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 This is still very much a minigame collection, but all the motion-sensing controls have been replaced by keyboard-and-mouse controls (or, if you have a dual analog controller, analog stick movements).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.
It might have Rayman in the title, but the real stars of the show are the adorably bizarre raving 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.
The dancing minigames are some of the best fun you'll have in the game, due in no small part to the totally insane soundtrack.