I love Rabbids. I have since their debut on the Nintendo Wii so many years ago. They are a property I would have expected to go farther – but they do have their own line of toys and accessories; everything from action figures to Wii controller chargers. They are cute, funny and nothing beats pumping their masks full of carrot juice. Naturally, when a Rabbids title dropped for my shiny new Nintendo 3DS, I just had to race out and buy it.
I’m a whore for platformers. I’ve been playing them across systems for decades and still fire up classic titles from time to time (ever play Superfrog on the Amiga? I still play that). Heck, I dropped my share of quarters in Super Mario Bros. at the arcade – as much as the next guy.
Unfortunately, platformers don’t tend to range in quality – they seem to either totally rock or totally suck; rarely do they appear to fall somewhere in between – and yet that’s exactly how this outing of Rabbids is … somewhere in between.
The premise is pretty simple. Using a magic time traveling washing machine, you take your rabbid into various eras (prehistoric, Egyptian, medieval, etc.) and collect coins (and rubber ducks – which are actually just coins). Getting to the end of each level is the end goal – and coins help you unlock stuff along the way.
Would you believe that’s the entire premise of the game? Every “world” has various levels to play – each one almost the same as the last (in some cases, the levels have perfect clone parts of other levels). Like Super Mario Bros., you unlock them in a sequential order with the occasional bonus level along the way. Uh .. yeah, that’s pretty much it. Oh, you have to collect pieces of the time machine along the way through the time period.
There are two types of unlockables along the way – figurines and pictures. These are obtained essentially by getting coins (or ducks – which are really just 5x or 10x coins) or by performing levels over again in Against the Clock type modes (more about this in a minute). The figurines are 3D objects that feature a rabbid or two animated on it. You can zoom in and out and rotate it. The pictures are “puzzles” that have like four pieces that you earn to complete them. The longer I played the game, the less I started caring about these unlockables.
You can also earn costumes by completing bonus levels (which you unlock with – you got it, coins). The bonus levels have you – that’s right – gather coins to fill a meter – if you fill it up in time (they are VERY generous with the time), you unlock some costume you can skin your rabbid with (using a more-complicated-than-it-had-to-be control system) and play the game from that point on with your newly dressed rabbid.
Well that covers WHY you’re playing – so let’s move on to the levels themselves.
The levels are very generic – both in construction and design. Most of the standard things are here – holes to fall in, spikes to hurt you, breakable blocks, butt bouncing, trampolines, swinging vines, tipping seesaw platforms, spouts that push you up (and some that hurt you) – there is nothing here you haven’t seen before – and better implemented elsewhere. Some very light puzzle solving (you can pick up some blocks and move them so that you can reach a higher place) is involved, but don’t expect this to carry the game.
The occasional enemy rabbid dressed in some “period” clothing shows up – but as you play more, you’re wonder why they even bothered putting them in there at all. Rarely will they offer any sort of resistance other than a “lucky hit” from time to time. Even the ones swinging from vines are very easily dispatched.
There are other obstacles you’ll encounter that will be minor annoyances – but it seems they purposefully made them easy to dispatch. Sometimes you’ll find a bunch of mines you have to time your jumps carefully through, but most of the time, you can grab a box or item and throw them at the mines (where they vanish with a poof rather than the explosion you would hope for).
As mentioned before – levels are levels – be it in the prehistoric world or in the Egyptian world. There won’t be a single level you’ll go “whoa, now that was cool and I’m DYING to play it again” – which is too bad. You’re going to do the same things ad nauseam – so hopefully you like it. Minor exceptions occur – like the level you spend running (and you can’t stop – just jump or attack) away from the T-Rex – you know, the level that is shown in EVERY video for the game you see. Overall, playing through the levels feel like more of a “means to an end” vice a savory experience.
You can replay levels in Stopwatch mode and in Mission mode – neither mode overly drove me to play the sub-standard level designs over and over. Stopwatch ranks you based on how fast you can finish the level – the Mission mode requires you to perform certain actions (don’t get hit the entire level, for example) or collection particular items.
Your character offers the basic actions – jump, attack (on ground or in air), pick up/throw (also on ground or in air) and a frantic running action (which doesn’t do anything – no longer jumping or anything). You can also zoom in and out of the level (not much – like two camera settings – again, you wonder why they bothered at all). There are a couple of “power ups” you’ll see – invincibility (aka Star Power) and a propeller hat (longer jumps for a few seconds) – but they are FAR and few between; so much so that you’ll forget about them by the time you see the next one.
The controls are fine – yet the button placement always seems backwards to what I want to do – which makes it hard to get used to using the “carryable” items. This could very likely be a personal issue – so I won’t come down on the game for it – but it’s like the A and B button REALLY need to be reversed for my liking. Character response to controls are well-done (you know what games are like that have poor reaction times to input) and you don’t feel like you’re fighting with your character the whole time.
Graphics are fine – although the camera keeps you pulled away so far most of the time you won’t get to really enjoy them. You can zoom up (as mentioned above) but it’s like two settings – “far” and “not so far”. The level graphics are pretty damn good though – especially with the 3D effects (more on that in a minute). While pleasant, these graphics do not push the 3DS much at all and you feel like you’re playing a DS game that has been overhauled. There is no good use of lighting effect or advanced graphics techniques that the 3DS is perfectly capable of.
From a 3D standpoint, the use of 3D is pretty dang good. The 3D parallax scrolling of levels is fantastic (especially the lava levels). Sparse use of more advanced 3D features is very fresh and well-done. Rarely does anything “fly out” but landscape or items (like a giant scarab beetle) appear BETWEEN your player and the camera, so you get a real funky sense of 3D for those moments. Because they are rare, they will not detract you from the game and they are “special” each time they happen. When you die, your rabbid is flung against the camera “in your face” and the glass breaks – a fun effect but it should have followed the other effects and only happened every so often. The good news is – you won’t die enough to really care about it.
The game’s aural presentation is pleasant and isn’t annoying (always nice).
What’s sad is, this isn’t a bad game – but it just isn’t a good game either. The MECHANICS are sound enough – but they phoned in the level design so much that is just isn’t fun to play as a core platformer game. There are no hidden areas to explore, no real reason to replay levels and not enough penalty for burning through the level as fast as you can just to get to the end. While the 3D effect is nice, they forgot about everything else with the 3DS – no streetpass, no spotpass notices – no multiplayer (local or otherwise), no mini-games and “between DS and 3DS graphics”.
What’s worse, I never laughed even once playing this game. I expect a certain level of entertainment around rabbids – and even THAT wasn’t there. While I’m bitching, let’s throw in the fact you can’t skip the intro every time you boot it up.
The game seems hurried – from the obvious incomplete feature set to the barely upgraded DS graphics down to the really cookie cutter level design. It seems to suffer from a target audience confusion too – who is this for? It’s not really made for young kids, but the levels don’t challenge the adult player very often and when they do, it’s pretty simplistic.
I’ve seen worse platform games – but I’ve seen a lot better ones too. It doesn’t offer the “just one more level” addictive quality that a platformer should – the only reason you keep playing is hoping the next level/world will be better than what you just played. If what you want is a super casual no-challenge rabbids themed platformer – this might fit the bill. Otherwise, spend LESS money, grab Super Mario Bros DS and play THAT in your 3DS instead. You might miss the 3D – but you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck.
If you feel you just HAVE to try this game – do it as a rental or a used “Gamestop returnable” title.