Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Genre: Party Game
ESRB rating: Everyone
Release date: Available now
If you are looking for a way to mark each anniversary of the Nintendo Wii, paying close attention to each successive Raving Rabbids release would make for a nice string around your finger. Those schizophrenic rabbits, the bane of Rayman, first burst onto the scene alongside the Wii back in the Fall of 2006, and made for a nice companion to show adopters just what fun they could have when introducing the Wii at their holiday party. A year later, a sequel to that game hit and offered up a host of additional manic party modes. And while they spent the following years starring in their own twisted take on the type of 3rd person platformer that Nintendo fans crave; the Rabbids have returned to their roots in this latest release; Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time.
Travel in Time finds the Rabbids starring in another mini-game compilation aimed squarely at getting the party started. Players begin in a museum that acts as a hub for the series of themed mini-games. While the game can be played against computer controlled bots; the focus on competition really does work best in a crowd – a concept illustrated by the loose narrative that finds the Rabbids exploring different periods of time through these various museum wings.
Each wing focuses on a different game type. Fans of the series’ wacky rail shooter modes will find a plethora of challenges in the Shootarium. The Flyarium plops those pesky bunnies into planes and has them racing each other throughout the colorful locales. There are also wings that cater to rhythm games; which the Rabbids have entertained in the past and there’s even support for the woefully underrepresented WiiMotion Plus functionality in the Hookarium. In fact, that little add-on is a requirement before you can enter that arena.
There’s no question that the Wii catalogue is literally filled with mini-game collections. These waggle intensive games are easy to produce, albeit not as easy to perfect. That being said, the Rabbids series has actually done a fine job of producing compelling gameplay experiences. Sure, the majority of their mini-games have been done to death in other genres but when it’s done with this much characterization, it elevates the game for the masses. And that’s the appeal inherent here – these Rabbids and their antics just never seem to get tiresome. I’ll admit that I grooved on where they were headed with their last platforming centric release; but I welcomed the chance to play alongside friends again.
The game really rises above the other titles based on the strength of its presentation. Too many games simply lay down a hub world and have players choose from static menus. It’s that type of boring, cookie-cutter game design that the Rabbids series rejects at every step. Each of the various rooms in the museum displays massive amounts of interactivity that compel gamers to explore. Instead of walking around the Flyarium to select your next game, you’ll find yourself jockeying a plane as you check out the sights and select your next stage. It’s these little details that make this package both more satisfying and entertaining to play. I was also pleasantly surprised to see this release take advantage of online play – something that occurs with far too much infrequency on this system. Nothing will replace the experience of playing these silly little contests in a packed room of your peers, but for the solo players it’s nice to connect to some real human competition.
The Rabbids may make an annual appearance on the Wii but they haven’t yet worn out their welcome, and prove themselves successful in injecting their infectious character into another fun release. I’d love to see them tackle another platform adventure and embrace their Rayman roots, but I’ll welcome these little guys into my home any way they choose to travel.