Even after years being forced to be professionally impartial, there are always going to be some games that you approach with a prejudice. In the interests of providing adequate background to this review, then, I feel compelled to admit that I've never liked Rayman. I don't hate the games, you understand - just the character, the world he inhabits, the weird little deformed things he usually has to rescue and, most of all, his silly early-90's fringe. Raving Rabbids also seems to represent everything that is a bit dodgy about the whole Wii concept - it is a sequence of mini-games, nothing more and nothing less, all based around controller movement. Whenever I played it at various preview stages, its wacky humour came across as trying a bit too hard and the mini-games themselves all seemed to involve the same three repetitive actions. I wasn't expecting to take to this at all on a professional level, let alone find any personal fondness for it.
Now, though, I find myself unexpectedly charmed. Raving Rabbids is funny. Properly funny, too, not just immediately-forgettable, infantile funny. It's slapstick and bizarre and occasionally quite dark, and importantly, it makes no pretence of depth. Yes, it's just a series of mini-games, and no, it doesn't exactly exemplify the sophistication of control that the Wii is capable of (you'll want Trauma Centre: Second Opinion for a taste of that), but it does do a good job of showing how fun it can be. Played in a group, Raving Rabbids is surprisingly entertaining and often laugh-out-loud funny - occasionally because many of the games require you to move the nunchuck up and down as rapidly as possible in a vaguely suggestive manner, but more often because of its character design, variety and general silliness.
Raving Rabbids dispenses with every established Rayman character except the limbless nonce himself, allowing the titular Rabbids to take centre stage. Rayman is kidnapped by these ridiculous little sado-masochists at the beginning of the game and forced to perform for their entertainment, which provides the somewhat flimsy justification for the fifty-odd consecutive minigames that make up the story mode. The Rabbids themselves account for a lot of this game's appeal - unlike the rest of the Rayman universe, they are instantly likeable. Expressive and often hilarious, their over-the-top screaming, vacant stares and bizarre design are certain to provoke a laugh - they are perfect characters for movement-based slapstick comedy, which is exactly what Raving Rabbids is all about.
For every videogame character who becomes an icon, there's a videogame character who is and who always will be, from the moment of their conception until the end of time, a bit rubbish. For every Mario there's a Hugo; for every Sonic the Hedgehog there's a Gex the Gecko; and for every Lara Croft there's those lesbians out of Fear Effect.
Ubisoft has demonstrated its confidence in Nintendo Wii with the promise of seven titles at launch.
The French publisher had previously announced Red Steel and Rayman Raving Rabbids for Wii, and this week followed it up with talk of Far Cry, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII, Monster 4x4 World Circuit, Open Season and GT Pro Series.
A disputed French version of the publisher's press announcement also made reference to a Prince of Persia Wii title, although that release was soon retracted and reworded to reference other, unnamed games also in development.
Rayman creator Michel Ancel has spoken out about how much he's enjoying working on Nintendo Wii - and given a detailed insight into how Raving Rabbids, the fourth game in the series, will take advantage of the console's unusual controls.
In an extended publisher-lead Q&A, Ancel dismissed the other current and next-gen console versions for now - he'll talk about those "soon" - and instead focused on the Wii version, which is due for release alongside the console at launch.
Raving Rabbids is deliberately "very cliché and ludicrous" he says, with a "completely open" world that you can navigate any way you like taking on the invasion of demented rabbits using the Wii controller and nunchuck to direct Rayman's attacks.
Ubisoft's announced details of the fourth game in the Rayman series - which will be released on current and next-generation formats - and highlighted the fact that it'll be a Nintendo Wii launch title.
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