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, months after the Wii release, as well as subsequent PC and PlayStation 2 ports of the game, Raving Rabbids has made its way to the Xbox 360. This is still a minigame collection, but nearly all of the motion-sensing controls have been replaced with the 360's analog sticks and trigger buttons, save for a few that support the Xbox Live Vision camera. While this does leave you stuck playing the majority of the games with a controller, Raving Rabbids still remains amusing almost entirely because of the 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 has you using some combination of analog stick movements and button presses to perform completely insane tasks. Trying to list them all would be an exercise in excess. To toss out a few ridiculous examples, one game tasks you with drawing 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 A button to slap shut the stall doors; yet another is a Dance Dance Revolution-style musical sequence where you use the left and right trigger 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 left analog stick around, 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. The Xbox 360 version also includes a few exclusive minigames, which are all based on the standard formulas found in the other minigames. For example, there's a basketball minigame that uses identical mechanics to the cow-tossing minigame, but now you toss the cow into one of a few moving basketball hoops. There's nothing earth-shattering in the new games, but it's nice that they are included.
Apart from the new, exclusive games, all these same minigames 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 analog stick movements. This is a game in which motion controls are definitely the preferred control method. It's not that the 360 controls are bad, but they're just not as engaging. For instance, in the dancing minigame you simply use the trigger buttons to time the hits, which makes the game really easy, even on the harder difficulty levels. Other games, such as the whack-a-mole bathroom game, are a touch hard to deal with, simply because you have to try to move a cursor back and forth between the different stall doors. With the Wii, the movement was tactile and felt right, but here it feels too quick (as opposed to too slow in the PS2 version), and it's a bit unwieldy when you're trying to stop on a specific door. Basically, it feels like this game wasn't designed with analog sticks and buttons in mind. Even if the Wii version had never been released, the control interface presented here wouldn't translate especially well with the way these minigames are designed. The good news is that the games are still generally fun, but you definitely lose something in translation.
The Xbox 360 version of Raving Rabbids does try to compensate for all of this by including support for the Xbox Live Vision camera. Not all of the minigames included in Raving Rabbids are playable with the camera, but you can play a good chunk of them. Most of these camera-based games simply substitute the trigger-button functions with hand movements. Any game where your job is to hit the triggers as quickly as possible has you now waving both your hands up and down in a frantic motion within a pair of boxes that display onscreen. Other variations include versions of the hammer-throwing, jump rope, and dancing games. As neat of an idea as this is, the camera control doesn't always translate well. It takes a while to figure out how fast you should be moving your hands to get the game to register the movements properly in most of the speed-based games, while the dancing games feel kind of broken when you try to play this way. You have to hit individual boxes on the left and right of the screen each time a rabbid hits a marker, but it always seems like you're hitting too early or too late. It doesn't help that you have to sort of fumble around trying to find a good stationary position for your hands when you're not hitting the boxes in time with the music. Ultimately, the camera isn't the ideal way to control the game, but in the few games where it actually works decently, it can be fun.
As fun as the minigames can be, the comedy of the game is what sells it--and this aspect remains just about as good as ever on the Xbox 360. 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 a 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. Overall, 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 simultaneous 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. Sometimes the directions for the games aren't clear, specifically in explaining how a game differs in multiplayer versus single-player, but it's not as if anything this game does is complicated.
One annoying quirk about Raving Rabbids on the Xbox 360 is that it doesn't include any sort of online leaderboard system for its score mode. It still uses the janky, Web-based code system that has you entering your scores into an online database. Would it have been so difficult to set up a basic Xbox Live leaderboard system?
In terms of presentation, the Xbox 360 version of Raving Rabbids is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the best looking of all versions released thus far. It's crisper, sharper, and more colorful than any of the other versions. However, again, on some level that is to be expected. But when you compare it with other Xbox 360 games, it's not much of a technical powerhouse. Additionally, the various loading screens and other pre-rendered videos in the game run at an extremely low resolution, so you'll see a ton of artifacting and blurring if you're running the game in HD. On the flip side, 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 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. Ultimately, while the game's no masterpiece of graphical design, the style does a lot to make up for those technical shortcomings.
The audio is on a similar level. There's not much that's impressive here, but the cheery in-game music and the rather strange but totally captivating licensed soundtrack (with versions of "Misirlou," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," and "Hip Hop Hooray," 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.
All told, Rayman Raving Rabbids on the Xbox 360 makes for a good collection of minigames, one made more appealing by the adorably evil rabbids contained within. The Xbox 360 control scheme definitely feels haphazard in spots and the camera support is shoddy at best. But when played with a controller, the gameplay still manages to be amusing, and the game's sense of humor goes a long way toward making any control issues forgivable. If you own a Wii and can seek out that version, it's the ideal one to get. But the 360 version will do you just fine in a pinch.