Rayman may have had top billing, and he may have been the main playable character, but it was those weirdly malevolent screaming bunnies that stole the show in last year's Rayman Raving Rabbids, a minigame collection that stood out amongst a dense field of competitors at the launch of the Wii with its smart use of the system's unique controller and its satisfyingly bent perspective. Unsurprisingly, Ubisoft is bringing a sequel to the Wii later this year, and we got a chance to go hands-on with five of the minigames to be featured in Rayman Raving Rabbids 2.
The focus of our demo was on the multiplayer portion of the game, which meant that there was no shortage of rabbids. Before we started in on some minigame action, we were presented with a number of rabbids that we could customize with hats, outfits, and skins, with the options being about as weird and random as you might imagine. We settled with an Indiana Jones-looking outfit, complete with fedora, while one of the other players opted for a red martial arts gi and a blonde wig, making the rabbid look like Ken from Street Fighter, except, you know, with big long ears and totally insane. We're told that there will be 25 different hats, 25 different outfits, and 25 different skins for your rabbids that you can mix and match however you please, meaning that there's a possible 15,625 possible unique combinations. Which is a lot!
Anyway, getting on to the minigames. We started off with a little something called 9 to 5 Rabbids, where a bunch of miserable, office-bound bunnies attempt to goof off whenever the boss isn't looking. You'll facilitate this by shaking the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk vigorously whenever the boss isn't in view, which will cause your rabbid to leap wildly on its chair, scream giddily, and generally just have a good, old-fashioned freak-out. The trick, though, is that you have to hold your controllers completely still to settle down your rabbid just before your boss bursts back into the office, which he'll do by popping out of the vending machine, the trash can, and the air conditioning system. As simple as it was, the two Ubisoft representatives we played with also demonstrated how Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 can also double as a contact sport, as they threw elbows at each other when they were trying to hold their controllers still, making this already manic minigame that much more rowdy.
Next up was a game modeled after American football, though you shouldn't be expecting Madden, or even something that remotely resembles the actual sport. Instead, it's a free-for-all where all the rabbids on the field scramble to control the football for as long as possible, running around in ridiculous, serpentine routes to nowhere. Movement is handled with the analog stick on the Nunchuk, while all of the rabbids not currently in possession of the ball can perform a diving tackle by swinging the Wii Remote downward. Successfully tackle the ball carrier, and you'll gain possession, at which point everyone else's focus will switch to you. While not as physically demanding as many of the minigames we experienced, it was still some good, simple, goofy fun.
The rabbids seem to have an uncanny ability to make mundane tasks fun and ridiculous, something that is exemplified in the underwear-scrubbing minigame we played next. Here, you pantomime the action of scrubbing your underwear by pointing the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk at a downward slant and alternately pushing them forward and back. You can check the currently cleanliness of your undies by holding both controllers up in the air, which will cause your rabbid to raise the garment for inspection. If it's still dirty, they'll go back in the wash, and if they're clean, your rabbid will set them aside and move on to the next piece of laundry. If you scrub for too long, though, you'll totally shred your knickers, negating any points you might've scored for that pair. It was ridiculous, and as absurd as it might sound, we're very confident in saying that this is the most fun that we've had scrubbing underwear.
Veterans of the original Rayman Raving Rabbids will recall the dancing rhythm game, featuring squeaky versions of various pop songs, that popped up repeatedly throughout the single-player game. While you can expect plenty of chipmunk-y vocals in Rabbids 2, the minigame itself has been retooled, and for the better. Rather than shaking the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk in time with a dance routine, you'll play in a rabbid-filled band, complete with a lead singer, guitarist, drummer, and keyboard player. The basic action is pretty similar to the rhythm game from the original Rabbids, which had you shaking the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in time with onscreen cues, though now you'll additionally have to keep an eye out for instructions to shake your controllers in other, specific ways. Part of what makes the band idea a big improvement is that, like certain peripheral-based rhythm games out there, the sounds for the instrument your rabbid is playing will only play when you hit your notes. While the one song we got to play with was a helium-fueled cover of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," we're told that there will be other musical genres represented in the final game, including disco.
Lastly, we checked out a swim-meet minigame, where we had to out-shake our opponents while following specific shaking instructions, which would cause our rabbids to perform laps in a swimming pool. While not the craziest or cleverest concept in the game that we saw, it was certainly the most physically taxing, which is probably why it was saved for last.
It seems like Ubisoft understands what people liked about Rayman Raving Rabbids, and it looks to be delivering more of it with Rayman Raving Rabbids 2. What we've seen so far has been just about as gleefully insane as anything from the original, and we can't wait to see more.