When the Nintendo Wii console came out in November 2006, "Rayman Raving Rabbids" emerged as its first sleeper hit by weaving entertaining minigames and hilarious slapstick comedy bits and into a cleverly constructed story line.
"Rayman Raving Rabbids 2" ($49.99, Ubisoft) offers more fun and humor, full-motion video scenes and an expansion to four-player action, but it lacks the cohesiveness of its predecessor — especially in single-player mode.
In the original game, the cartoon character Rayman found himself trapped in a Romanesque coliseum, having to win over the growing crowds of psychotic bunnies by performing well in minigames. There was a sense of purpose to the task at hand, and success opened new games for multiplayer mode.
In the sequel, the rabbids invade Earth and Rayman must travel to different cities around the world to stop them. The introductory video is funny, but there's no game path laid out and it's too easy to quickly open up all the minigames — about 50 instead of the nearly 70 offered by the original "Rayman Raving Rabbids."
The good news is the bunnies are just as nuts as ever and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.
In "Are We There Yet?" a perturbed Rayman sits in the driver's seat of a station wagon packed with misbehaving juvenile bunnies. Score points by using the Wii remote to slap the ones who are acting up. Hit the wrong ones and you'll lose points.
"Dial R for Rabbids" throws players in a theater full of bunnies trying to get away with gabbing on their cell phones during a movie showing. Raise the Wii remote up to your ear to talk, quickly drop it down when the usher barges in and raise it up again to earn more points after he leaves.
In "Burgerinni," your character becomes a waiter and must maneuver through the "ristorante" to deliver piled-high burgers to a waiting "Godfather"-like customer. It's more fun in multiplayer mode, as competing waiters collide to send burger layers, and each other, flying off the sides.
Others minigames are so shallow they seem almost pointless.
In "Timber," you shake your Wii remote to saw the tree branch on which you're sitting to the ground. That's it.
"American Football" involves running aimlessly around a football field and avoiding other players while trying to hold onto the ball.
The dancing minigames were favorites of the original title, and each played a key part in advancing to new levels. They were sort of hand controller versions of "Dance Dance Revolution," prompting players to use their Wii remote and drum sticks to keep beat with the dancing bunnies.
"Rayman Raving Rabbids 2" scraps the original dancing games in favor of ones that let players choose one of four musical instruments and play as part of a band. The game overreaches here, and they're just not as fun as in the original. A simple retooling with new songs would have worked better.
The battle scenes in which players shoot plungers at the crazy meandering bunnies are entertaining, and the sequel trades out the animated backgrounds for full-motion video of such cities as New York and Paris. It's an interesting blend of real and cartoon, akin to the "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" movie.
"Rayman Raving Rabbids 2" has its moments, but it had a tough act to follow and doesn't quite meet the high expectations.