Wii U | Ubisoft | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii U GamePad; Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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18th March 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
Now, I've never felt I had to hide how fun-filled I've found the Rabbids games, so I don't view this series as a guilty pleasure. Nevertheless, it is one I've felt invested in for the last number of years, due largely to its comedic value and less to do with its initial leveraging of a franchise I've loved for over a decade. Of course, each title had their low points, but never did they deviate from their high counts of hilarity. Well, with Rabbids Land, all that has changed, and I couldn't have a more questioning attitude towards what they consider a passable effort. Rabbids Land represents much more than just a casual misstep. It falls exceedingly low of series standards, not only proving flimsy in the gameplay department, but also manifesting traits uncharacteristic of the brand. In fact, the drop is so sharp and, dare I say, off the grid, I can't understand how the team was content with releasing such a mishandling of the property.
Rabbids Land takes on its main context in Trophy Race mode, where players are out to obtain 10 or 20 trophies by completing mini-games and triggering events on a game board. The layout is in the form of two rings, with three bridges to create some intersecting points. The design forces everyone to move in a clockwise direction, and while it is not linear, it also won't strike as being unpredictable or creative. It's up to the twists employed on the spaces, then, to add life in a default sense.
Aside from those that trigger mini-games, spaces include Present Squares that supply a bonus item for use before or after rolling (e.g., to reverse the direction), Event Squares that result in a temporary happening (e.g., a certain square offering more rewards than normal), Bad Squares that instantly snatch a trophy away from you, as well as a Jackpot Square that turns the entire board into a slot machine of sorts (which truthfully is the only thing this layout has going for it). The most bizarre is the Quiz Square, as its presence is uncomfortably off and has little place here. In all honesty, the setup is very run-of-the-mill and not one that makes use of very many gimmicks (series-traditional or otherwise) to liven things up. I was thrilled when I learned that a bomb device would be planted on all of us in a short game of Hot Potato as we moved around the board, but I also kept thinking why there isn't more of this type of tension present.
It appears Ubisoft took a nod from how EA approached the 2009 videogame translation of Trivial Pursuit, as the game similarly features a news bar that runs along the footer to provide updates, including how close an individual player is to taking home the prize. I was very surprised to learn that Trivial Pursuit uses this element in a better capacity, not only providing current stats but also poking fun at players -- something I would have expected Ubisoft to do with sheer propensity, given the sort of humor employed in previous Rabbids titles. This isn't to say the game doesn't lob comments at players for trailing behind, but these are almost exclusively seen on the results screen after the completion of a mini-game and are not at all hammered into you as they have been previously. It so happens this is but one of multiple examples that evidence how much greater restraint has been exercised in the department of sinister laughter and creativity -- wrongfully so, in fact. But more on that in a bit.
I won't criticize the development team for tailoring the Rabbids' mini-game formula to a dedicated board game model, but there are aspects that demonstrate this wasn't well-thought-out. I would even say that based on how the game is presented, the Trophy Race component is loosely strung together in a semi-haphazard fashion. One of the main issues I have deals with the matter of pace. It's strange because the series has never irked me by being flat, yet that is precisely the case here. In nearly all areas pertaining to flow, Rabbids Land repeatedly shows that as far as Trophy Race is concerned, the gameplay is unrefined.
When a player rolls the dice and his or her options are put on display, why is that if there's only one possibility open, one must still confirm their destination? Depending on whether they are earned or must be given away, trophies will either be inhaled or regurgitated by the player's Rabbid. But then a numerical value is shown moving from the Rabbid to the score display, bringing with it a delay in the tallies being adjusted. The only good thing is that unimportant events that exclude you are skipped to the end, as they should be when playing on your own. The Mario Party formula got it right in that respect of automatic, streamlined movement system; Rabbids Land clearly misses the mark here, and the problem is that it adds burden to gameplay that, on its own, wouldn't be half bad had it not been for the needlessly slow pace. Cumulatively, we're talking minutes being shaved off had these and other changes been made. Allow me to clarify this is not a complaint against digital board games; rather that this is a case of a game adhering to a genre it doesn't have the greatest grasp of.
Separating the board game component from the actual mini-games, the game doesn't fare much better, at least not to the expectations that have been set out by what's been accomplished in the past. The entire gallery of mini-games consists of one-on-one (and a few tag-team) activities, where one member uses the Wii U GamePad and the other uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to remain in control of whatever elements can be influenced on the television screen.
