Rabi Laby 3 Review
Posted by Ron DelVillano
Return of the Rabi
We would like to formally thank Silver Star Japan for developing Rabi Laby 3 as a 3DS eShop title. Not because this is the most interesting, original, or even fun game that we've ever played, but because the developer decided to circumvent the DSiWare service and release its new game on the current generation of Nintendo's digital download service. At a time in which games are still inexplicably being release on the all but forgotten and left-for-dead DSiWare platform, SSJ had the presence of mind to put the latest entry in its ongoing series on a vastly superior service that offers both itself and its customers more flexibility. For this we thank you, SSJ. Now, let's talk about the game.
Continuing the innocuous plot from Rabi Laby 1 and 2, Alice and her rabbit friend Rabi find themselves returning to Wonderland to embark on another adventure that frankly does not need much backstory. After being transported against their wills, Alice and Rabi must once again team up to work their way through the labyrinthine Wonderland and return safely home. The series thus far has relied entirely on its gameplay, recycling this same general plot from game to game. While the title is self-aware enough to address this fault with characters acting frustrated to be in the same predicament yet again, it wouldn't be asking to much to request an actual story from the series that reaches beyond "let's get out of here." Still, the humour present in what little dialogue is offered lends to the fact that the plot, quite frankly, does not matter.
Much like the plot, the gameplay hasn't been altered very much. To put it bluntly, Rabi Laby 3 is nothing that we haven't seen in the previous games. Gameplay has remained entirely unchanged, each stage focusing exclusively on 2D platforming puzzles that are riddled with traps. You control both Alice and Rabi separately, switching between the two characters with the X button, with the sole intent of guiding Alice safely to the stage’s exit. Both characters have special attributes that make them unique, such as Rabi's ability to jump high and Alice's talent for balancing objects on her head, so using both characters in cooperation is completely necessary to finish any given puzzle. The controls are tight and work well, something that becomes especially obvious and appreciated in some later levels that require precision jumps and timing. It's a game that is easy to learn and master, but that doesn't stop it from providing an exceptional challenge.
The difficulty curve in Rabi Labi 3 begins steadily enough, but it quickly ramps up, resulting in some stages that will easily take even the best players multiple attempts. Thankfully, this new game comes with a more forgiving option for working your way through particularly taxing puzzles. Like previous games, hint coins can be collected in stages and used to explain a puzzle that you're currently stuck on, but now you are also given the option to watch a video playthrough of a particular stage or skip it entirely. This extra assistance is only unlocked after trying a stage — and failing miserably — at least 10 times before pity is taken on you. Simply put, you can't skip through the entire game without at least trying on your own, and skipping the stages and watching the tutorials is still entirely optional. This is a very diplomatic solution to a difficult game.
While almost everything in this series has remained stagnant, one element that did receive an improvement during its move to the 3DS platform is the graphical style during cinematic sequences. Stages look exactly as they always have, comprised of pixel based sprites with the addition of barely-3D backdrops, but the sections dialogue between stages have received a face-lift featuring animated figures in three-dimensional environments. Alice even comments early on that their house looks more "fancy" this time around, another example of this game's self-awareness and insistence on not taking itself too seriously. It's not entirely clear why it was decided to enhance the cinematics while leaving the gameplay reliant on flat pixelated sprites, but the artistic choices throughout are keeping with the game’s overall tone. Here's hoping that the inevitable next episode will truly take advantage of the 3DS hardware.
Despite upgrading this third release in the series to the 3DS hardware rather than releasing it as DSiWare, Rabi Laby 3 isn't really a marked improvement on the formula. The cinematics look better and the difficulty has been made more accessible to newcomers through the inclusion of added assistance, but it feels like more of exactly the same. Though this may not feel all that original when held up next to its predecessors, Rabi Laby 3 still provides series fans with a satisfying puzzle platforming experience with cute art direction and quirky dialogue. Anyone seeking a lighthearted puzzler won't be disappointed, whether you've played the other two games or not.