Imagine you're a game developer, looking at Nintendo's new console - what do you see? If you answered 'theme park' then you're not alone, as both Nintendo, with Nintendo Land, and Ubisoft's Rabbids Land seem to have had the same idea. But although they're both collections of minigames, there's more of a difference to these than the names suggest - while Nintendo Land is simply a collection of a dozen minigames that you can play at any time, Rabbids Land instead drip-feeds you games as you and your friends BWAAAAHHHH your way around a Mario Party-style board game.
The main mode in Rabbids Land is the Trophy Race, where one to four players take part in a board game. The aim of the game here is to be the first amass ten trophies by winning mini games, correctly answering quiz questions, or benefiting from one of the lucky item squares, before heading back to the centre space to be crowned the winner. In order to jazz things up a bit, ever square on the board has some sort of outcome - some let you roll the dice again, others give you a 'present' of an item you can use to help you get ahead, while castles kick-start one of the twenty mini-games (which we'll talk about later).
One of the more unusual squares are the question mark bubbles, which ask you to answer a random question in order to win a trophy. Mostly seeming to be centred around random facts to do with bodily functions, such as the young-child-destroying "How much time a human would need to fart for to produce the same amount of energy as an atomic bomb" (they'll be lucky to answer the question for the tears in their eyes), once the chosen player has selected their answer, the other players can bet on whether they think you've answered correctly too, earning a trophy if their predictions prove true. Rounding off the all-action board are event squares, which can cause any number of things to happen, from triggering a spur of the moment mini-game; causing a Rabbid thief to start patrolling the board, stealing trophies off the people he passes; or even launching a bomb that hangs dauntingly over players' heads, counting down with each space that's moved.
While the board game itself is fairly uninspired, with just a single circular board to play on (compared to the usual Mario Party four or five), it's the mini-games that are arguably the main attraction here, with twenty to play through in total. It turns out though, that twenty isn't really an awful lot in the grand scheme of things, and you'll find you end up repeating them more than you'd like, often in the same Trophy Race too. Each mini-game pits two players against each other, one with the Wii U's trademark GamePad and another with a Wii Remote (and sometimes the Nunchuck, depending on the game) - sometimes working together, sometimes competing, with players being rewarded with three trophies for each win. We just wish there was more of a choice, especially as the ones included are by and large rather good.
A particular favourite, 'Wet The Bed' opens with a trademark Rabbids cut-scene to set things up, and has the GamePad player tracing round a series of shapes on a flower bed to make the plants bloom - to scupper their progress, the player with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck has to leg it around the screen, hammering A to rub out the outlines so the other player has nothing to follow. 'Lose Your Marbles' has been another popular game amongst the Everybody Plays team and their kin, which sees the GamePad player rolling three green balls around an Indiana Jones-inspired maze trying to nab purple gems, while the Wii Remote player moves a single, larger golden ball around, attempting to squash all of the other player's marbles before they can win.
Assuming the player with the Wii Remote/Nunchuck combo isn't *too* good at rhythm games (unlike our Editor), 'Starship Discovery' is another fun game, this time taking place atop a massive rollercoaster. With a Wii Remote in one hand and a Nunchuck in the other, the one player completes a rhythm game by shaking either the Wii Remote, Nunchuck, or both in time with a series of scrolling notes, with each one they hit causing the rollercoaster car to belch a big fireball out the back. Meanwhile, the player with the GamePad, whose Rabbid is surfing along behind the car has to dodge the incoming balls of fire by tilting the GamePad left and right - accidentally plough into them too many times, and your Rabbid is toast.
Of course there are a couple of dud mini-games in the mix - ones that result in a collective sigh when they appear. The one we found the worst was 'Octoblow', in which the player with the GamePad has to blow into the built-in microphone to send penguins sliding across the ice and into the side of the other player's ship - the problem here being that blowing isn't really the best of inputs, particularly if you're coming down with the winter lurgy like we were. Puffing away for several minutes is tiring at best, and the game would have been much better suited to using a button to fire penguins, or perhaps even swiping on the Touch Screen. The player with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck has things much easier, moving their ship with the analogue stick and swinging the Wii Remote downwards to plop a snowball shield down to block incoming penguins.
'One Ring To Buckle Them All' also tends to be a bit of a dodgy one, just because it's so hard. A co-operative game, the GamePad player has to scroll around a ride using the GamePad touch screen, and describe the naughty Rabbids that haven't strapped themselves in properly, so the player with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck can go round and buckle them up. Lose too many Rabbids when the ride starts swinging, and it's game over for the pair of them - something which seems to happen often, as the time limit for securing the Rabbids is so tight you rarely manage to strap everyone in.
Besides being able to jump in and play any of the unlocked mini-games in two player, there's also a cursory single-player 'Treasure Hunt' mode, where you can play through all your unlocked mini-games searching for the three coins hidden in each - collect enough coins, and you'll unlock some of the popular Rabbids videos, which see the little squidgy guys getting up to no good in the Extras section. While it's nice to have an option for lone players, it's really not worth buying Rabbids Land unless you have friends to play the main Trophy Race board game with - for starters, you need to unlock the mini-games in this main mode first, and the single-player isn't substantial enough to keep you entertained for very long.
Initially we weren't a fan of Rabbids Land for a variety of reason - the lone board, the ten trophy rule, and the fact only two players can take part in the mini games, but Rabbids Land seems to be one of those games that grows on you with time. Our first go in four player left us decidedly underwhelmed, but as we got more familiar with many of the mini-games, things quickly started to feel much, much better. If you have the friends to play with, Rabbids Land is a fun party game for the Wii U that's only real let down is it's scant twenty mini-games.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii U