A major concern many people have over the future of the Wii is whether or not it'll simply become a system for mini-game collections and party games. It's far too early to tell if this will be the case, but at a console launch a few light-hearted games for the whole family to enjoy certainly go down well, and Rayman Raving Rabbids is such a game. With the mini-games in Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz being a big disappointment, it's up to Rayman to show the Wii in a better light.
First things first: this isn't a normal Rayman game. If you're expecting a platformer with large environments to explore you're going to be disappointed. Although you get to move Rayman for a few metres every now and again, this is a mini-game collection through and through. The storyline is non-existent, with Rayman being captured by the rabbids, thrown into jail and forced to partake in daily mini-game events to entertain the crowds of rabbids gathered in a coliseum. As you progress you'll become more of a crowd favourite and you'll notice signs appearing in the crowd and your cell will even start to look a little cosier.
Each day consists of four small events and a final challenge, and while these are made up of plenty of unique games, there are a number of regulars that you'll play practically every day. The most common are the rhythm-based dancing game that tasks you with flicking the nunchuck and wii-mote in time with rabbids passing over a light, an FPS-on-rails mini-game that sees you attacking rabbids with plungers, and a warthog racing event. The FPS and dancing stages are by far the most entertaining of the regulars, and make the game worth playing through so you can experience each stage, although on the whole the mini-games are good fun.
Unlike in Monkey Ball Banana Blitz, the controls work very well and make good use of the nunchuck and wii-mote, so assuming you follow the instructions you shouldn't have too many problems. If there's one criticism here, it's that early on there's very little challenge. It doesn't really lessen the enjoyment the game delivers, but just don't expect to be seeing "Try again" too many times. Of all the launch tiles, only Wii Sports requires you to be as active, and it's certainly one of the better examples of how the Wii's controllers should be used. Unlike Wii Sports though, Raving Rabbids can be played perfectly while sitting, so couch potatoes can have fun too.
Once you've worked your way through the solo game you can go back and attempt high scores or play against fiends, and the mini-games are certainly good enough to warrant repeated play. There's not much more to say, other than a slight warning about the size of your living room. While every other Wii game has worked fine from the Pro-G couch which sits about three metres from the TV, Raving Rabbids simply wouldn't work until I moved about a metre closer. If you have a small lounge there's nothing to worry about, but if you prefer to play your Wii in a Ball room, prepare for some furniture reshuffling.
Raving Rabbids doesn't do much to push the Wii, but it's a nice looking game with tons of character. The rabbids steal the show, being one of the best creations to hit gaming in some time, and while I never found them to be laugh out loud funny they make the whole experience good fun. On the audio side of things the dance tracks used in the dancing mini-games are worthy of a special mention, although they're so good that'll you wish there were more of them.
The Wii launch line-up was blessed with what is arguably the best party game of all time in Wii Sports, and while Raving Rabbids is a far more traditional offering it's good enough to consider picking up for those times when you need a break from bowling, tennis and golf. It's also a much more entertaining single-player experience than the other party games available for the Wii, although clearly doesn't offer the depth that a Rayman platformer would have. Raving Rabbids is unlikely to be remembered as a classic when we look back at the Wii in five years time, but for now it's one of the better titles available and well worth a look.