that the stands can be jam-packed with rabbits, cheering or booing. It all depends on your scores and style of play. But we'll get back to that later. Just so you know, each arena includes events such as dance contests, races (back-riding colossal hogs) and a great number of "imaginatively" named challenges - Bunnies Don't Sleep, Bunnies Don't Use Toothpaste, Bunnies Can't Jump, Bunnies Are Heartless With Pigs, Bunnies Don't Understand Bowling, Bunnies Can't Shear Sheep etc.
The problem with this game is that it's actually not all that fun when played in the single-player variant. Without any doubt, we recommend trying it against friends or at least in the company of friends. It's a lot more fun when challenging someone else, as opposed to going randomly through events on your own. Of course, you can always purposefully attempt to complete each and every event with a perfect score to unlock new Rayman outfits and tunes (Yay!). The PC version features a cooperative multiplayer mode, allowing one player to operate the keyboard while the other controls the mouse. Granted a limited amount of mini-games supports this feature, but it's a cool idea nonetheless.
Rayman Raving Rabbids does have its moments. It will make you laugh on many occasions. Some of the contest ideas are hilarious, like the 'Bunnies Don't Use Toothpaste' event. A poor bunny has a serious cavity problem and is in agony, as huge smirking worms persist on tearing through the rabbit's teeth. Naturally, it's Rayman's job to yank the worms out within a time limit.
Like I said earlier, the whole of the bunny population will cheer for good old Rayman if he doesn't miss out on any event and if he keeps getting perfect scores. So, before long, you'll make out 'I heart Rayman' fan banners on the stands if you are successful. However, should you choose to skip certain challenges and if get average scores, the stands become empty and the remaining viewers will be bored stiff. On the other hand, achieving perfect scores improves Rayman's standing and will eventually grant him better quarters, as well as respect in the eyes of all rabbids and even the massive Kong Bunny - a huge ape-like rabbit guarding Ray's cell. So, instead of grabbing Rayman by the throat and throwing him back in his chambers (like he does in the beginning), Kong Bunny may conduct an entire melodic chorus of cute loyal bunnies as a token of appreciation. Beholding such scenes is a riot. It also gives the game spirit and a rather unique touch. Ubi gets a thumbs up for that one.
We're sad to say though, that in spite of the game's humorous spirit, the gameplay just doesn't amount up to more than the going through a sequence of mini-games, most of which wind up repeating the same formula. Clearly enough, most of the gameplay was tweaked to suite Nintendo's Wii-mote, leaving a significant blotch on the PC version. The mouse and keyboard work okay, but aren't nearly as enjoyable as using the Wii-mote.
During our experience with the game, we've encountered a rather unusual bug. Upon arriving to the final stages of a massive bunny-infested shootout, the game simply refused to go any further. We expected a usual scripted sequence to follow, but that didn't happen, so, naturally, we had to play through the entire arena all over again in order to overcome this obstruction. Otherwise, the game ran quite smoothly without any further hindrances.
The artwork is bizarre, funny and unique, which makes things a bit more interesting for players as they beat the crap out of all those annoying rabbids. Although we didn't see anything jaw-dropping, the graphics are crisp and quite satisfying for a game of this caliber - given that we're talking about a bunch of mini-games all rolled into one product. Audio design has obviously been done with great care, since most challenges and events greatly depend on sound effects. Everything else works just fine, from the utterly whacky bunny screeches to the splendid variety of tunes on offer.
Rayman Raving Rabbids is apparently perfect for having fun on the Wii console in the company of your friends or family. On the PC, things are a bit different. What's more, it's hardly a satisfying single-player experience, since it doesn't take you more than one day of intense playing to go through the whole thing.
Be warned that as soon as you've finished the game, you'll have nightmares about being stalked by millions of big-toothed raving rabbids.
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