Ubisoft's Rayman franchise took a sharp and perhaps unexpectedly successful turn in last year's Rayman Raving Rabbids. The one-time platforming hero went the minigame-collection route, and in doing so introduced the world to the most dementedly entertaining bunch of lagomorphs since Bugs Bunny's heyday. The game was a success both because of its delightfully slapstick sense of humor and its solid use of the Wii's motion controls for a variety of twisted games. Now, one year later, Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 is on store shelves. This is an altogether predictable follow-up. It puts the rabbids in a mixture of familiar and different-feeling minigames that, unfortunately, aren't quite as engaging as what the first game offered. Likewise, the previous game's goofy humor isn't as spot-on here, with gags more inclined to elicit a mild smirk than any hearty laughter. Nevertheless, the increased multiplayer focus makes playing with your friends quite a bit more entertaining here than in the original game, and there are still some moments when the rabbids' unique brand of collective psychosis shines through.
One good thing Raving Rabbids 2 does is ditch pacing of the previous game's single-player mode. No longer do you have to trek around an arena to each minigame. Instead, a series of minigames is assigned to one of five different continents, and you simply travel from continent to continent to get your minigame on. There is some manner of tossed-together plot about rabbids invading the world via flying yellow submarines, but it's just a device to get Rayman roped into another rabbid-focused adventure.
The problem is that the minigame selection in Raving Rabbids 2 simply isn't as good as its predecessor's. There are some definite gems, such as the game where you fling the Wii Remote upward to eat chili peppers and then belch fire to cook dangling chickens, or the one where you dangle spit off of a ledge and try to angle it into a rabbid's drink, or the ultimate non-game where four characters stare at a lone chess piece on a game board and have to try to "concentrate" as hard as they can to win.
Some are more reliant on multiplayer than others. Any of the race minigames are infinitely more entertaining with multiple players, as are the balancing minigames, in which you're tasked with taking an ever-teetering plate of sandwiches to a rather portly rabbid by balancing the Wii Remote and trying to avoid pitfalls. The balancing games remove all the other characters in the single-player mode, which makes the process decidedly less fun, given that half of the enjoyment to be derived from such a game would be in the act of bumping into other players and knocking their sandwiches silly.
Other games--such as the ones where you're forced to spin an ever-growing stack of plates on a stick, or play a rather awkward game of beach volleyball--are out-and-out failures, either because they're just boring to play or because the control mechanics simply aren't much fun. Out of the 50 or so minigames included in this sequel, the ratio of fun games to less enjoyable games falls more in favor of the less enjoyable ones than in the original Raving Rabbids, though there's still just enough good entries here to keep you and any associate players entertained.
The musical and shooting games make their return in this sequel, albeit with a different look and feel. The music games follow the same basic principal of keeping your Wii Remote and Nunchuk movements in time with the music, but you're no longer just hitting the beats. Each song lets you pick from one of four different instruments (the selection changes from song to song), and the rhythms you make with the controllers vary depending on the instrument you pick. Although that all sounds well and good, ultimately it doesn't make a ton of difference. You're still waving the controllers as you would in the first game, and the only difference is your particular rhythmic goal. If you liked the musical levels in the first game, you'll probably enjoy these too.
The shooter missions in this game have a much different look than the original, due to all the backgrounds being done in full-motion video. Someone at Ubisoft apparently took a video camera to New York, Paris, and Tokyo, and then ran around filming a bunch of city streets and a few skits involving real-life actors. Then the developers overlaid all the rabbid wackiness into that footage. It's a really neat idea that unfortunately doesn't come off quite as wacky as you'd hope. The main problem is that the environments the developers filmed aren't really all that crazy. Yeah, the few moments where rabbids start beating people up with plungers are funny, but there's far too few of those. Most of the time you're just ambling around random streets, parks, and docks while the only thing going on in the background is a bunch of flying submarines hovering in the sky. Sure, there's plenty of goofy rabbids to shoot with plungers, but even the action feels a bit flatter than in last year's game.
One thing Raving Rabbids 2 does add to the formula is a customization element. You can build your own custom trips using any six minigames, and you can also dress up both Rayman and the rabbids in a variety of silly outfits. This isn't exactly a big draw or anything, but at least there is a nice variety of items you can unlock.
Presentation hasn't seen a great deal of upgrading since last year's game. The cute, cartoony visual style is still a treat to look at, but at the same time, the in-game graphics can look pretty crusty, especially if you're running the game in 480p. Regardless, the animations of the rabbids are as humorous as ever, and all that stuff with the full-motion video actually looks pretty cool. The audio is practically identical to last year's game, with recycled rabbid screams and all. Granted, all anyone would ever want out of the audio from this game is screechy rabbid noise, and this one has it in spades. But just out of curiosity, why, exactly, does Rayman make rabbid noises in this one? Is he being driven slowly insane by his continued interaction with these barmy creatures? Or did the Rayman voice actor suddenly want too much money?
By no means is Raving Rabbids 2 a bad game, but everything about it feels a little bit slapdash, as if it's more an excuse to get another game featuring those daft rabbids out on store shelves by the holidays than a sequel that builds off of the success of the original and advances the series. The minigames are mostly decent, but few really inspire the same sort of cackling glee that the first game did. Maybe the onslaught of minigame collections for the Wii over the last year has as much to do with that as the quality of the game itself, but nevertheless, Raving Rabbids 2 can't help but feel a bit old hat. For those in serious need of a new rabbid fix, Raving Rabbids 2 is a sufficient way to feed the addiction, though it's probably better served as a rental instead of something to add to your collection.