Rabbids are furry white creatures with a maniacal streak that's hard to resist. These two-legged, buck-toothed, buggy-eyed aliens have traveled around the world and through time, causing chaos as a result of their lofty ambitions and abject stupidity. In Alive & Kicking, the Rabbids attempt to get you in on the chaotic fun with a bevy of Kinect-fueled minigames. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of the signature craziness here, leaving the simplistic games disappointingly devoid of appeal.
There are only two proper game modes in Alive & Kicking: Quick Play and Party. The first mode unfolds in the manner that you might expect. You choose the number of players and then either play a random succession of games or personally select the ones that interest you one game at a time. There are a few dozen minigames in all. Some of them can be experienced alone, but many of them require you to bring in at least one friend. Whether you're alone or surrounded by pals, Quick Play is a good bet when you're in a hurry. It lives up to its name, and you can easily stop playing anytime you like without feeling that you've lost something as a result.
Party mode is a more ambitious alternative to Quick Play, though just barely. You still play the same minigames, but now, you need to have at least three people in the room. Each of as many as 16 players begins by creating a profile. When that's settled, everyone plays through a variety of games while the computer keeps track of placement brackets so you don't have to keep track of them. The player that loses a versus challenge must then complete a forfeit activity to minimize the number of points lost, which is really just a nice way of saying that someone has to make him or herself look like a fool. For instance, the unfortunate player may be asked to dog-paddle around the room, kiss someone (but not on the cheek), or pantomime a phone call while a shoe fills in for the phone. That performance is then rated by other players in the room. They are asked to indicate whether or not the losing player was really committed to his or her performance. Even if you deliver a performance worthy of Meryl Streep, the other players can vote you down for their own selfish reasons. After all, the ultimate victor in the Party mode is the last person who runs out of points. Self-preservation is bound to factor in whenever there's a vote, but giving credit where credit is due can help encourage your fellow players to keep being wacky.
As you play the minigames in either of the two available modes, you are given brief instructions and scored on your results. For instance, one minigame asks you to head-bang quite aggressively. If you throw your head around enough, then you'll bump a rabbid's onscreen forehead. The height of the resulting lump determines your ranking, which in turn determines the amount of in-game currency that you receive upon clearing a challenge. In another minigame, your rating is based on how quickly you properly identify the number of differences between two photographs. Any funds that you earn can then be used to purchase interactive items and decorations for your own personal rabbid in the My Raving Rabbid mode.
My Raving Rabbid is an interesting diversion for a few minutes. You appear onscreen in your play space as presented by the Kinect camera. A cartoon rabbid will wander around that environment so that it looks like you're viewing actual video of yourself playing with one of the furry aliens. You can smack it around and drop items into the scene for your amusement. For instance, you might purchase a radio and then drop it into the space so that the rabbid will dance in front of your couch. If you like, you can also take pictures and share them online with anyone you know who might care to see you posing with a video game character.
Alas, there's not a lot of good to be said about most of Alive & Kicking's minigames. Several of them, like one that asks you to swipe your arm when a plate is thrown your way, are over almost before they begin. Another minigame, which asks you to swing your arm to cut a bungee cord at the last possible second, doesn’t last much longer. There are other examples, each disappointing if you've just finished spending 20 or 30 seconds watching your performance in a previous minigame getting rated and your score tallied. Sometimes it can feel like you're watching meters fill and fumbling with menu arrows more than you're actually playing.
When you do find a heartier minigame, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction and suddenly it feels like you’ve taken on a job. In one of the more memorable minigames, you're instructed to sit on the floor and rock back and forth to steer as you cruise along a half-pipe of sorts. You're actually navigating a rabbid's intestines, but it takes too long to advance from your host’s rump to his mouth and your movements are so exaggerated that it's difficult to grab much of the available loot along the way. In another of the meatier minigames, you wave your hands to move cursors around the screen and interact with levers and ramps so that a series of rabbids can march lemming-like into container crates. You have to play through several stages in succession. When you clear the final stage, any rabbids that you have spared from a fatal fall are unceremoniously murdered by a giant propeller blade, their eyeballs flying every which way. That helps to discourage you from feeling like you actually accomplished something.
Besides suffering from length issues, the minigames also feature objectives that can be unclear when you first start playing. You eventually get a feel for what is expected of you as you go along, and in general, you should know what you're doing by the time a game ends, but until that point, the experience can be needlessly frustrating for all players involved. Most of the games also don't look very good. When the visuals aren't limited to video of your living room and some screaming rabbids, they're just plain generic. Textures are bland and environments lack detail, making you wonder why everything takes so long to load.
Rabbids: Alive & Kicking doesn't capture the boundless energy and kooky personality that sometimes makes them so endearing. There are fun moments where the "rabbids in your living room" concept comes together, like when you roll around to avoid spotlights cast by circling UFOs. But for every clever mission, there's a missed opportunity, such as an air guitar performance that fails to offer half the charm of musical sequences featured in games released four or five years ago. You should look elsewhere if you want to get a real kick out of the rabbids.