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Since the early days, people writing about games have been making comparisons with other works in other forms of media. First we called Infocom’s text adventures interactive fiction, then we called The Seventh Guest an interactive movie. Then we compared Metal Gear Solid to James Cameron’s blockbusters, Resident Evil to Romero’s zombie trilogy, and Grand Theft Auto to The Godfather and Scarface. Since then, we’ve talked about The Sims in relation to soap opera, and then about episodic games like the Sin or Half Life 2 efforts in relation to big US TV series like Lost or 24. You get the idea....
Well, Rayman Raving Rabbids is the gaming equivalent of a comedy sketch show.
It’s certainly not a platformer. Michel Ancel’s creation earned his following as the star of 32-bit 2D platformers and Dreamcast-era 3D adventures, and the strengths of the Rayman games were always in the gorgeous hand-drawn backgrounds, the superb character design, tight, well-constructed levels and Rayman himself – a cheeky, limbless hero with more personality than the usual cutesy animal crowd. Rayman Raving Rabbids runs with these strengths, but now they’re in the service of a series of arcade mini-games. The framing structure is minimal, and adventure elements are non-existent. Each level consists essentially of an arena, four mini-games and a final challenge. Complete three of the mini-games, tackle the challenge, and it’s on to the next level. Nothing could be simpler.
At this point, you might imagine that the rest of the review could write itself. Mini-games are nearly always a mixed bag, games consisting solely of mini-games are nearly always fun for a while but lack any long-term depth, and played alone, single-player, they’re practically a waste of time.
In this case, however, you’d be wrong.
For one thing, the Wii version of Rayman Raving Rabbids is one of the first third-party titles to really get to grips with the Wii controllers. Each mini-game is built around particular movements of the remote and nunchucks, with some asking you to shake both rhythmically to mimic sprinting or pumping a handle, others asking you to aim with one and whack or shake with the other, while others still have you twirling the remote above your head, or tilting, turning and twisting it to move a character or solve a simple puzzle.
Unlike Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, most of the movements are reasonably intuitive and what’s more, clear instructions before each event make it fairly obvious what needs to be done and when. This means that – when it works - RRR is one of the most straightforwardly enjoyable of the Wii launch titles, and a great advertisement for Nintendo’s vision. Practically anyone can play it and have fun.
What’s more, you can see that real effort and attention – even love – have been poured into the game’s design and concepts. Ancel’s signature hand-drawn style is as lovely as ever, and the Raving Rabbids of the title – a bunch of bug-eyed, furry marauders who have kidnapped Rayman and are forcing him through his many trials – are a triumphant bunch of crazed cartoon oddballs. They’re just about cute enough to keep the kiddies happy, but, like the stars of Gremlins or Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, they have a bizarre, twisted, slightly wicked side to them that makes them peculiarly engaging for adults too.
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