Ben Jacobs

Rayman Raving Rabbids

January 30, 2007

Rayman : Raving Rabbids for Wii Review by Ben Jacobs for Snackbar Games

The [i]Rayman[/i] franchise has been a mainstay in the video game world for a long time now. It made the transition to 3D successfully and is now entering a new generation. Depending on how you feel about party games you might be very excited about this. This is no platformer, this is a party game ala-[i]Mario Party[/i] with all of the attitude of the [i]Rayman[/i] franchise. An innovative ad-campaign has been heralding this game for months and expectations were very high.

The main draw of [i]Raving Rabbids[/i] for most people is going to be the Wii remote controls. I noticed that [i]Rabbids[/i] was released on the PS2 as well as the Wii, but I can’t figure out for the life of me how it would work since most of the games herein use the Wii Remote in several different, fun ways. That is probably the reason you are reading this review. Do the controls live up to the pre-release hype? Often, they do. There are several minigames that control beautifully and wave Nintendo’s Innovation flag quite fervently, but there are others that left me boggled.

Most notable of the bunch are the boss levels, where most of the time you will be playing a shooter game ala [i]Lethal Enforcers[/i]. Like all the minigames, you unlock this in single player mode, but after that you can trounce through it with a friend. These games are worth the price of admission alone. The control is pixel-perfect and it will take you all of a minute to get used to blasting the bunnies away. These are just the boss levels, although there are several of them. Most of the levels in Rabbids involve a single task that must be completed quickly. Some are fun and novel, like the dance levels and one in which you must draw food on the screen for a Rabbid to eat, and others fall flat, like most of the Exercise levels (Where you have to move the remote really quickly). It is a very mixed bag.

The graphics are a mixed bag as well. Some of the minigames look gorgeous (The shooting levels spring to mind), but others have bland textures and crappy models. The single player game is also a little lacking. It is short, of course, but the hub area is very ugly. It is kind of fun to watch your room get increasingly nicer as the [i]Rabbids[/i] take to you. The main problem I have with the presentation is that it lacks polish. Everything is very minimal in the interface, loading takes just a bit too long and the multiplayer mode is a little awkward to get set up.

Should you buy this game? Not yet. At 50 bucks, it is just not worth it yet. There is going to be a period between [i]Wario Ware[/i] and [i]Mario Party[/i], and in there, [i]Rabbids[/i] might get a price drop. If you are into party games, pick it up then, because it has a lot to offer. Otherwise, go back to [i]Twilight Princess[/i].

The episodic format has become much more clear to me now. I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel at first, but Telltale has done something really neat. You start [i]Episode 2[/i] in the same place you started [i]Episode 1[/i], in Sam and Max’s dingy office space. It feels familiar, and gives you a launching pad into the new mystery. Everything feels and looks the same this time around. The character models are still very passable, the voice acting is good, and the environments are well-crafted. This actually feels a lot like a TV episode, which Telltale was clearly going for. Mix a little of the familiar, and send our heroes off somewhere new. Past characters return, Bosco is just as paranoid as ever, and Sybil has started up her fourth or fifth business in the same building. This and future reviews of these episodes are going to concentrate on the episode itself, as I’ve covered the gameplay aspects in [url=]my first review[/url].

I can honestly say that the series really comes into its own in this episode. The pilot was an introduction, just trying to set the ground work, and the first real episode really runs with it. It wastes no time goofing around and you are right into the thick of things before you know it. [i]Episode 2[/i]’s story revolves around an Oprah-like talk show host named Myra who has kidnapped her audience and will not let them leave the studio. After giving away cars, trips, and money to her audience, she has gone a little crazy. Fortunately, the freelance police are available to, ya know, save the day. Hopefully.

The puzzles in [i]Situation Comedy[/i] are much, much better than in the first episode. Almost every complaint I had about difficulty and length has been addressed here. While there are still a fair amount of gimmies, the puzzle solutions are a little more convoluted now. You get items and you actually don’t use them immediately! Novel, I know. Length was definitely an issue in [i]Episode 1[/i], but [i]Episode 2[/i] feels much longer. It’s hard to tell if this is because of more content and puzzles, more difficult conundrums, or just that [i]Episode 1[/i]’s story was wrapped up so quickly. The ending in [i]Episode 2[/i] definitely takes its time and by the end of the game, is very satisfying.

