Back when the Nintendo Wii was first launched, Rayman: Raving Rabbids was one of the top titles in its debut library. A spin-off of Ubisoft’s long-running Rayman series, the game was a multiplayer party game in the vein of Mario Party, except without the board game set-up. Not only did it do a pretty good job of showcasing the console’s much talked about new motion controls, but it was also very creative, outrageously funny and enjoyable to play both alone and with company.
Since then, the series has seen a few different sequels and has deleted the Rayman series moniker from its name due to popularity and the attempt to make it its own series. The fourth game in the series, Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time, just recently hit store shelves and it’s certainly an interesting experience.
Like its predecessors, the game is a multiplayer party game that tries to utilize the console’s motion controllers in many creative (and outrageous) ways. Creativity is what the series has been known for, along with its odd humor, and this one doesn’t disappoint there. It has players taking control of one of the insane/maniacal little bunnies from space, as it navigates its way through a museum. Anyone who has played one of the previous titles in the series knows that a museum would be one of the last places you’d want one of those little buggers to inhabit, because they cause all sorts of destruction. This is certainly the case with Travel in Time, as destruction is rewarded with hourglass coins and players are given free reign to move around the building as they’d like, destroying precious artifacts and competing in different games.
Though the game doesn’t have a cohesive storyline, its narrative is told in short bursts as you travel through time to take part in minigames. Somehow the Rabbids have discovered a washing machine that allows them to travel through time, where they compete in challenges that reward them with the opportunity to rewrite history. What this means is that, not only can they cause wanton destruction inside the building, but they also have the opportunity to wreak havoc on humanity’s past and its most marveled moments.
Over the duration of the minigame list, gamers will be given the opportunity to rewrite many different well-known moments, such as the Titanic’s sinking, the start of the American stock market, the Wild West and the first trial of the Wright Brothers’ plane invention. A good performance within any given challenge presents the winning Rabbid with the opportunity to alter time, or keep it the same. If the decision is made to alter the conclusion of the historical event, then players receive an award for essentially acing the challenge.
Two floors of the museum act as the game’s hub, allowing for exploration, collection and the ability to participate in various activities, such as shooting hoops with a Rabbid, smashing as many moving jewel display cases as possible within a time limit, or hitting the correct sequence of notes on xylophone. Players take their customized Rabbid (who can wear one of many different period costumes) and move him (or her) around the environment in a third person perspective.
The Wiimote can be swiped in any direction to engage a rush attack that breaks things, or it can be used like a television remote to shoot toilet brushes at anything in view. Sometimes navigation also requires you to pick up your bunny and throw it to new areas, or the use of a fishing rod and reel, with the Rabbid being used as bait. There are tons of different ways to get around the environments and each new area is different, with altered mechanics. There’s no denying the fact that the development team at Ubisoft did their best to think outside of the box, with tons of infused creativity.
Each of the twenty- something minigames are split up into different categories, separated into different exhibition rooms in the museum. Essentially, each category is a different control style or scheme. One room will have you using the Wiimote to shoot at things, whereas another will have you using the motion sensors in the nunchuk and Wiimote to use one of Leonardo Davinci’s flying machines for navigation, races and challenges.
Other types include three fishing rod games, plus platforming and collection games that are similar to what you would find in the Mario Party series. Most minigames will have you working alone, but there are the odd ones that require teams for races and/or collection challenges. One room is devoted to just co-op games. There’s a lot of variety and the game definitely has something for everyone. However, the games that utilize the fishing rod are locked unless a Wii Motion Plus device is being utilized during play. It can be used for all of the games, but is only required for those three.
Though the included variety is nice and shows that the developers tried to think outside of the box, there are some major issues within the game’s competitive challenges. The most annoying one is found within the controls. Especially those of the flying machine, though the fishing rod controls aren’t great either. Unfortunately, the aerial race minigames and fishing rod races both require precise controls and the utilized scheme just doesn’t allow for the precision required to do well, leading to a lot of frustration.
Additionally, the originality that made the first game so lovable is diminished, as a lot of the games feel like they’ve been inspired by other games such as Mario Party. The artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled competition is also uneven sometimes – being quite challenging during some games, but pushovers in others. It’s not something that detracts from the game a lot, but the races were noticeably more difficult than other games due to a difference in A.I. skills, as well as the control issues. You essentially have to fly an almost perfect race in order to win and the controls don’t allow you to do that without hindrance. Unfortunately, therein lies another issue, as there is no retry button in the menu. Instead, players must complete a minigame and then reload it to try again. It doesn’t make sense and is very cumbersome to say the least, especially with lengthy load times.
As with most party games, Travel in Time is a brief experience. There isn’t much of a campaign per se, because the game just allows you to tackle the minigames by your lonesome or with others (through local or online multiplayer,) in any random order. If you tried to play all of them in one sitting, it would probably take over three hours, as there aren’t too many of them. Though acing each game is somewhat challenging and adds replay value, especially considering the fact that the game also gives out collectible trophies and clothing items based on the choices you make. That gives incentive to the completionists, to go back and play through the game more than once. Otherwise, it’s the type of game that you play through once then just pull out during parties for some hilarious multiplayer. As mentioned previously, online multiplayer is available through a jump in/out mode. Tournaments can also be set-up in single player.
In an attempt to add longevity and interest to the experience, the developers included a couple other game modes. Found on the main level of the museum, one to four players can take part in one of three different challenges: a quiz show (featuring historical, game-related and Rabbid information questions,) the opportunity to be a part of a choir and a dance off. The quiz show is self-explanatory, though the other two require some explanation. Both are reminiscent of other popular titles (Guitar Hero and Just Dance,) and are made for four players.
In the choir competition, players can get together with friends to sing (butcher) songs by pressing down on the directional pad to have their Rabbid scream along with scrolling notes. It doesn’t score you at all, but you can tell if you’re doing a good job or not, just like with the dancing mode. In that mode, players dance along to on-screen silhouettes of dancers performing several different hits, and are graded on their execution, though it’s not really score-based at all either. These modes are interesting diversions for a few minutes, but they won’t keep your interest for longer than that, unfortunately. There are a few other mini-challenges that rank your progress against others on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Channel, but they’re quite simple as well.
Presentation is one of the standout aspects of the game. Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time is a pretty good looking game. For a Wii game, it’s actually pretty impressive. Its visuals feature a lot of colour, plus many unique images, character models and settings. In conjunction, the game’s soundtrack and effects are also quite varied, excellent-sounding and most of all, unique. The Rabbids have their own unique and maniacal personalities, and the development teams who’ve worked on this franchise continue to do a great job setting them apart from other characters, with their sound effects and voices. There’s a lot to like about the way the game is presented, both in visual and auditory fashion.
Overall, Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time for the Wii is a mixed bag. The series’ well-known creativity, offbeat humor and interesting premises are back. Unfortunately, the game’s lack of interesting content and frustrating control issues may turn some people off. Fans of the series will enjoy this, though possibly not as much as previous efforts such as the original game. It’s worth at least a rental, but a purchase would make sense if you are the type of person who likes to play minigame collections with friends or family because that’s where it really shines. It has things going for it, but unfortunately doesn’t deliver the amount of expected polish or content.