Rayman Raving Rabbids

Like a tube of Pringles and a bottle of Pims, adding rabbits makes a good idea even better. They're cuddy, versatile, and if worst comes to worst, are reassuringly satisfying to club around with cartoon weaponry. So we were pleased to see the latest adventure in the surreal world of Rayman does the bunny thing in droves.

Although if you're going to get sniffy, while the titular Rabbids resemble the furry critters we'd find in hunches or burrows, they're larger than life, and really, really punchable. Tired of being hunted and exploited, one day the pressure of nibbling vegetables in an adorable way becomes too much for them. The rabbits become Rabbids and decide to take over.

As with every Rayman game since, it seems, the beginning, their plan for world domination follows a predictable pattern. First, the antagonists scatter balls of glowing energy, called Lums, all around the world, and then imprison the inhabitants in tiny cages. As you might have guessed, it's up to you – as Rayman – to put things back into their rightful place.

For this reason, the lums and the cages form the most important collectibles in the game. Lums float and glow in different colours, and can be found throughout the five vibrant worlds. The red ones, for instance, are used to top up Rayman's health while the blue lums let you fly around. Cages are scattered across the levels too, enabling Rayman to unlock other worlds once he's found enough of them.

It's all business as usual as far as handheld platformers go – the levels have more colour than a lorryload of Skittles, and require a combination of acrobatics, combat and patience to complete.

Combat is simple. At first, Rayman's fists float by his sides, and he can wield them against enemies. A quick one-two will dispatch most things you'll come across, whether they're flying SuperRabbids or the less-common pieces of cinnamon toast. But some enemies aren't so simple, and Rayman will need to use the game's many costumes in order to get past them.

This is one area in which Rayman Raving Rabbids brings something new to show. After each boss battle, Rayman earns a new costume, based on a musical style, which grants him extra powers whenever he dons it. (Sadly the Beethoven outfit with Fifth Symphony composing powers and spiky anime hair didn't make the cut.)

However changing costume removes Rayman's original powers, such as hovering and double-punching, so you tend to only change into a costume exactly when you need it, and switch out straight afterwards. Thus while some costumes are a lot of fun, in the bigger scheme of thing they're actually useless because you're so limited while using them, you don't bother, unless you really have to.

And that's the story with a lot of Rayman Raving Rabbids. It's not a bad game. In fact, it wants to be a good game, but whenever it tries to improve itself, it ends up falling down, sometimes in spectacularly frustrating ways.

For instance, the occasional driving levels are there to add theoretically welcome variety but, in parts, are maddeningly difficult. When the lap timer reaches the final ten seconds, it enlarges to cover most of the screen and counts down, obscuring obstacles that were already very well hidden.

There's also a particularly awful boss battle that has you edging up to a huge Rabbid in order to hit him backwards. Moving a few pixels too far the wrong way will remove your entire health bar.

The game's playable, and enjoyable in places. But it feels slightly unloved, and ultimately a bit hollow. It's also very short. Three hours is enough for quick fingers to make it through to the final boss, with 85 per cent of the trapped critters freed.

Admittedly, speed won't be the prime concern for Rayman Raving Rabbids' target market, and kids will get more than a few hours out of it. But only assuming they can grit their milk teeth for that bit longer.

Rayman Raving Rabbids

By parts jolly, vibrant, and intensely frustrating, Rayman Raving Rabbids GBA lacks attention to detail, thwarting some neat ideas
Mike Cook
Mike Cook
Studying Computing in London means that Michael looks for any excuse to get away from error messages and blank screens. Puzzling and platforming on the DS are his ultimate escape.