Have you ever stopped to think about what’s in your Wii remote? You might sensibly think it’s batteries, or circuit boards, or jam, or whatever witchcraft it takes to make Nintendo’s motion magic work, but it’s not. Put the remote close to your ear and you should hear something unusual: “BWAAAAAAAHHHHH!”
There’s a Rabbid in your remote. But don’t panic, he’s harmless. Well, so long as you think that pushing people down elevator shafts, bouncing on the infirm, riding a jet engine round an airport or indulging in insane amounts of kleptomania is harmless. We don’t quite know how he got there, but after playing the manic, bizarre, clever and funny Rabbids Go Home, you’ll be inclined to let the toothy creature stay.
This is the fourth Rabbids game in as many years, and we’ll totally understand if you’re sick of Ubisoft’s rabbity mascots by now. Go Home, however, is an entirely different experience from their previous outings. It’s not a minigame collection and it has no multiplayer; it’s a fully fledged 3D platform game, albeit the strangest one we’ve ever played.
Like cheese, the tides and Scientologists, Rabbids originate from the moon. Or they at least think they do. One day, while Rabbiding about in the Earth junkyard where they currently live, they decide to go home, so they start building a tower in order to reach the moon.
Playing as a trio of critters – one pushing a shopping cart, one riding inside it, while the third clatters around in the Wii remote’s innards – you’re tasked with popping into the nearby city to collect objects to dump on top of your teetering mound. Virtually no item is off-limits. In addition to picking up detritus from the ground (traffic cones, bottles of pop, dogs) you can shake the remote to make peoples’ clothes fall off, then shove the clothes inside your cart and trundle off.
The goal in each area is to collect as many small (or ‘XS’) objects as possible, and then navigate your way to the end. There, an ‘XL’ item awaits – like a cow or a car – and a marching band of Rabbids stand by a filthy toilet, waiting to flush everything you’ve hoarded back to the junkyard.
The most obvious touchstone is Katamari, but Go Home never feels like a rip-off or a cynical attempt to ape its ‘wackiness’ (which is to the game’s credit, when you consider that a straight clone of Katamari would no doubt be a big seller). It’s a genuinely funny game. The Rabbids in particular have the sort of unrelenting manic energy we’d need a thousand cups of coffee to replicate. Every stage begins with a charming short cartoon, and ends with joyous big band music; in between, you’ll battle robots, wreck a supermarket and explore a radioactive government facility, to name just a few of the game’s varied activities.
Stages are structured similarly to any other 3D platformer, but nearly every location offers something new. One minute you’ll be floating around under the inflated quarantine bed of an infectious hospital patient, the next you’ll be racing through an office after a secretary on a scooter.
After that, you could be careering through an airport lounge on the back of a runaway jet engine. Some games rest on their laurels; Rabbids Go Home vigorously stamps on its laurels and then flushes them down the U-bend while laughing like a maniac.
Levels vary in set-up and duration – some are linear and on-rails, while others are bigger and more open. You’ll likely grab most of the collectibles on the first playthrough, but you can always revisit stages later. There are a good number of levels, too, and although the same locations and activities do start repeating, they will at least offer something new each time.
Pushing a cart around seems a bit weird at first, but it handles exceptionally well, and it’s always amusing watching it skitter and almost topple over when you happen to take a sharp bend. Without the aid of the bubble bed, you don’t have the ability to jump, but you can whack things by snapping the remote and fire Rabbids by aiming the on-screen cursor and hitting Z.
Early levels suggest Go Home is a game devoid of challenge, but tough enemies and tricky platform bits soon come thick and fast. Later stages can be difficult, and occasionally frustrating due to the game’s lack of camera control. For the majority of the time it’s not a problem, but in some platforming sections the choice of perspective can seem incredibly dim.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you can’t accuse the Rabbids of stupidity. The game’s consistently clever on a visual level, but it often has surprises under the hood too, delivering an unexpected twist just when you think it’s in danger of becoming formulaic.
To get past certain locked doors you need to trample through plates of food, leaving a trail of gooey mush all over the floor. You use this trail to lure a cleaning robot towards the door, which will then unwittingly open it for you – but be careful not to venture across puddles of water along the way, as it will clean your cart’s wheels and make the robot slink back to its post. It’s a nice little puzzle that takes advantage of the game’s cart-pushing antics, and it wouldn’t seem out of place in a point ’n’ click title.
Unlike something frequently ingenious like World of Goo, however, Go Home is only this clever every so often. Most of the time it coasts by on being funny, varied and entertaining – all of which are great accomplishments, but not quite enough to push the game into 9-scoring territory. The occasional camera problems and frustrating later sections bring it down a notch as well.
For your cash, however, you get a charming and original action title, which makes the best use of those Raving Rabbids yet. And as a special bonus, Rayman’s not in it, so you don’t have to spend the game gawking at his freaky floating extremities.
Nov 1, 2009