Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party!

December 11, 2008

Wacky, rude, and completely insane, Rayman’s rabbids are almost as recognizable as the limbless hero himself. The original game let players unleash a wide range of crazy moves with the Wii remote, but the globe-trotting sequel was rather tame in comparison. Now in Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party the critters are trapped in TV land with balance boards. Does it recapture the charm of the original or continue the sophomore slump?

TV Party’s options are simple and to-the-point. Players can either choose to test the Rabbids games alone or party with friends. The solo game is laid out like a TV schedule, lasting seven days with seven time slots per day. During each slot, you can choose from a random set of games, unlocking more slots as you progress. The setup allows players a sense of freedom at first, but since the number of slots is roughly equal to the number of mini-games, players are likely to spend their final days playing the games they like the least.

TV Party boasts over 50 individual events, but many of those are simply additional stages, sharing the same themes and mechanics. If you boil it down to distinct concepts, the number of games is closer to 20, which still isn’t bad. As the title suggests, the majority of games are parodies of TV shows and films. There’s Prison Fake, Rabbidass, Dawn of the Rabbids, and even takes on other games like Wii Fit and Choplifter. You do remember Choplifter, right?

In party mode, up to four can play simultaneously or you can take turns with groups of eight. You can play a set number of mini-games or set the session on a timer, and you can choose different scoring options, including raving mode, which gives points to everyone except second place. This is where the game really comes to life, and it’s both fun and funny when everyone’s standing together, trying to follow on-screen dance moves. That energy can easily be lost in races and other turn-based events, but random opportunities for sabotage at least make an attempt to keep others involved.

TV Party does have limited online features, but not genuine online play. You can post scores to leader boards, and there are contests to pimp your rabbid with costumes to match weekly themes. However, you can’t actually vote for contestants directly inside the game, but have to go to the official website instead.

While the online options are disposable, Rayman Raving Rabbids is best played with friends in the living room, and there’s plenty of variety to keep it from getting stale too soon.

The rabbids’ staple diet of shooting galleries and music games returns. You’ll be doing a lot of pointing and shaking of the Wii remote. All new dance sections go beyond simple motions, challenging you to mimic all sorts of different positions. In solo mode, the balance board is used to judge foot placement as well.

A number of other mini-games are specifically designed for the balance board. In addition to the well-documented butt-sledding courses, there’s also American choppy, which puts you on a motorcycle seat, dodging road hazards by shifting your bottom. You can also stand up to go sky surfing or shift your weight to direct the flames of the mighty Rabzilla. There’s even a competent racing game that uses the balance board as gas and brake pedals while you steer with the remote.

The balance board works well in most instances, but butt-sledding is the hardest to control. In addition to turning, you boost by leaning backwards, but it’s easy to trigger boosts by mistake, limiting your ability to turn.

The biggest failure of the balance board is that you have to recalibrate it constantly, even if you’re just retrying the same event. If you don’t have a balance board, you can still play with just the remote and nunchuk, but steering with your butt is way more fun.

Other exercises include flippin’ burgers, a hilarious result of channel flipping between a cooking show, a tennis match, and a nature documentary. During any of these games you may be interrupted with reaction-based advertisements, and if you perform well, you’ll get bonuses in whichever game you’re playing.

The majority of TV Party’s events are humorous and fun to play. If you have a balance board, it only adds to the experience.

TV Party doesn’t look much different from previous Rabbid games. It’s still built on a lowest common denominator engine, but there is some added 2D animation to illustrate the rabbids’ conversion to the digital world. The animations and reactions of the bunnies are still genuinely funny, and short cutscenes punctuate each day in the single-player story.

The music includes covers of songs like Toxic, Born to be Wild, and Wham!’s Wake Me Up. They sound good, but rather than being highly rabbid-ized, the vocals are rather plain.

Whether it’s the TV parodies or inventive balance board support, Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party is a fresh successor to the original. Yes, Wii mini-game collections have been done to death, but TV Party does it right, and does it differently.