Review: Rabbids Go Home (Wii)

Well and truly off its trolley

As the fourth Rabbids game in the Wii’s three-year lifespan, you’d be forgiven for thinking Ubisoft has run out of ideas for its bizarre creations, but Rabbids Go Home is potentially the oddest game in the series yet. Making a clean break from its minigame origins, Rabbids Go Home is an all-new adventure game from the talented Ubisoft Montpellier team, but how does it measure up to a field dominated by classic Nintendo titles?

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but we’ll state it anyway – there’s nothing on the market quite like the Rabbids. The entire game is full of a manic energy that sets it apart from anything else you’ll have played. Bizarre cutscenes involving Capri-Sun, swordfish heads and sewer-surfing mattresses come thick and fast, and quickly prove to be the game’s highlights. Aside from its slapstick moments, the game is defined by its anarchic elements too, with capitalism, materialism and political correctness all gently ribbed by an anonymous Big Brother (who’s actually more of a Big Sister, but still.) It’s hardly the political critique of Beyond Good and Evil, but it certainly accentuates the anarchic Rabbids by putting them in such a staid environment.

Within each level you’ll find “XS Stuff”, which can be anything from a road cone to a pair of pants, all marked with a white pencil outline. There’s also a piece of “XL Stuff”– a clock, a statue or something else large – that you need to transport to the level’s end, where all your Stuff is chucked down the toilet and ends up on the Rabbids’ Stuff Pile, which they’re building to get back home to the Moon, of course. Once your pile passes certain heights, your lookout Rabbid can see further and point out new areas for you to explore and gather Stuff in.

With a slick set of controls, the Rabbids’ trolley handles like a dream (oh yes, you drive around the game in a trolley). You move around with the (STICK), accelerate with (A) and attack with a shake of the Remote, with the pointer and (Z) firing your Rabbid, (B) unleashing a Super Boost (once unlocked) and (C) activating the game’s photo mode. The trolley has a nice sense of weight to it, gripping corners well and feeling like a character in itself, making a nice change from the usual 3D platformer feeling of control. Putting things in your trolley is a simple matter of running them over, with no limit to how much you can hold at one time (other than the level's 1,000ft Stuff cap.) Every now and again you'll encounter a trombone-playing Rabbid who allows you to "bank" your Stuff, a useful thing to do in later levels as losing all your health lightbulbs also empties your trolley of collected Stuff, ruining your chances of unlocking the level's four presents.

Once you're in the levels you're more or less left to your own devices - there's no overall time limit, although some sections are against the clock - and the number of enemies you encounter grows steadily over each level, starting out as mostly harmless pooches before you face the dreaded Verminators. Every now and again you'll be boxed into a certain area with a specified number of enemies to defeat before you're allowed passage to the next portion, with bombs, booby traps and all sorts of other hazards thrown into the mix as you move on. Most of the time you just need to shake your Remote to defeat the enemies, although later bad guys require more lateral thinking, but they're not really worthy foes for the Rabbid army.

Musically, the game ignores the blueprint of how a game should sound, using Eastern European brass band Vagabontu to oompah alongside the Rabbids’ oddball exclamations. The tune that accompanies the mattress sewer-ride will have you bobbing your head in appreciation, and there’s plenty of deft musical cues along the way that elevate the game’s audio presentation above the average. There's even a few musical jokes running throughout - every elevator plays Boney M's "Rivers of Babylon", you'll hear John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Road" more times than is humane and Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs Jones" insinuates there's more than a working relationship between secretary Sandra and her boss. Granted most of the songs are older than half the game's target audience, but for those who are a little more musically learned, they're good gags and very unexpected.

