Rayman: Raving Rabbids
Likely due to the recent popularity of minigame collections like the Wario Ware series, somewhat well known character Rayman now has his own minigame extravaganza. The Wii version of this title launched with the system with full support for the motion sensing controller. Releases for other traditional consoles are planned, and so comments in this review may not apply to them.
The setup for the game is rather odd, with Rayman being captured and held prisoner by strange rabbit-like creatures who call themselves the Rabbids. Because they apparently have nothing better to do, they force Rayman to compete in minigames for their amusement, with a stadium full of Rabbid onlookers. You repeat the same rather dull sequence of events again and again throughout. Rayman bangs on his door asking for more tasks, and is taken from his cell into the arena. He then has four games to choose from and must clear three of the four to play the critical game and win his prize of a plunger. Rayman is then thrown back in jail, adds another plunger to the wall for his makeshift escape ladder that the rabbids manage not to notice despite their constant renovations, and asks for even more tasks. Increasingly positive crowd reaction and some decorations for your prison are all you have to look forward to aside from the games.
The minigames in Rayman are sometimes not all that mini. This can lead to more interesting and enjoyable experiences than from one of Wario Ware's microgames, but it also presents a problem if you encounter some minigames you just can't stand. Instead of playing it for 30 seconds and moving on, you can end up repeating a 2 to 5 minute game again and again until you do well enough to move on. Another problem is that while the game advertises lots and lots of games, many of them are simple variations on a theme. For example, there's a rhythm game where you have to move the nunchuck and remote in sequence to the music and rabbids onscreen is repeated almost every round with only a different song and theme, and called a new game. And this isn't an exception to the rule. Most of the games have harder difficulties or some other minor variation used as to justify adding it to the list as a full game.
Very few of the minigames could be called excellent, but they generally range from acceptable to pretty good, with a mostly low difficulty. Each round also features what I term a boss minigame, where you're doing something more complex or challenging than average. A warthog race, or an on-rails first person shooting sequence, for example. There's the occasional game that might have sounded good on paper, but is implemented terribly. One such game has you guiding a baby warthog to it's mother through a maze of traps. Holding the remote to your ear, you listen to it's tiny speaker for warning sounds from the baby about nearby danger. Maybe that sounds kind of cool. Well, it would be, except that it's hard to understand which danger the danger is actually coming from, the baby's screeching sound varies from super quiet to intolerably loud depending on your proximity to danger, and if you lose and run into an explosion, it's another unpleasantly loud and irritating blast from the speaker. All in all, not fun to play and not fun for your ears.
There are other games that are just plain boring or far too dependant on luck that slow the game to a crawl if you happen to get stuck on one.
The standout minigames are the on-rails FPS segments. Using a flick of the nunchuck for reloading, and the remote to aim and fire, control feels just right. The games are fairly lengthy, and while a little short on overall challenge (probably due to the game's target audience), they do at least show the potential for a lightgun game on the Wii.
I'd not normally be bothered much by a game's ending, but Rayman's conclusion is one of the worst in any game I've played. Not only is the ending itself unsatisfying and inconclusive, but there's no climax to the game. You just play round after round of minigames, gathering plungers, and then it ends. No boss battle, no exciting cinema scene, nothing to make it seem like you've beaten the game at all. In fact, when I finished with a completion percentage around 80%, I thought seeing the real finale would simply be a matter of earning full completion. Sadly this was not the case, as I earned only a few silly trinkets and felt my time had been totally wasted.
I'd have a hard time recommending Rayman as a purchase. It makes pretty good use of the motion sensing capabilities of the system, but so does Wii Sports, and that's included with the console for free. The rabbids are amusing creatures and Rayman is a likeable hero, but this simply feels like an unfinished mess that could have been a lot better with more time or effort. It could make for a fun three or four day rental, which is about all the time you'll need to complete it anyway.
(For some more detail on some of the minigames I found comment worthy, please see my posts in this Game Progress Topic: http://cb007.flyingomelette.com/progress/archivebees.html)