The Wii arrived six years ago. One of the launch titles, Rayman: Raving Rabbids, was a collection of mini-games starring the eponymous limbless wonder and a brand new race of characters, the titular bunch of screaming bunnies. Fast-forward to the Wii U launch and the rodents have earned enough cred to nab the starring role, but despite more than half a decade of progress, their Wii U appearance is far worse than their debut. Rabbids Land is a multiplayer board game for up to four players/victims, in which you race your opponents to reach the goal in the centre space of the board. The first person to set a paw in the middle wins the game.
There's not a single idea in here that hasn't been done to death by Mario Party. There are squares that help your progress with presents, such as a chance to roll again or a pair of crutches that will cripple another Rabbid for a turn (completely missing the point of crutches). Others throw you into a mini-game, giving you the opportunity to win three trophies and push you to that winning ribbon. Sometimes you'll land on a quiz square, where answering a trivia question correctly gets you two trophies. I'd love to say that there's more to it than that, but there really isn't. We shook the game box to see if we were missing some of the playing pieces or a second rulesheet, all to no avail. There is only one board, characters only include different coloured Rabbids, there are only two different settings for the game (which determines the limit of trophies needed to win, from either 10 or 20), and you win by playing a series of extremely simple mini-games. Job done. That's it. Bluntly put, it's not enough for a full-price Wii U game.
Of course, the board game segments of party games are always notoriously rubbish - if Mario himself barely makes it, the Rabbids never had a chance - so it's all eyes on the mini-games. It's bad news on this front, too. Whether you're throwing penguins at one another, catching bank robbers using security camera footage, or improving the safety equipment of theme park rides, everything feels dull. This is an achievement in itself; it takes a truly moronic designer to take a game in which you surf through space dodging fireballs from an opponent who's triggering them to the beat of a Britney Spears song and make it feel ordinary. What's more, there's only around 20 of these unsatisfactory mini-games available (compared to the 80 on offer in Mario Party 9), so it won't take long for you to see everything on offer.
More inexplicably, despite being a game for four people, every single mini-game is limited to at-most two players. Having a four-player party game where half the participants have to sit out during the "fun" parts makes as much sense as buying a car and then only ever using it to listen to the radio as it sits in your driveway. The only vague promise of innovation comes in the form of the Treasure Hunt mode, in which solo players take part in the mini-games as usual, but also have to collect coins that pop up during the course of each game. These coins unlock bonus videos, which is essentially a catalogue of Ubisoft's promotional Rabbids videos. So nothing gained there, either.
In just six short years, the Rabbid has gone from a generic enemy in a Rayman game to one of Ubisoft's primary franchises, but the novelty is wearing thin. It was undoubtedly cute having them star in mini-game compilations the first two times, but the presence of a half-hearted virtual board game front-end doesn't do enough to disguise the fact that these dull, two-player efforts lack the humour and- crucially - the fun offered by those earlier games. Previously, we had events where we had to make the Rabbids scream in an office without their boss catching on. It was childish, funny, and a startlingly accurate portrayal of office-work life. We also had bizarre first-person shooting adventures with an almost augmented-reality background that made it look like the Rabbids were invading London, Paris and even Ubisoft Studios. These were still "only" mini-games, but were clearly made with a heap of love. Making a new Just Dance may be as simple as hiring a fresh batch of chalky mimes, but a Rabbids game shouldn't just be churned off the production line.
At no point does the immensely disappointing Rabbids Land even threaten to come remotely close to a level of quality. With its single board game format, drearily repetitive and slow animations and minigames that inexplicably exclude half the players, this feels like a Rabbids game with all the life sucked out of it.