I've only had one experience with Rayman before, and that was a horrible encounter with one of the franchise's less-than-illustrious mobile phone outings. So initially I wasn't too keen on picking up Rayman Raving Rabbids for the Wii.
The Wii launched with a real shortage of quality titles, though, so I was pretty much forced to buy the damn thing - it was that or *shudder* Open Season. Which turned out to be a fairly fortunate turn of events for me, because Rayman Raving Rabbids is one hell of a good game.
You don't have to know anything about Rayman. The synopsis is simple. Rayman (the good guy) is having lunch with some Globoxes (also good guys, but kinda helpless), when they're all attacked by Rabbids (evil, crazy bunnies). Then Rayman has to fight daily in an arena. It's a simple story of boy meets Rabbids, boy shoots Rabbids with plungers, boy escapes from Rabbids.
"Fighting in the arena" actually consists of playing a variety of minigames. Most of the minigames are wildly unique, and they all involve interesting uses of the Wiimote. One early game sees you spinning the controller above your head like a lassoo in order to throw a cow attached to a length of chain. Another has you bopping bunnies with a shovel in a version of whack-a-mole. Yet another will require a pumping motion with both hands in order to drown scuba-diving rabbids with carrot juice (!).
The games vary both in quality and difficulty. Some games you'll want to play again and again, but will often be disappointed by how easy they are to conquer. Others will make you want to beat small children with the Wiimote. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that the game actually succeeds in having something for every taste, and few of the games are really objectively awful.
There are a few games you'll see a lot of, and thankfully these are the best ones of the bunch. Once each "day" of the game you'll be challenged to a dance off against killer bunnies, in which you must shake the Wiimote and nunchuk like maracas in time to music. It plays a lot like DDR-lite, and you'll likely want to come back and play it a lot. The soundtrack has some highs and lows. The three licensed tracks (Misirlou, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and La Bamba) being fantastic, complete with Smurf-like vocals allegedly performed by the Rabbids themselves. The rest of the songs, however, are original compositions that will just leave you wishing there was more licensed music.
The other heavily featured game is a rail shooter in the style of Time Crisis or House of the Dead, where you're equipped with a plunger-shooting pistols and tasked with plungering hordes of bunnies from a moving first-person perspective. The Wiimote operates like a light gun, and is responsive and easy to use. (You reload by shaking the nunchuk.) These segments are absolutely fantastic, and could easily be fleshed out into an entire game all by themselves. The only criticism to be made is that they're a little easy.
Rayman Raving Rabbids claims to support up to four players in multiplayer mode, and it does, after a fashion. There are a few caveats though. Firstly, you'll need a nunchuk for each and every player, a feat which my wallet hasn't yet hurdled. Secondly, not every game is really compatible with four players. Some will let everyone in your room go nuts at once, while others will require you to effectively take turns playing the single player game, or work in pairs. There's really no good way to find out how a minigame works multiplayer other than to try it.
Also, you need to know that there's no multiplayer right out of the box. Before you can play any games whatsoever, you need to unlock them by finishing them in the single player story mode. This can be annoying if you've invited friends round for the day, but luckily the story mode doesn't take long to conquer.
You can also play the game in a score mode, where play individual minigames while aiming for a high score. Your high scores across all games are added together, and when certain milestones are achieved you unlock bonus content such as short movies and concept art.
Rayman Raving Rabbids has fairly solid gameplay, and is reasonably replayable and fun, but what really makes it excel is its style and charm. The Rabbids are absolutely hilarious to watch doing just about anything - they're possessed of a laugh-out-loud kinetic insanity; goofy, aggressive and off-the-wall crazy. Their assorted screams and exclamations are done with a mix of nutty gargling sounds that are incredibly endearing, and every corner of the game is crammed with slapstick and sight-gags that never seem to get old. Rayman Raving Rabbids is comedy gold, and is the kind of game you'll want to show to everyone you know.
If you're a new Wii owner, and you're dismayed by some of the rushed launch games and crummy ports on offer at the moment, you absolutely cannot go past this gem of a game to get you through until the triple-A titles start hitting shelves. Highly recommended.