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Rayman Raving Rabbids


The success of Nintendoís Wii will largely be determined by the enthusiasm with which third party developers embrace its unique characteristics. While the console lacks the sheer processing power of its peers, it definitely allows programmers to move in an entirely new creative direction in terms of gameplay. With Rayman Raving Rabbids, Ubisoft has offered a preview of the type of experience that this new freedom can afford.

Gameplay:
The plot of Raving Rabbids is extremely simple. A slew of somewhat insane bunnies have kidnapped the gameís protagonist and are submitting him to a wide variety of challenges for their own cartoonishly sadistic amusement. By progressing through the varied tasks set before him, Rayman will win fans and, eventually, his freedom. While a bit thin on plot, the game possesses a lot of charm. The rabbids have strong personalities and prove entertaining throughout.


Raving Rabbids is available on multiple platforms, but it feels like a game developed with the Wiiís unique controller as its primary focus. Throughout it, one will play around forty types of mini-games that take anywhere from mere seconds to several minutes to complete. Each of these makes some use of the Wii Remoteís capabilities and most do so in a fairly effective manner.

The single-player mode on Raving Rabbids consists of fifteen levels, each containing four mini-challenges leading up to the task that must be completed to progress. By the end of the game, players will have used the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to complete a wide variety of actions.

One mini-game might be as simple as shaking the two controller pieces up and down to make Rayman run as fast as possible. The game will then shift to using the Wii Remoteís point-and-click ability to remove worms from a rabbidís mouth before they are able to rot his teeth. Immediately thereafter, players might find themselves tilting the Wii Remote forwards, backwards, left and right to guide a ball through a maze. Whether hurling cows, racing warthogs or smacking rabbids with a flyswatter, every capability of the Wiiís controller is utilized to some degree, making Raving Rabbids an excellent title to demonstrate the systemís unique potential.


To make Raving Rabbids a true success, Ubisoft needed not only to incorporate the Wiiís controller, but to do so effectively. For the most part, the game succeeds on this front. Two mini-games recur regularly throughout Raving Rabbids. The first involves using the two controller components to keep a beat as Rayman dances to music playing in the background. The second consists of using the Wii Remote to aim while shooting plungers at rabbids as Rayman moves on a track throughout a level. During this, a quick flick of the Nunchuk reloads his weapon. The control is excellent for both of these tasks and for most of the others encountered throughout the game.

While incorporated well for the most part, a relatively small minority of mini-games do seem to flounder at incorporating the Wiiís controller. At one point, Raving Rabbids attempts to make use of the Wii Remoteís built-in speaker by playing noises through it to guide the playerís movements. This section of the game feels a bit rough, as the sounds often fail to coincide with what is happening on the screen. In a few other mini-games, the player is instructed to shake the Nunchuk from side to side to complete an action, when a simple forward thrust proves much more effective and less frustrating. They are annoying when they occur, but these types of difficulties are rare enough to only have a minimally negative effect on the overall experience.

The story mode of Raving Rabbids is limited to single-player, but as levels are completed they become available in score mode, where up to four players are allowed to participate. The game fares well in this regard, giving friends a chance to laugh at each as they swing the Wii Remote around like delirious idiots. Some areas of the multi-player section of the game allow for simultaneous play, while others will have players taking turns, and Ubisoft has done a good job at determining which mini-games are best suited for each of these options.

Raving Rabbids encourages continued play after the story mode is completed. By performing well in score mode, the player accumulates points, which can be used to unlock bonus material. For the most part, this consists of things like art galleries or amusing animated short films that were produced for the game.

Graphics:
While suitable for the gameís purposes, Raving Rabbidsí graphics really appear no better than those consistently found on the Gamecube, PS2 or Xbox. This could be due to the fact that it is a launch title, or it could be a sign of the relatively low processing power of the Wii as compared to its peers. Either way, the gameís graphics are fairly unimpressive from a technical standpoint, even when compared to some of the other Wii titles available thus far.

Evaluated from a purely creative standpoint, the graphics of Raving Rabbids fare considerably better. One of the gameís strengths is its sense of humor and the art direction, design and animation of the rabbids play a huge role in this. In other words, nothing on the screen will wow you, but it very well might make you laugh.

Audio:
For the most part, the audio on Raving Rabbids falls under the high end of average. Similar to the graphics, it tends to be entertaining, but not particularly technically impressive. The noises made by rabbids and other characters in the game typically do a good job of adding to their quirkiness. The background music is mostly forgettable, but suits the tone of the game.

One slight annoyance does arise from time to time with Raving Rabbidsí audio. Performance in some of the mini-games can be highly dependent on being able to hear what is happening in the game. Occasionally, the cheering from the crowd will be mixed in too loudly, drowning out what the player needs to hear. This could be accidental or intentional, but either way it is irritating on the rare occasions that it comes up.

Overall:
All-in-all, Rayman Raving Rabbids provides an entertaining experience. Its mini-game orientation makes it perfect for playing in short bursts or with groups of friends. It also bodes well for the Wiiís future to see a third party developer already embracing the consoleís unique abilities in such a creative fashion. The game is relatively short, so it would most likely be suited for a rental by players who tear through a game and then move on to the next one. For those who would enjoy regularly revisiting the mini-games for improved scores or those who often have multiple players on their Wii, Rayman Raving Rabbids is worth picking up.