For all its originality, Rabbids Go Home’s genius lies in what it borrows. The “collect everything” premise is classic platforming fare of course – these are just radioactive octopuses rather than coins or rings – but something about the ability to create things to pick up, by smashing through boxes and bashing drinks dispensers, brings Katamari to mind; the idea of an off-the-wall force picking up everything in sight is pure Katamari. Another spherical influence is Super Monkey Ball, with some level sections precarious balancing acts where the need for speed is tempered with a desire to collect everything you see. Super Mario Galaxy is a clear inspiration too, from small segments dotted through the game – throwing back a bomb with a well-timed Remote shake, using a patient’s sickbed to float, rather like Gusty Garden Galaxy – to its biggest impact on the game’s two-player mode.

Rather than a truly cooperative adventure, Rabbids Go Home allows a second player to assist by collecting XS Stuff with the pointer, fire at opponents with (B) and hold them back by clinging to them with Rabbid power. It’s almost exactly like Super Mario Galaxy, with the exception that it’s not half as much fun: firing a Rabbid covers up half the screen momentarily, the majority of enemies are easily dispatched anyway and the level design doesn’t really feature any XS Stuff that only a second player could reach. Whereas Super Mario Galaxy excelled by allowing a more experienced player to take a supporting role, here the second player is usually relegated to firing every now and again and causing more annoyance than assistance.

The real unexpected ace up Rabbids Go Home’s sleeve is the inclusion of a Rabbid in your Wii Remote, in the cleverly-named In Ze Remote feature. Not only does this mean you can fire him from your Remote with a tap of (Z), after each level is complete you also unlock extra tattoos and accessories that you can use to customise your three Rabbids. Within each level there’s 1,000ft worth of Stuff, with four accessories, tools or tattoos available to unlock depending on how much Stuff you collect, boosting the replay value if you’re into customising your little Rabbid. The level of freedom is unmatched by any avatar creator on the system: you can move eyes and ears, enlarge them, shrink them or even move them all together, but the best part is the ability to paint your Rabbid free-hand, add a range of stamps and accessories and generally create any Rabbid you can imagine. Even better is the ability to transform your Rabbids into “figurines”, using a variety of poses and expressions before sending them over to your friends to use in their games. You only have three Rabbids to edit at any time, but if you want to revisit a creation down the road you can apply your figurine instantly, giving you dozens of potential Rabbid outfits.

Those dozens of outfits become hundreds when you discover the Rabbids Go Home Channel. Essentially a Rabbids version of the Mii Contest Channel, there’s a set theme every week – currently “Vampires” – with users voting for their favourite Rabbid, who’s then featured. Every Rabbid you see is available for download instantly, creating a limitless supply of entertaining and engaging Rabbids. Of course, part of the appeal with the Mii Contest Channel is in seeing all the freaky Miis pop up in other games, but the flexible Rabbid editor and the ability to share them directly with friends – or the world – is highly commendable and extremely enjoyable. You can also share photographs directly with your Wii friends – tapping (C) brings up the viewfinder and lets you snap a shot, though unlike Super Smash Bros. Brawl you can’t rotate the camera or save them to an SD card directly, but it’s another nice extra feature for capturing some of the game’s many, many bizarre moments.

Considering the level of detail evident in the majority of the game, what’s surprising about Rabbids is the amount of level repetition involved. You’ll play the same office and hospital environments a good two or three times over the course of the game, and even though the level layout is different each time it’s confusing to unlock a new stage only to find it’s very similar to one you completed thirty minutes ago. The hub level is also an odd design – each time you find a new Stuff Place you’ll follow the yellow arrows to the next level entry point, which then brings up a menu from which you can select any level available. It seems unnecessary and even counter-intuitive – one or the other would have worked better. These are minor gripes, but they do detract from a very enjoyable game.

Conclusion

Rabbids Go Home is an extremely entertaining and funny game – the Rabbids’ attitude and anarchic humour paper over a lot of the repetition and minor faults that pepper the game. The two player mode is passable but Rabbids Go Home excels as an all-out single player game, full of unexpected wit and a relentlessly fun atmosphere, and one you’ll love if you’re after a pick-up-and-play game to cheer up these dark Winter nights.

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