STAFF REVIEW of Rayman Raving Rabbids (Xbox 360)

Thursday, May 10, 2007.
by Jake Reardon

Rayman Raving Rabbids Box art DANGER!! The Bunnies are loose and no one is safe! Large numbers of bunnies have been reportedly showing up everywhere, and authorities fear more could be on the way. If you spot any of theses "Raving Rabbids" in the wild DO NOT approach them. They are armed and considered dangerous, with their weapon of choice being toilet plungers....dirty, dirty toilet plungers. The only way to deal with them is via a series of mini games and wacky challenges. This is what we know so far. Bunnies Don't Milk Cows. Bunnies Have No Memory. Bunnies Don't Understand Bowling and most importantly, bunnies Don't Use Toothpaste. There is some good news though as a hero has appeared and that hero's name is Rayman. Captured by the evil bunny overlord "Serguei" while out on a picnic with his green frog like friends the , Rayman is now in captivity and being used for the purpose of their daily entertainment. Every morning, he is taken to a coliseum and presented a series of four challenges. If he is lucky enough to pass these, he has a chance to partake in the days "Final Trial". No one expects Rayman to survive and things pretty look bleak. Can Rayman escape? Can he win the hearts and minds of his captors and save his green pals? Will Bunnies ever use toothpaste? These are all questions you can answer yourself by playing Rayman Raving Rabbids.

While the game?s premise may seem a little out there, it is the foundation around which the Raving Rabbids Story mode is built. Each day in story mode, Serguei fetches Rayman and throws him into the middle of a roman style coliseum. All around, throngs of screaming Rabbids give the thumbs down, just like in the old gladiator movies we've all seen. The good news is that as you progress through the story the crowd will eventually end up cheering you on and become some of your biggest fans. Each game day consists of four mini games, and after completing at least three of them successfully; you are given a more complicated Final Challenge. Some of the mini games can literally last 10 seconds, while others will have you dancing like a madman using the left and right triggers in what can only be described as "DDR-lite meets Alvin and The Chipmunks". Your reward for passing a day's worth of trials? A giant Plunger. Taken back to his prison cell at the end of the day, Rayman quickly discovers that he can use these Reward Plungers to build a plunger ladder up to a high-up and distant window through which he can make his eventual escape.

The prison cell serves as a clever way of representing the in-game options for Story Mode. You can go to the clothes closet to change your look, putting on a selection of the multiple bonus outfits you are able to unlock by completing daily events. You can go and sit on the toilet to review the various day?s games (you are able to replay games you've already completed to try to get a higher score). You can also go to the jukebox and listen to music you've unlocked via completing the various dance mini game stages. You can also check on your progress by taking a look at how high your plunger ladder goes and how close it is to reaching the window. This scenario probably leads to one of the oddest cut scenes you will ever see. Rayman looks up as a wacky looking bird with giant eyes flies in the window. The two creatures smile at each other in a mutual exchange of respect. Then, out of nowhere, the bird craps on Rayman's face and flies off. Crude, yes, but it is humour like that drives the game forward and always keeps you guessing as to what you'll see next.

So how do these mini games play out?

For the most part the controls are fairly simple and will involve trigger pulls or presses on the A button as you move your character or an on-screen cursor around with the analogue sticks. It's hard to really summarize in a review all of the crazy things that you'll be doing since the game always keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. As you get deeper into the story, you will always be getting new challenges mixed in with some repetition of previous tasks. One of the challenges you get to participate in each day will be a dancing mini-game that has Rayman cutting a rug out on the dance floor. While one of many familiar songs plays(Girls just wanna have fun, the Pulp fiction song with the janky guitar), Rabbids roll onto screen on one of two conveyor belts, and you have to press either the left or right trigger depending on what side of you they appear on. It?s a simple beat-based mechanic, but as new songs are unlocked, the challenge grows as more Rabbids will come on screen at once. Feeling brave? You can bust out your Xbox Live Vision camera and have some real fun ? sort of. Some of the mini games support gesture-based control similar to what you might find on the Nintendo Wii version of this game.

