Ubisoft describes Rabbids Land, its upcoming launch game for the Nintendo Wii U, as a board game. But most discerning Nintendo fans will figure out that it's more than a simple "board game turned video game." It's a title that weds those screaming bunnies and their minigames with the mechanics that made Mario Party a perennial Nintendo favorite. Here's what you can expect from the crazy bunnies, with novel twists courtesy of Nintendo’s new hardware.
In one minigame, both the TV and Wii U controller display eight costumed Rabbids, but the Wii U monitor shows the group from behind. You'll have to coordinate your efforts with a friend to point at each bunny, expose their underwear, and examine which pattern is on each Rabbid's exposed undies. The Wii Remote does so by clicking, while the Wii U GamePad uses a stylus to check them. If both players check mismatching patterns at the same time, they'll fail the minigame, so verbal communication is key. In other words, part of the fun of the minigame comes from shouting ridiculous statements like "I got a bomb!" "I got a rooster!" "It's a teardrop!" until both of you find a match. It works well with the goofy fun that the Rabbids series is known for.
The second of the three wacky minigames showcased competitive play. In a Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired segment, the Wii Remote-controlling player tilts and wobbles a gigantic boulder around a rectangular maze. The player using the Wii U GamePad must tilt and steer a group of three Rabbids (all dressed in brown fedoras and matching leather jackets) around the maze to collect diamonds before all of them are crushed by the rock. It's highly reminiscent of one of Mario Party's minigames, but the novelty of the Wii U screen adds a new wrinkle to the formula, and it's quite fun.
The final minigame of the demo felt most in tune with the zany spirit of the previous Rabbids games. A pair of Rabbids drive a rocket sled through space (don't ask) while another bunny rides an ironing board like a wakeboard behind them. If you're driving the sled (controlled with Wii Remote and nunchuk), you'll play a rhythm game displayed on the TV, based on a sequence of sliding lights. When you successfully hit the beats, the sled shoots fireballs at the wakeboarding bunny. If you're on the board, you're using the Wii U controller (which shifts the camera to behind your Rabbid) to weave and dodge the numerous flames shooting in your direction. If you get hit seven times, the game is over. It's undoubtedly the craziest and most fun of them all.
As is par for the course with Ubisoft's goofy game franchise, Rabbids Land made us laugh as we struggled to win competitive modes, and smile as we solved a cooperative minigame. It looks like a game that'll keep the hilarious charm of the series alive into another generation of Wii hardware.