Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party

They were there when Wii launched, stealing the show from Rayman in their first bizarre adventure, before receiving a significant upgrade in what was probably the best minigame compilation on a console renowned for its party games. And although Rayman’s name remains attached to the series, the real stars of the show are most definitely those mutant bunnies. With each new installment, they’re becoming highly recognisable characters in their own right: When we got our hands on the latest version, Rayman was nowhere to be seen.

He’s in there somewhere, apparently in non-playable form, but it’s clear that Ubisoft no longer require his services to promote Raving Rabbids. This time, it’s all about Rabbids invading your TV, and the whole thing is structured like a day of channel-hopping through the scheduled programming. Each show is, of course, a minigame. They’re themed around various types of shows, so you might start with a spot of daytime TV before moving on to some sports, perhaps a movie or two, a music channel and so on. The Wiimote doubles up as a remote for the in-game TV, and the winner, loser or one randomly assigned lucky person gets to switch channels after a minigame.

When you change the channel there’s a good chance you’ll encounter an ad break, which won’t be quite the annoyance it is in real life. Here, the ads are WarioWare-style microgames – ultra-quick challenges that everyone can participate in, with a brief cutscene by way of reward. In one of these advert-games, a Mexican Rabbid pops up to play a little jingle on the guitar. He starts strumming away, but as soon as he opens his mouth to start singing, everyone has to try to lob a chili pepper down his throat. The person who manages to shut him up gets a few bonus points and, presumably, retains control of the TV remote.

While the ad breaks are over in just a few seconds, the main minigames are more substantial than before. Most of them now have different levels to go through, from the basic versions that the whole family should be able to enjoy, right through to advanced challenges requiring considerably more skill and dexterity. A case in point is the Beestie Boarding channel which, like many of the minigames, makes use of the balance board. At its most basic setting, you just sit on the board and steer through gates by leaning left and right. Leaning back gives you a speed boost and makes your ride – a wildebeest lying on its back – a bit trickier to control. As you move through the more advanced versions later in the TV schedule, not only do the courses get trickier but you also get a new control scheme, in the form of the remote and Nunchuk. Gesture-based stunts and other motion controls come into play, while still using the board to steer.

There’s a new music minigame, called Dancing with Dweebs, which forces you to go through some arm-waving moves that actually don’t look completely foolish when you’ve got three other players doing the same thing. Starting with a few simple moves, such as swaying from side to side with both hands, you eventually graduate to some Travolta-style flourishes. As long as you can set aside your reserve, you might be able to get a decent dance routine going. It’s themed as a talent show, and you can tell how well you’re doing by watching the Rabbid judges at the bottom of the screen, who’ll be dancing along with you when you’re in time with the music or yawning with boredom when you start to mess up. There are seven tracks, which seem likely to be a selection of classic rock and funk songs. The one we played was "Jungle Boogie".

The rhythm game from Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 also returns, which is no bad thing, although there’s no news on whether that’s going to share the same seven tunes as the dancing game. We’re promised a total of 50 minigames and 25 microgame advert breaks, all with four-player support. Up to a third of them will have the option for balance board controls, and there’ll be online leaderboards where appropriate. As far as graphics go, it’s very solid. There’s an almost cartoony feel to it, and the snowboard-racing levels looked fast and smooth, which is a good omen. We didn’t have any problems with the motion controls or any misread gestures. Overall, it seems that the Raving Rabbids series is going to continue its trend of increasingly confident sequels.

Jul 7, 2008