Nothing to rave about
When you think of two-dimensional (2-D) platformers, three characters names usually come to mind. These names are Mario, Sonic, and Rayman. Mario and Sonic have been system-selling names for many years while Rayman has enjoyed a cult following as the other guy on the system. This isn’t to say that Rayman isn’t just as loveable of a character. With his odd look, distinctive gameplay, and offbeat style, Rayman continues to appease longtime fans while garnering many newcomers.
Rayman Raving Rabbids for the DS starts off by explaining why you are going to play through the game. Unfortunately, this storyline is fairly unimportant and nonsensical. The rabbits invade Earth and have some sort of grudge against Rayman which is never really explained. To regain his freedom, Rayman must go on a quest to collect a plethora of trophies. Once you collect enough of them, Rayman will be able to face off against the ominous Rabble Droid, who is apparently the leader of the rabbits. Like I said, the storyline doesn’t make much sense, but fortunately the game doesn’t really make it a focal point.
Since the storyline is virtually nonexistent, the responsibility of engaging the player falls squarely on the title’s gameplay. Unlike Raving Rabbids on the Wii, which was just a collection of absurdly odd minigames, the DS version is actually a 2-D platformer at its core. Unfortunately, the game’s levels are fairly linear, repetitive, and almost completely devoid of the character and fun associated with the Wii version. Enjoyment of this game is further hampered by its imprecise and rather floaty jumping that will lead to many frustrating deaths. The game also includes some minigames and “on-track” levels that help to break up the platforming tedium. With only a handful of easy to win mini-games however, they quickly become an annoyance rather than a reprieve. “On-track” levels are equally as repetitive and are anything but easy to complete. This isn’t because of actual difficulty, however, but is actually due to horribly unresponsive touch screen control recognition.
Throughout the platforming levels, you will find four costumes that will give Rayman varying powers. These powers are used to unlock different routes that will lead to different levels. Mastering the use of these powers will also be essential to completing the “on-track” levels in the game. In these, Rayman will run from left to right on the bottom screen. To make sure that he makes it to the end safely you will have to make use of these costumes’ powers to help clear his way. The game gives you no advanced warning as to the costume that you will need so these levels quickly devolve into a guessing game of trial and error mixed with track memorization. Unfortunately, even if you have memorized the track, there is no guarantee that you will make it through. Using the costumes’ powers requires you to touch or rub objects and enemies on the screen to make them either function or disappear. Since the touch screen only randomly registers these actions, even when performed correctly, these levels become unwanted lessons in agony.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this game is how incredibly hard the final boss is. Even with the poor touchscreen controls and floaty jumping, I got through most of the game without any real difficulty. All of this changed when I finally got to face the dreaded Rabble Droid. Not giving too much away, you will have to use a few techniques to defeat him. Right when I was about to defeat him, he switched to his final technique. At first I didn’t think that it would be a problem, but then I quickly realized that the game’s touchscreen recognition was so broken that it made this final task almost impossible to complete. Be warned, this is not a battle that many will want to, or should, undertake.
Rayman Raving Rabbids not only controls poorly but the graphics are also fairly lackluster. It is a 2-D game with 3-D character models and backgrounds, not unlike New Super Mario Bros. Most of the characters in the game look like poorly assembled masses of jagged-looking polygons. To combat this, the game will frequently pull the camera further away from the action. This just leads to having to squint to be able to have any idea where Rayman is located on the screen. The sound in the game is also mediocre. The soundtrack includes some good songs like “La Bamba” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Regrettably, while the music sounds just fine, the singer’s voices are hard to understand and sound grainy at best.
Rayman Raving Rabbids for the DS has upset me. I really wanted this game to be fun, as I am a long-time fan of Rayman. While the Wii version is an oddly enjoyable experience, the DS version is a complete disappointment. With other good platforming games such as the previously mentioned New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, I just can’t recommend this game to anyone. Especially if you already have some anger issues, do yourself and your DS a favor and don’t touch this game.