In fact, Rayman was first released on the Wii back in November of last year to launch the system, so an admirable job has been done in giving 360 owners some "waggle" ability, while not totally overwhelming them. The vision camera control, when it actually fits the particular mini game you are playing, definitely adds a lot of fun to the mix. Some games that give you the option of using camera control though, just aren't as fun to control as you might like. For instance, playing the dancing game with the camera is near impossible and a more difficult chore than using the L and R triggers, as trigger presses are replaced by flapping your arms around on either side of the screen like a drunk ostrich. In mini games that require you to build up some speed by rapidly pressing L and R in alternating fashion, it is also easier to score better with a controller than a camera. Having said that, the most fun you will probably have with the camera controls is on a lot of the day's final trials. A lot of these consist of what can be described as a shooter-on-rails similar to arcade classics like VirtuaCop and House Of The Dead. Your movement is controlled by the game, and your job is to aim your plunger gun at an onslaught of attacking bunnies as they come on screen to attack you. To shoot, you simply aim your hands at the bunnies on screen and wave at them, and once targeted a plunger will shoot automatically. Reloading is accomplished by a swipe to the left of the screen. Now, besides the fact you will look like a cat hopped up on catnip as your flail your arms around rapidly for three or four minutes, the experience is actually quite engaging and provides a reason to move up off of the couch and kick some rabbit ass. It was actually a bit refreshing and a good change of pace to mix in some gesture based gaming, although not a deal breaker at the end of the day. If you do have a camera, give it a try.

Achievement fans rejoice, as you can get half of the game?s achievements (500 gamerscore) just by diligently playing through story mode which should take you about 6 or 7 hours total. It would probably take a bit less time if not for the constant barrage of loading screens in between bouts of fun. While the game makes up for the load times with a handful of quirky cut scenes starring the bunnies, by the end of the game you will be sick of seeing them. You could play a game for 20 seconds, load for 20 seconds, see Rayman celebrate, and then load again to get you back to the coliseum. Annoying! You would think on the 360 such load times could be avoided but maybe this is a consequence of having to design the game under the assumption not all xbox 360?s have hard drives.

The other main mode in RRR is the Score Mode. In Score Mode, you have the ability to play any of the 70+ mini-games from Story Mode, all while trying to best your top scores. On top of individually playing the games, there are a series of difficult challenges that combine several events into groups, which is a chance to earn even more points. The overall goal of this mode is to obtain a score of 183,000 and to ultimately become the GREATEST RAYMAN EVER (that?s the actual Achievement name, and it will net you 100 gamer points). Score Mode also supports local multiplayer for up to 4 players in certain games. Some games will have all players on screen at once, while others will involve taking turns to see who can set the best score. The camera controls are not supported in multiplayer though, so any ideas of accidentally punching friends in the face in the name of besting their score should be left outside the ring. Since the game is on Xbox 360, one would expect it to take advantage of Xbox Live for leader boards. The game does have leader boards, except you won't be viewing these via the game. In what is a glaring nod to the game?s roots on Wii, you are given an old school passcode that you need to enter into a website to compare your scores with those of other raving Rayman lunatics around the world. Pretty weak! Xbox live is there for a reason, and its disappointing it was not taken better advantage of.

The art style and character design, particularly of the Rabbids, is fantastically clever. These white beasts are both cute and menacing at the same time. It might take you back to the days of your childhood when you were partly scared of, yet at the same time fascinated, by the Muppets. The Rabbids seem very much as if they were ripped from a Tim Burton ?Nightmare Before Christmas? type of setting. An amazing art book is also included in the game box, and it?s so good you may actually want to buy some picture frames and start decorating your office. There is such a great variety in the types of environments and situations you will get to interact with the Rabbids in, and overall these environments look decent and well decorated. A lot of them even pay homage to past Ubi titles, so keep your eyes peeled for Rabbids in Sam Fisher style Night Vision goggles. Comparing the look and feel of graphics to the Wii version, you are definitely getting the most bang for your Rayman buck.

Rayman Raving rabbits may not be for everyone, but it does have several redeeming qualities that make it worth taking a look. Those interested in some mindless fun, and who enjoy these types of quick pick up and play mini-game collections should be satisfied. Trying to get a perfect game in Score Mode will keep you playing for a long time too. Plus, rabbits are cute, and who doesn?t want to play a game with cute psychotic rabbits.

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.4 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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