Ubisoft’s crazy Rabbids hit the Wii five years ago, but what many don’t realise is that the original Rayman Raving Rabbids was ported to Xbox 360 with support for the doomed Xbox Live Vision camera. Surely with that experience — and the vastly superior Kinect — to bring to bear on Raving Rabbids: Alive and Kicking, Ubisoft can deliver a worthy experience at the second time of asking?
As usual, those hopes have mixed fortunes: like any minigame compilation, Alive and Kicking is a patchwork of tiny thrills and botched ideas. There are times it works — and works well — but the fact it’s had a year since launch should really have cemented it as the sensor’s number one destination for fun times, instead of a story of what could have been.
There is evidence that Ubisoft’s learnt some lessons from other games: the menu system is the same as in PowerUp Heroes, which itself was the same as Dance Central, of course: hold your right arm out, angle it up or down to scroll and swipe across to select, with your left hand on cancel duties. An increasingly established system, it does the trick in all cases but one.
See, Alive and Kicking hangs its hat on the hook of augmented reality: the Rabbids have invaded our world, and through the wonder of Kinect you can see them in your living room. Not just a back-of-box blurb, there’s a full mode that lets one of the little bwwah-nimals wander around your lounge, ready for you to slap and kick him to your heart’s content. There’s more to it than that: a menu lets you play with bombs, cows, chilli peppers and more bizarre objects that elicit laughs (the first time, at least). The problem is the way the menu’s opened, by hovering your hand over a circle to the screen’s right-hand side: once activated, it should be a matter of swiping across, but detection is uncharacteristically twitchy and you often spend far too long trying to open the menu. Why a gesture or voice command couldn’t have been implemented is a mystery.
It’s these simple mistakes that trip up A&K, making it feel less like a game in Kinect’s sophomore year and more an average EyeToy game — using your hand over an on-screen icon is a waste of Kinect’s capabilities. Some minigames uphold this idea too: many lack real depth of movement, and while their simplicity invites that first play it does little to entice returns.
When Alive and Kicking is good, it’s bizarre and hilarious: swinging a Rabbid on a giant stream of snot, headbanging to inflict a bump, adopting intimidating poses to scare Rabbids creeping up while you’re in the shower. Imagination has never been a problem for Ubisoft, but the execution here is less polished than we’re used to: fighting a giant robot Rabbid should be a minigame dream come true, but in reality it plays out like a less enjoyable version of Fruit Splatter from Kinect Sports. Steering through an oesophagus while sat down was done better with the Wii Balance Board in Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party on Wii; too many games feel stripped of the tactile controller, too few enhanced by the freedom.
Ultimately Raving Rabbids: Alive and Kicking is a decent but unspectacular minigame compilation. In multiplayer it’s quick and funny enough to paper over some of its cracks, but really we expected more quality from Ubisoft’s toothy mascots. One for a bargain purchase only.