Released alongside the launch of the Nintendo Wii, Rayman Raving Rabbids took Ubisoft's mascot platformer hero, Rayman, and shoved him into a world filled with bizarre minigames and evil, screeching bunnies. Not that the Wii launch was hurting for minigame collections, but Raving Rabbids was a success, simply because it combined its hilariously strange characters and the Wii's motion-sensing technology into a highly playable, and goofily enjoyable, game. Now Raving Rabbids has made its way to the PC--though a bit worse for wear. This is still very much a minigame collection, but all the motion-sensing controls have been replaced by keyboard-and-mouse controls (or, if you have a dual analog controller, analog stick movements). The result is a more conventional, and ultimately less engaging, series of minigames that still succeeds in spite of the control shift, due almost entirely to the still-hilarious personality of those nasty rabbids.
When Raving Rabbids opens, Rayman is having a picnic with some of his globox pals. Suddenly, the happy picnic is interrupted by a violent rumbling. This turns out to be the tunneling of several rabbids--vacant, buck-toothed bunny creatures that apparently want to take over the world. Rayman and the globoxes are kidnapped, and Rayman is forced to entertain the masses of rabbids by performing in gladiatorial combat. Of course, gladiatorial combat in this case means playing a variety of silly, utterly random minigames for hours on end.
Every single minigame in Raving Rabbids involves some combination of mouse movements and button presses, or alternating key presses on the keyboard (the game almost never combines both keyboard and mouse controls at the same time). Trying to list them all would be an exercise in excess. To toss out a few ridiculous examples, one game tasks you to draw over an outlined image on the screen, which then creates some kind of food for a hungry rabbid, like a can of sardines, or perhaps a baseball; another is basically a game of whack-a-mole, where several rabbids sit inside multiple bathroom stalls, and you have to repeatedly move the pointer back and forth across the screen, tapping the left mouse button to shut them closed; yet another is a Dance Dance Revolution-style musical sequence where you use the right and left mouse buttons to hit in time as various bunnies dance onto the stage and hit timed markers; and another still is a hammer-throw minigame where you spin the mouse around in a circular motion, while onscreen, Rayman violently spins a cow--not a hammer--around and around, attempting to time the release to hit the playing field and gain as much distance as possible.
All these same games appeared in the Wii version of Raving Rabbids, but they employed the more tactile movements of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk instead of buttons and mouse movements. This is a game in which motion controls are definitely the preferred control method. It's not that the PC controls are bad, but they're just not as engaging. For instance, in the dancing minigame, simply alternating button presses makes the game really easy, even on the harder difficulty levels. However, on the plus side, the keyboard and mouse controls are markedly better than the analog stick controls found in the PlayStation 2 version of Raving Rabbids. Sure, the PC controls make the majority of the games easier than they were on the Wii, but that's probably better than making them stupidly harder, the way some of the analog stick-heavy games in the PS2 version did.
As fun as the minigames are, the comedy of the game is what sells it, and this aspect remains just about as good as ever on the PC. The rabbids themselves are almost exclusively responsible for this, as they are, without a doubt, hysterical. They're adorably designed, with their dumb stares, high-pitched shrieks, and penchant for taking comedic bumps. For some reason, they're totally obsessed with plungers and will often use them as a weapon against you. The best parts of the game, both from a gameplay perspective and a comedy perspective, are the first-person rail-shooting missions that take more than a few cues from on-rails light gun games like The House of the Dead and Time Crisis. Each stage is themed after one thing or another, like an Old West ghost town or a creepy cemetery, and the bunnies often take after these scenes, coming after you with cowboy hats and plunger six-shooters, for example. Or, sometimes, the bunnies just go in totally random directions, like the Splinter Cell-styled bunnies that sneak around wearing Sam Fisher's token night-vision goggles. All the while, you're guiding an aiming reticle and firing off plungers at advancing rabbids. These sequences are a great bit of fun, even if they do repeat a few of the same gags a few too many times.
In fact, the single-player mode tends to get a bit repetitive when you move into the later stages, because the game starts tossing in variants of the same minigames you've already played. The process of getting through the single-player game also has a very lather-rinse-repeat kind of progression to it. Each segment is broken out into four available minigames, at least three of which you have to complete to unlock the final game, which is usually one of the first-person-shooter sequences or a race of some sort. You keep going through these chunks of games over and over again until you've beaten them, and that's about it. That will take at least a few hours, but once you're done, you probably won't want to go back to it.
It's good, then, that the game supports the ability to go back to individual games you are rather fond of, as well as multiplayer. To be clear, not every minigame in Raving Rabbids can be played in multiplayer. Many of the games are sequenced multiplayer, where players take turns and try to get the highest score, and others are exclusively for two players. However, the good news is that the ones that do work simultaneously are quite fun when played with friends--though not as fun as they were on the Wii, since multiple players are relegated to using analog gamepads on the PC version. Additionally, sometimes the directions for the games aren't clear, specifically in explaining how a game differs in multiplayer versus single-player, but this is one of those games where fumbling around like an idiot often leads to inadvertent fun. And it's not as if anything this game does is complicated. The PC version also includes an exclusive family mode, where multiple players have to cooperate to play some of the games, with one player doing something on the keyboard and the other on the mouse, for example. Only a handful of the minigames support this mode, but it's a neat addition all the same.
Less neat of an addition to the PC version is a less-than-stable overall game. Raving Rabbids has a tendency to crash at seemingly random intervals. It only happened a few times, but it was often enough to figure that the game just doesn't run as well as you might like. Additionally, installing the game proved to be quite a chore, as it took three or four installs on a high-end PC to actually get the game up and running.
Raving Rabbids does have a lot of visual charm, simply because of the character design and the way it's animated. The rabbids are bloody adorable, and with the way they constantly fall all over the place, run around like screaming lunatics, and generally do silly stuff, it's hard not to fall in love with them. The game also does some nice stuff with level designs, creating some colorful scenery that backdrops the action nicely. The PC version (provided you're running the game on a resolution higher than 800x600) looks considerably better than the Wii and PS2 versions. Everything has a much sharper overall look to it. Character models are more detailed, environments have a brighter, less-muddy look to them, and it's easier to discern smaller details. You couldn't exactly call it a great-looking game by PC standards, but it's certainly the most impressive of the three versions currently available.
Raving Rabbids' cheery in-game music and the rather strange but totally captivating licensed soundtrack (with versions of "Misirlou," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," and "La Bamba," among others) do a lot to keep things interesting. The totally wacky screams of the rabbids are also oddly amusing. Normally stuff like this comes off as grating, but whoever did the audio for the rabbids totally nailed it.
If you don't own a Wii and want to engage in some rabbid-themed minigames, Raving Rabbids for the PC fits the bill. The new keyboard and mouse controls aren't necessarily a good substitute for the motion-sensing controls of the Wii version, but they're a better substitute than the PS2 version's controls were, and the minigames are still a decent bit of fun--thanks in no small part to those wacky rabbids. It's also worth mentioning that the PC version is considerably cheaper than both the Wii and PS2 versions, costing a mere $20. Seek out the Wii version if you can, but all told, the PC version is good enough in a pinch--especially if you're on a budget.