Raving Rabbids: Alive and Kicking Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
In a world full of Kinect-based party games, to throw another one into the ring is a bold move. The title must be appealing to a mass audience, diverse enough to stand out in the crowd, controls need to be accurate and playable, and above all else it must be fun. It appears Ubisoft is up to the challenge, however, as they’ve recently released the latest title in their Rabbids series entitled, Rayman Raving Rabbids: Alive and Kicking. Is this crazy rabbit-filled game the next step in party game evolution, or is it doomed to sit in the dark bottoms of gamers’ shelves?
Upon popping in the game players are treated to an opening cinematic to set the scene. Somewhere, deep in an underground facility, Rabbid scientists are apparently looking to increase their species’ population by means of chemical experiments. All is not looking well for them until the Rabbid General appears. He figures that the secret ingredient must be cows, so he throws a fresh bovine into the mix. This apparently unlocks the mystery of Rabbid reproduction and spawns thousands upon thousands of the little white creatures, who quickly start to take control of the city on the surface.
This madness is the theme for gameplay, which mainly takes place in the form of mini-games. Upon reaching the main menu, players have a few choices: Quick Play, Party Games, and My Rabbid. Each mode brings a little something unique to the table.
Quick Play allows one to four players to practice and learn each mini-game offered, each of which can be selected either by list or at random. There are over 30 different games available, each with its own design, controls, and setting. Players will be tasked with random actions, such as: swimming the front stroke up a flooded street while avoiding debris, running on the spot and punching through stampeding Rabbids, using different appendages to deflect various pieces of junk, and slapping Rabbids as they hang from the windows of passing trains.
While most mini-games have responsive controls there are a few very inaccurate ones. These games seem to only work when they feel like it, with controls sometimes under- or overshooting a player’s reach, or extending only to specific intervals causing unreachable regions. This occasional frustration is augmented by the lack of instruction for each game. At the start of each play, a short sentence appears to vaguely describe the motion controls. From there, players are left to trial-and-error in hopes of playing properly. However, if players can master each game, they end up being fairly entertaining.
Although Quick Games can be fun, these mini-games aren’t exactly built for lengthy solo play. Enter Party Games! This multiplayer mode allows three to sixteen players battle to be the victor in one of three styles of play: Forfeits, The Kitty, and Carrot Juice. Each game style brings something a little different to the table, so there is something for every party’s needs.
Forfeits mode gives each player in the game a health bar. Two randomly selected players go head-to-head in a competition for the most points, with the loser kissing a segment of their health bar good-bye. Sounds simple, yes? Well, there’s a twist! At the beginning of each round a ‘forfeit’ is presented, which is, in essence, a penalty the loser must carry out. These punishments range from crazy things like singing your national anthem without opening your mouth, lying on the floor and pretending to ride a bike upside down, and even kissing other players anywhere but their cheeks. Players need to put their all into these silly reprimands, because once they finish, the rest of the party votes whether or not they did it properly. This is done by everyone picking a side of the screen: left for pass, right for fail. The side with the most bodies is declared the winner, and if the player’s execution is not up to snuff, an additional health segment will be taken away. The overall goal: eliminate all other players by draining their health segments and be the last man/woman/child standing. Forfeits makes for some competitive play, and some wild, crazy scenes. It’s probably best to break out the cameras for this one!
The opposite side of the coin from Forfeits is The Kitty. This variant has each player competing in solo games, tasked simply with winning. Should the player emerge victorious, they take a step up a ladder of points. Each step adds more points, starting at ten, then fifty, eventually ending in 5000. At each interval, the player is asked if they want to bank their points. If they wish to, they must shout out loud to cash them in. Should they decline, and fail before cashing in, the ladder starts back at zero with the potential points being lost. There are twelve rounds, with each player going once per round, so this mode can turn quite lengthy. The player with the most points at the end of the twelve rounds wins. Since this mode is a lot tamer than Forfeits, it will be enjoyed by a calmer crowd.
Last but not least is Carrot Juice. The third Party Game mode finds a sort of in-between to the previous variants. Players each have four glasses of carrot juice, which players “drink” upon failing a game. The last player with at least one glass left is the winner. Games are decided by spinning a virtual wheel, which can land on multiple options such as: solo, cooperative, and competitive games, and even an extra glass of juice for the spinner. After the game style has been selected, players can pick their opponent or ally, should they wish to, or have the game pick at random for them. For gamers looking for some extra playtime, there is a imitless mode where players can play until they wish to quit. The player with the most endurance wins. A suggestion for intense players: play with real juice. Make a massive batch of Kool-aid (or the juice of your choice) and should you fail a game, drink an entire glass. The player with the strongest bladder, and biggest stomach, is declared the winner. Just play responsible, don’t overdo it or hurt yourself, and no spiking the drinks! Regardless how and which you chose to play, Party Games is the highlight of Alive and Kicking, and will quickly become the reason to put the disc back in your console.
If players are starting to feel a bit of a bond with these small white creatures, there is an extra mode called My Rabbid. Here, players and their play area are placed on screen, with a Rabbid superimposed into the room. You’re free to interact with your fuzzy-buddy how you see fit, be it via objects like boom boxes, dressing it up, taking photos, or good old fashioned slapping. This piece of augmented reality is a cool concept, but is one that gets old really quick as it simply offers little entertainment. The young ones may get some giggles from it, but most players will play it once and forget about it.
To get to any of these game modes, however, you must first navigate the menu system. This can be quite the chore, and is often frustrating. On the right side of the screen, players will find the menu list. To move up or down, they must hold their hand out to the right either above or below their shoulder. To select your choice you must swipe your hand for the center right, in towards your body. The problem with this menu system is that it requires players to constantly hold their hand out to the right. This is quite uncomfortable, especially if one is contemplating what to play, because if you lower your hand, even to your side, the menu will constantly scroll down. The actual movement of the menu is a problem too, as it often moves too fast or too slow, constantly over or under shooting what a player is looking for. The entire system is a sore mess that is only remedied by the ability to use the controller for navigation instead. Players, do yourselves a favor and resort to your controller the second you load the game.
From an audio/video standpoint, Alive & Kicking is fairly average. Its graphics are neither powerful nor ugly. The game’s character models and textures are good enough to get the job done, but by no means are they stretching the Xbox 360’s limits. Audio suffers from the same fate with silly sounds here and there, Rabbids speaking gibberish, and a very unmemorable soundtrack. I often found myself streaming music from my Zune or PC to keep myself entertained. The only saving grace is the character and world design. While there are masses of the same Rabbid running around, the game also features many other variants from scientists, to rockers, and even giant robots that could easily be featured in the Portal series. Environments are well thought out and are often full of imagination, with their own wacky little feel.
When push comes to slap, Rayman Raving Rabbids: Alive and Kicking is a fun and enjoyable title. If one can look past its faults, from lack of instruction to boring audio, it’s a great game for a mass get together. Hours can be sunk into it, with constant laughs all around. However, chances are once the party’s over, the game will sit back on the bottom of the shelf, collecting dust. Regardless, the Rabbids have proved they are still very much alive and kicking – hard, to boot.
Final Score: 4 / 5
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