Whatever happened to poor old Rayman? The armless wonder was there to hold the Rabbids' hands on their Wii launch debut, Rayman Raving Rabbids, way back in 2006. Since then, Ubisoft’s onetime mascot has joined his arms and legs in just fading away, leaving the Rabbids to spread their brand of slapstick humour and madcap mini-games to Wii owners everywhere. Raving Rabbids Travel in Time brings the deranged bunnies back to Earth in a very special washing machine that allows them to zip back and forth between different periods of the planet’s history. The transport system is very reminiscent of Bill and Ted’s adventures in a phone booth, but is the Rabbids’ latest rave equally excellent?
After the shopping trolley antics of Rabbids Go Home, Travel in Time has the long-eared loonies back doing what they do best: starring in a load of mini-games – and harassing historical figures. After crash-landing in a museum you’re given control of a Rabbid who runs around smashing things, warbling and generally being noisy. Typically Rabbids are controlled from a third-person view in the museum hub; you use the Nunchuk analogue stick to move, the Remote's D-pad to belch/ scream/ whatever and a quick shake flails your Rabbid around.
Those who want to get straight into the mini-game action can teleport to the relevant area of the museum. These amusements are tied to paintings in rooms such as the Flyarium, Hookarium or Shootarium. Each –arium houses one specific type of game; for instance, all of the events in the Bouncearium involve jumping in some way, be it bounding around collecting baked beans or leaping from platform to platform to avoid the encroaching chill of the ice age. The mixture of activities on offer is quite varied despite each room having an overarching theme; mini-game collection connoisseurs will be familiar with many of game types, but Ubisoft and the Rabbids deliver it with such humour that they will keep you entertained nonetheless.
You’ve got shooting galleries in the Shootarium, fishing competitions in the Hookarium and even a Tetris knock-off where you guide bricks in by having your Rabbid clamber over the blocks. Mini-games are controlled with the Remote and Nunchuk in various arrangements, but to access the Hookarium you’ll have to have MotionPlus plugged in as well.
Arguably the most interesting games on offer can be found in the Flyarium, where a set of wings and rudder are strapped to your Rabbid and you take to the skies tilting both controllers to bank and dive, making hilarious fake propeller noise the entire time. These games range from collecting balloons above Benjamin Franklin's house to a power-up fuelled ride through a castle reminiscent of Diddy Kong Racing’s plane matches. Successfully completing a mini-game will offer you the chance to change history by making a seemingly arbitrary choice. How these choices affect the past is difficult to tell, but the game treats you to funny little animations like the Rabbids saving the Titanic with absolutely thunderous bottom-burps.
With so much going on in the mini-games, it could be easy for the Museum hub to feel completely lifeless by comparison. Fortunately, Ubisoft has clearly spent a lot of time packing it full of fun things to do. Almost every item into which you bump your Rabbid will spark off some form of spontaneous mini-game, be it bouncing on trampoline or shooting masks to keep them from falling to the floor. These simple high score competitions can prove surprisingly addictive, and you can easily lose ten minutes mucking around with them if you’re not paying attention.
Elsewhere you can spend time playing dress-up with all of the period costumes you unlock by trying each mini-game, or you can strut your stuff in a slightly hit-and-miss dance game that is only worth a go for its period twists on famous songs such as the Bollywood YMCA and the 40th Symphony as performed by a Persian Snake Charmer. There’s a history pop quiz as well – however, the questions are based on the Rabbids' twisted historical misadventures, so there’s not a whole lot of learning to be had. Most entertaining is the singing game in which your Rabbids warble their way through the Blue Danube and other pieces of music in four-part harmony. It plays like a miniature version of Rock Band where you belt out different notes as the scrolling blocks reach the bottom of the screen, and despite sounding like something dreamt up by someone who’s eaten too much cheesecake, it’s actually rather spectacular when done correctly.
Progressing through the mini-games alone, however, can be frustrating at times due to a lack of instruction and the AI being all over the place. It's clear that as with most games of this nature, single-player wasn’t really what the developers had in mind. Getting four people together really livens up the experience, though, and you’ll have a blast competing with your friends – although having four skilled players can cause some of the games to run on for a bit too long.
The only major issue is that in both local play and online, all players are tethered together by roll of toilet paper, easily risking disruption by those who would rather instantly run off in opposite directions, spam the belch button and leap about the place than settle down long enough to activate a game. Couple this with overlong load screens between areas, and by the time you eventually get to play an event you’ll be old enough to display in a museum.
Raving Rabbids Travel in Time is another solid mini-game compilation offering funny flights of four-player fancy. Single-player is lacking and multiplayer is hampered by unnecessary toilet roll tethering, but get some agreeable people in the same room and this game can be fun for all the family. The exploration of the past may aim low with its humour, but if slapstick was good enough for Chaplin, it’s good enough for the Rabbids, and you’ll certainly find yourself chuckling along with the fun – even if you're too embarrassed to do so very loudly.