Leipzig GC 2007: Hands-on with Rayman Raving Rabbids 2

I like Rabbids. They do a lot of important work. In this world of mopey, emo, RPG heroes, violent, grizzled, downtrodden anti-heroes, earnest corporate mascots, and cute and cuddly cartoon critters, the Rabbids want nothing more from their videogame careers than to f*ck around, be obnoxious, and have a laugh or two. I think we could all learn some important life lessons from their example. But what of their latest game?

Wii mini-game collections have come in for a hell of a lot of flack lately. Some tend to see them as a cheap way for a developer to make a quick buck out of the “casual market” with minimal effort, while a whole load of gamers are of the opinion that mini-games are going to sneak into their houses in the night, steal all their games, bury them in a pit in the desert, and replace all their consoles with Game & Watch handhelds from 1987. I could get into that debate right now, but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to look at whether Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 is actually fun to play or not.

And yes, yes it is.  It was 5:30 pm when I played Rabbids 2. It was the last appointment of a very long day for both myself and the Ubisoft guys. We were all mentally, physically, and visibly bedraggled by the onslaught of nine and a half hours of the GC, but five minutes after walking into the demo room, four men of differing nationalities who’d never met before and were all more than old enough to know better were leaping around a room full of beanbags, giggling like schoolgirls and trying their best to knock the Wii remotes out of each other’s hands at inopportune moments. That has to be a good way to spend half an hour, no? 

We played through eleven games during our multiplayer blowout, taking in such noble activities as snail racing, — “It’s faster than Burnout“, I was smirkingly told — pants washing, knocking back booze at speed in order to wipe out a city block with the resulting belch, and messing around in the office while avoiding being caught by the boss. All very silly and all very pointless, some would say, but I say “Poppycock!”. Sometimes being silly and pointless is the point, and Rabbids 2 makes that point admirably.

Yes, it’s both a great experience and a testament to the power of games as a medium to become utterly absorbed by a captivating and brilliantly realized single-player FPS campaign, but what about the lunatic joy of rhythmically waving your arms around to make an on-screen rock band of semi-retarded bunnies run round confused as they set fire to themselves? Or the shared human comedy of four people pushing themselves through the pain barrier by thrashing a Wii remote up and down in order to push said bunnies along an 20cm racetrack over the space of around a minute? All fully aware that they’re on the verge of doing themselves an injury, but refusing to lose even as their biceps threaten to collapse and they become agonizingly aware of the utter stupidity of what they’re doing? 

I had a blinding time playing Rabbids 2, and after a stressful and hectic first couple of days at the GC, it was the perfect way to unwind and head back to my hotel with a silly grin on my face. It’s not going to win any awards or change the face of gaming as we see it, — as Ubi happily admitted, this is an after-the-pub game. You will be playing it drunk at around midnight — but as silly, throwaway laugh-fests go, it’s one of the most effective I’ve played so far.

Just don’t play it with Ubisoft. They cheat.

The controls are smooth and responsive, — something surprisingly infrequent in “lightweight” games like this — the graphics as good as they need to be, and the sound design often had me creased up on its own. If you’re not the sort of person who’d ever touch a mini-game collection in a million years, feel free to ignore my words. Rabbids 2 isn’t for you. If however, you want to balance out your collection of deeper games with some funny nonsense to enjoy with your friends while relaxing between headshots and cooling your combo-beaten thumbs, Rabbids 2 could be a good one to keep an eye on. Sometimes it’s good to just throw your head around and go “Waaauuurrgh!”.

Like I said, Rabbids. Important work. 

David Houghton