If Telltale can keep churning these out on schedule, I think they have a real hit on their hands. If you haven’t bought the first episode, do it right now, just so you can get to this episode. Fortunately, this show is a little more Friends and a little less Sopranos so far. What I mean is, you could play the second episode without playing the first, but you’ll miss out on some jokes and references to the first. It is ultimately still very playable without playing the entire series, but there is no excuse not to gobble up both episodes.

The recent Metroidvania phase of the [i]Castlevania[/i] series has been a fruitful one. The Gameboy and DS iterations have been especially notable. [i]Dawn of Sorrow[/i] on the DS was good enough to evoke murmurs of “Better than [i]Symphony of the Night[/i]”, so you can understand my excitement over another DS iteration. Unfortunately, even though there are some new ideas and a much more varied set of areas to romp around in, [i]Portrait of Ruin[/i] comes up short.

Short really is the key word In [i]PoR[/i]. Faster than you can say “Vampire Killer”, you’ve already beaten the game. Its length is truly a mystery to me, since the game sports more areas and considerably more footroom than any [i]Castlevania[/i] game yet. Through the use of magical portraits, you are transported to areas far outside of the confines of Dracula’s Castle. These areas are great and all, but you breeze through them so quickly it hardly makes a dent. Some people might like shorter games, and this one can be beaten in under 10 hours, easily, but I would’ve liked a little more meat.

Perhaps the length wouldn’t be such an issue if the environments did not repeat themselves. About halfway through the game, you will encounter a new set of portraits to enter. But, to your surprise, they look exactly like areas you’ve already been to! The layout, palettes, items and enemies are different, but the smell of rushed deadlines hangs heavy over the endgame.

While freshness may be an issue for the areas, there are some really interesting ideas implemented in [i]Portrait[/i]. The two-person setup has been done before, but it works exceptionally well, especially on hard mode. The normal mode is exceptionally easy, beatable without much use of your team tactics, or really even having your partner following you, but subsequent playthroughs will really test what you’re made of. Two characters means two sets of equipment which means a lot more drops. The [i]Dawn of Sorrow[/i] card is played again, but this time, instead of collecting souls, most enemies will drop a new sub-item for Jonathon, a new spell for Charlotte, or both. It’s a neat system, that controls as tightly as any game in the series.

Multiplayer may be why many people were especially excited for [i]Portrait[/i]. You get it all, really. You get both local wireless and wi-fi. While the co-op mode might be very limited, it is interesting for a little while. The shop-mode lacks customization, as you can’t set prices, but it is fun to let your friends browse through all the junk you’ve decided to let them see and hook up some items they couldn’t regularly get. Don’t expect the world from the multiplayer and you’ll be satisfied.

I like to let my paragraphs run into each other like this, with common themes. Ya like that? Satisfied. That is probably what you won’t be after playing [i]Portrait of Ruin[/i]. The areas end up as dull and repeatable, while the Castlevania staples like the music also become unsatisfying. It is too short, and once you’re done, you just want more. Unfortunately, even with multiple end-game play-modes, you’re going to need another course. Still, if you love Castlevania, Bon Apetit.

Adventure game fans, rejoice. No longer must DOSBOX be the only application on your computer that lets you enjoy a classic adventure game. After 13 years, the bad boys of the adventure genre are back. A new Sam and Max game has been a long time in coming, suffering multiple cancellations by Lucasarts, some time in limbo, and finally ending up with a development team that actually realized what it had. It’s new, it’s pretty, it’s episodic, and holy sasquatch on a hot sunday morning, it’s funny.

[i]Sam and Max: Culture Shock[/i] is the first episode in a series of new Sam and Max games. Instead of creating an epic story that spans hours and hours of gameplay, Telltale games has decided to release Sam and Max in discrete, self contained episodes. There are a few ways you can get this game. You can buy each episode individually when they are released for $8.95, a season pass for $34.95 (Which includes a disc at the end of the season) or use your GameTap subscription. Whatever way you decide that you want to play this game, if you like adventure games, you are in for a treat.

