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I'm a huge fan of the Rayman Raving Rabbids series of games and, in particular, the Rabbids characters themselves. In my opinion, through the first two games of the series (both on the Wii and the Nintendo DS) they were some of the funniest and most original video game characters to come about in at least the past decade. The short promotional videos released by the game's developer, Ubisoft, were absolutely classic, the original Rayman Raving Rabbids for Wii was fantastic, and the DS version of the sequel was a lot of fun too. So after playing Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party for Nintendo's dual-screen handheld, I have to ask myself, what happened?
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When you first fire up the game's Adventure Mode, you see a short cinema of a Rabbid flushing itself down the toilet, which it seems is part of some kind of Rube Goldberg device that sends the critter through the dryer and into the television set. You are then told that the Rabbids have invaded the television and you need to get them out. Yep, that's all there is to it. Okay, I can forgive that the premise isn't considerably deep. I can't forgive that it just isn't funny, and that despite the game's title, there's really little evidence that this is supposed to be a parody of network television. The comedy is nowhere to be found. Sure, there is a clip of a Rabbid getting caught up in microphone cables, which is funny at first, but you are forced to sit through the same scene every single time you win a minigame. You'll be watching it over and over and over and over and over and over -- and if you thought reading that was annoying, you've only begun to taste the misery I experienced courtesy of that one lone video clip.
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While the free-play style Score Mode and the ability to customize a Rabbid both return, the aforementioned Adventure Mode is the primary focus here, especially since you need to first play a minigame here before it becomes available in Score Mode. While in Raving Rabbids 2 for the DS you needed to visit different countries and play through the minigames to advance, this time around the game borrows liberally from the Mario Party series and has you travel around a board game, trying to land on question marks and TV icons, in order to kick a set number of Rabbids out of the television set. There are different sets of minigames broken down by "channels" but there seems to be little rhyme or reason as to which games are in which channel. Each channel has seven minigames, and when you choose which channel you want, a list of them appears and one is randomly highlighted by a spinning bar. Sound familiar, Mario Party fans?
The minigames themselves are problematic as well. I did have fun with some of them. For example, Rabbid Fight, which has you using a rubber band to slingshot your crazed critter into other Rabbids, is enjoyable enough. However, even some of the ones that start out fun, like the bubble popping and baseball ones, wind up getting tedious as the game forces for so darn long. Also, most of the games are mind-numbingly easy, in part because you're give so much time to complete your goal, and even if you fail, you'll probably still be allowed to move at least one or two spaces on the game board. Even the Adventure Mode game itself is unbearably easy, as it's essentially impossible to lose. Just keep playing and you'll eventually win. The lone exception to this rule would be the music games, which like in Raving Rabbids 2 DS require you to touch icons at just the right moment. However, their locations are different depending upon the song, which can sometimes make it hard to see them since your hand can get in the way. I imagine that's why they were left at the bottom in this game's predecessor. The added difficulty, as well as the fact that the songs aren't as good this time around in terms of both song selection and performance, absolutely ruined it for me.
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There are some control issues as well. For the most part, the game is controlled using the stylus and the built-in DS microphone. The stylus games control fairly well for the most part, although I did run into some instances where the game detected movements I didn't make. Any of the games that require you to draw objects are hit and miss, as it doesn't seem to require that you use any artistic effort whatsoever. In fact, I had an easier time making objects appear just by mindlessly drawing squiggly circles than by trying to create any specific shapes, which the game often rejected as a failed effort. The microphone games are touchy as well. On one occasion, I nearly knocked myself breathless trying to maintain a steady flow of air, but it was all for naught. So when the next game like this came around, I barely put forth any effort whatsoever, and wound up winning in a matter of seconds, somehow. I don't understand it, but I know that's not how it's supposed to work.
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Graphics and Sound
While there aren't exactly a lot of CG movies included in Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party, the ones that are here are well done. For the most part, though, you'll be looking at hand-drawn Rabbids, just like in the previous DS entry in the series. I don't really have a problem with that, but there are other issues with the game's visuals, such as the fact that the game board used in Adventure Mode is an absolute joke. There's no detail to it whatsoever; it's just a bunch of squares, no bigger than the touch screen, with little icons to represent Rayman, a Rabbit, a TV set, and a handful of green question-mark squares. Also, while I didn't mess around with it too long, the Rabbid customization appears to actually have fewer options available than in the Raving Rabbids 2, and nowhere could I see a way to change its color. As for the sound, well, the less said about it, the better. The music is appalling, even the licensed songs, which for some reason don't have the same kind of manic charm to them as the vocal tracks in previous games. The trademark Rabbid screams are here, but not even they can save the day.
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As a true-blue Raving Rabbids fan, writing this review makes me a little sad. Perhaps it's because I liked the DS version of the last game of the series and was really looking forward to seeing how they could improve upon that title's formula. Perhaps it's because they ruined my favorite part of the game, the rhythm minigames that in Raving Rabbids 2 features cool tracks such as "Smoke on the Water" and were actually fun, not frustrating. Perhaps it's because there is so much comedic potential for these characters, and it's a shame to see it go to waste. Whatever the reason, I cannot bring myself to recommend Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party. It's an inferior product that pales in comparison to Mario Party DS as a handheld board/party game and to Raving Rabbids 2 as a DS showcase for the harebrained hares themselves. I seriously hope that the Wii version of TV Party turns out decent, because the Rabbids are far too entertaining to die a premature death due to subpar efforts such as this.