Right away I can say that this limits the long-term appeal of the game because in a party setting, this design decision of only two-player activities in a game that's for up to four players is puzzling to say the least. I will say that in spite of this, Rabbids Land reigns in some of the series' established ideas and combines these with the potential of the defined boundaries set by the Wii U GamePad versus the TV. By this I don't mean that these efforts are conceptually similar; simply that some of the qualities should be familiar to those who have experienced previous iterations.
One game, entitled Wet the Bed, has the player with the controller tracing outlines of shapes on garden soil while the other tries to erase the drawings with their body. Another, called Octoblow, involves blowing into the microphone to power a large fan that can push penguins skating out on the ice rank as ammo against a teetering, on-rails pirate ship. Lose Your Marbles uses tilt to move three balls around a small labyrinth, collecting gems while avoiding a large boulder controlled by the other person. You also can't have a Rabbids game without some kind of dancing component, and that's accounted for in Rabbids Land with Check Your Booty, an interesting rhythm game with a touch of photography that tasks players with aiming the Wii U GamePad at aerial targets.
As some of these show, there are hints of potential being reached for, but some executions are surprisingly limited and wear off before you can even get a third play in. The games make little attempt to cross conceptual roads previously unexplored in the series, and while it doesn't go to the point of relying on what's been done before and simply coughing that up carelessly, the overall vibes these activities give off are short-lived and don't measure up to series' calibre. The most insulting part about all of this is the selection is so pitifully small, made worse by the game trying to excuse very, very slight map variations as separate entries in the collection.
Although the game's menus don't at all disguise the lightweight condition of the package, the overall presentation does a fair job of remaining consistent with the park attraction theme resting above the premise and all its finer details. Relatively crisp visuals are to be observed, regardless of which screen you're staring at. Mini-game settings aren't diverse but they do carry the booth setup seamlessly without the player even taking great notice or exception to it, and are accompanied by unsophisticated decorations that are functional, but never inventive or outstanding.
Some aspects of the presentation, while not scruffy-looking, do appear unprofessionally done, and this isn't just limited to the visual aesthetics. There are blips in the audio that occur often enough that they become a cause for concern. Further, the music this time around is oddly fine with perpetuating somewhat stale vibes, but this decision is not nearly as odd as the complete removal of the customization aspect that Ubisoft progressively made a big to-do about in previous games the Rabbids starred in. To see that the social aspect has been removed and Rabbids are now only set apart by colour is disappointing, and it makes me question their willingness to dispose of elements that helped give the series a platform to stand on.
Whatever extras are present here are by no means enough to redeem the game. The comical videos felt like a welcome mat for me as a fan of the franchise, as they reminded me of those that were included in Rayman Raving Rabbids. But beyond these, there's nothing to work towards, and it's quite upsetting to see the approach remain so laid-back with insultingly little content actually existing.
There is a Treasure Hunt mode where solo players retrieve coins in unlocked mini-games, but this fails to solidify an additional challenge that can be taken away from the experience or provide something worthwhile that can be tackled outside of the main component. Truth be told, it's absolutely ludicrous they would dare charge full price, and I therefore cannot even begin to make a case for the game's defense here.
Rabbids Land is, to put it simply, a heavy disappointment. The board game component is terribly uninspired, and that's saying a lot given the performance of the Rabbids titles to date. But in the face of some sprinkles of creativity along the way, what's irrational is the apparent amnesia that led to the development team forgetting about much of the franchise's positive qualities, not to mention an indefensibly unbalanced price evaluation. There are some good activities here; I'm not denying that. However, it's extremely disheartening to see the Rabbids go down a route of sheer mediocrity, losing their jive and failing to compensate for the stunning lack of humor and twists the Rabbids have become known for. Hopefully no one falls for the apparent charm as being enough to sustain exciting party-based gameplay, because at the end of the day, Rabbids Land doesn't do itself (or its fans) proper justice and should've resulted in a far, far more loony outcome than the near-pathetic state of affairs we have now.
14/30 - Very Poor
Gameplay 5/10 - Run-of-the-mill board setup, very restrained and uninspired, some positive controller uses in mini-games, betrays series strengths
Presentation 6/10 - Visuals are mostly pleasing, customization gone, some elements need sprucing up, regular audio blips, lacks refinement in areas
Enjoyment 2/5 - Much more care should've gone into the bland board component, burdensome pace, disappointingly mediocre, just doesn't measure up
Extra Content 1/5 - Performs miserably in the way of content, Treasure Hunt barely counts as a side-diversion, far too light for the asking price
Equivalent to a score of 47% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System