The jump to 3D for most adventure games is ridiculously clunky. Escape from Monkey Island is a prime example. Sam and Max : [i]Culture Shock[/i] is, in contrast, a joy to play. In fact, it emulates perfectly a 2D point and click interface, albeit with 3D graphics. Anyone who has played the original or any Lucasarts adventure game will feel right at home. Everyone else will pick it up in no time. The graphics are mostly great, with a few blurry textures here and there. Nothing too distracting. Everything looks like it should, especially the characters. Hell, even the office looks untouched from its 2-D roots. Some may be disappointed, however, by the voices used for the characters. Not that they are necessarily bad, but they are not the same voice actors from either the original game or the cartoon. Sam’s voice sounds pretty good, but Max’s lacks a little of the sardonic attitude that makes his character so funny. I hope in future episodes that they work on Max’s delivery.

Don’t get me wrong, though, the dialogue is hilarious. It all feels distinctly Sam and Max. From Sam’s exclamations to Max’s sadistic take on… everything. Their love of violence has not changed either. This is probably the funniest game I have played in years. The puzzles suffer a little bit from the episodic nature of the games. Since the games are short, you are using most items that you pick up right when you get them. This does make the adventure a little more straight forward and the puzzles a little less convoluted, but it also makes the game pretty easy. Seasoned adventure gamers will breeze through [i]Culture Shock[/i] in a little over 2 or 3 hours. [i]Culture Shock[/i] feels short, but it works. It is very comparable to a tv episode, in fact. You sit down, you play it, and then when it’s over, you can’t wait for the next one.

[i]Sam and Max: Culture Shock[/i] is a game that anyone can play and get into. It’s fun, it’s pretty, and hot damn, it’s refreshing. I look forward to seeing how Telltale plays out the upcoming episodes. If you played Sam and Max back in the day, you owe it to yourself to get this game. Go. Now. What are you waiting for?

[i]Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime[/i] falls into the category of games labelled “Charming”. It stars our favorite [i]Dragon Quest[/i] enemy, Slime, in an adventure that will steal your heart. The game is not overly difficult or deep, but the presentation and outright fun make it one of the best Nintendo DS titles to date.

The bulk of [i]Rocket Slime[/i] places you in the role of Rocket, a Slime with a mission. See, all of his friends and family were kidnapped by an evil organization called the Plob. Engaging, eh? Well, thankfully, the game is executed well. You play it from a top down perspective, ala Zelda, and most of your attacks involve hurling yourself at the enemy. Rocket can also carry items on top of his head which can be chucked for various pleasing results. [i]Rocket Slime[/i] is incredibly easy to pick up so even rookies will have a fun time with it.

When you are not adventuring around areas beating up baddies, you’re jumping in your gigantic Slime tank to do battle with the Plob’s army of tanks. Here is where [i]Rocket Slime[/i] sets itself apart from other adventure games. Every item you find in the adventure portion of the game can be sent back to town and used as ammo for your tank. Clubs, bombs, arrows; The works. You also get a crew of 3 helper characters, which can be picked from dozens of characters. There is plenty of strategy here. Tank battles are done using the same interface as when you are walking around the levels. To shoot at the enemy, you need to walk to the ammo chutes and pick up some ammo, then throw it into your cannons. What makes the battles especially intense is that both sides can walk over to the opposing tank, beat down the door, and wreak havoc. Tank battles are one way you can rescue the 100 slimes that have been captured by the Plob. Rescuing your friends results in your town coming back to its former glory, Soulblazer style.

Those who have an appreciation for 2D graphics will get a kick out of [i]Rocket Slime[/i]. Rocket and every other character is represented and painstakingly animated. A lot of the music is classic [i]Dragon Quest[/i], and I recognized many tunes from playing through [i]Dragon Quest VIII[/i] recently.

The main problem I have with [i]Rocket Slime[/i] is the difficulty. It is not a very hard game. It is fun, and absolutely engaging, but you will rarely lose a tank battle, and dying is simply a non-factor given how many hearts you have. Fortunately, [i]Rocket Slime[/i] has what may be the most entertaining multiplayer mode in wireless gaming. You are going to need multiple copies of the game, but it’s part of the fun. Each player takes their tank set up they have built up over the course of the single player game up against their friends. The difficulty not found in single player definitely comes into play when you are against a human opponent. Buy your friend a copy of this game if you have to, because if you don’t play multiplayer you are missing out on a significant portion of the game.

Well that’s it. [i]Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime[/i] is awesome. It is one of the most entertaining games in recent memory and will provide you with hours of bouncy, gooey fun. Highly recommended for both the [i]Dragon Quest[/i] fan and new players alike.