The Rayman series must have had the biggest transformation of any series in recent memory. What started out as a very pretty 2D platformer evolved into one of the best 3D platformers of the 32/64 bit generation, and hardcore gamers grew to love the strangely limbless hero. Fast forward a few years and Rayman himself has fallen from his pedestal, now limited to making cameo appearances in mini-game collections fronted by the rabbids - a breed of crazed but cute aliens that have invaded earth. While we're still slightly bitter about Rayman's demise, we just can't help but like our new mini-game overlords.
This time around Rayman has been chased into a house by the rabbids, who somehow get sucked into the TV aerial. Trapped inside the TV set, the rabbids offer a selection of mini-games built around the idea of being in cheap knock-offs of popular TV shows. You're presented with a TV schedule for each day, with each time slot representing a mini-game - complete enough of these and you'll unlock the next day's schedule, and even some bonus items if you achieve a high enough score.
TV Party is one of a handful of Wii games to make use of Nintendo's Wii Balance Board, but it's perfectly possible to play the game if you haven't picked up Wii Fit. The best games ask you to perform actions that somewhat mimic real life, so for example in one game you need to clean your rabid with military efficiency, scrubbing teeth, shaving, spraying deodorant and cleaning out your ears. You simply have to pretend you're doing the actions by using the Wii Remote.
There are about 50 mini-games in total and, gladly, they're much better than those from Rabbids 2. They've been designed so almost anyone will be able to play, with the most complex simply requiring the use of some buttons in addition to movement of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. A motorbike game turns the Wii Remote and Nunchuck into handlebars, a Star Wars spoof sees you drawing shapes to shoot down asteroids, a modelling game has you running down a catwalk, pausing to pose for pictures, and a rather strange Pimp my Rabbid game simply asks you to dress the angry creature in a style that fits the description. These are just a handful of all that's on offer, but they represent the kind of games you're going to be playing.
Fans of the music mini-games seen in previous Rabbids games will be pleased to hear that they return here, with you using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck to shake to a certain beat or dance to the moves being demonstrated by a dancing mannequin. Also returning are the on-rails shooter levels, which thankfully have more in common with those in the first game than the stuttering video sections from the second. In spoof 3D worlds you have to shoot targets as they appear, trying to get as high a score as possible. It's nothing groundbreaking, but these sections crop up quite regularly and give you a break from the often frantic mini-games.
The biggest addition to the series is Balance Board support. The most popular will be the snowboarding game, which sees a rabbid riding a bull down a steep snowy slope. Another is a play on Godzilla, with you directing the monster's fire. We can't really say that the Balance Board games are any more fun than those that simply use the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, but they do at least give you more variety and another reason to pull the Balance Board out from under the sofa.
When played alone your only goal is to achieve high scores, either against the other scores on your console or against online leaderboards. The game is better when played with friends, with TV Party allowing up to eight players to take part together. Depending on the number of controllers you have (Wii Remote and Nunchuck together as a pair), you'll either be playing games in which you take turns or games where you can play simultaneously. You can also set how long you want a session to last, with the minimum of 20 minutes and the max being all the way up to an hour and a half.
While Ubisoft has once again created some undeniably cute 3D visuals and packed in a fair amount of humour for all the family, there's an awkward disparity between the cartoon cut scenes (which are rather good, it has to be said) and the not at all cartoon like in-game graphics. We'd have preferred a style that runs throughout the cut scenes and mini-game visuals. Audio work is what you'd expect, with the rabbids sounding like disgruntled children, but their singing voices are cute and there's a decent selection of licensed tracks to dance to, including Calvin Harris' Acceptable in the 80s.
Your Wii collection is likely to be overrun with mini-game titles already (and probably the two previous Rabbids games), but Rayman Raving Rabbids 3 is still worth a look. The mini-games here are far better than those in last year's disappointing sequel and the Balance Board support gives it some unique novelty value. We're still eager for a proper Rayman comeback, but for now we'll let Ubisoft off the hook.