It’s going to be years before we have a real sense of the potential of the Wii U and its GamePad. As with any new gaming technology, it takes time for the shine to wear off and for developers to really begin to think outside the box about what the new tech can do. Maybe one day there will be a Wii U game that comes along and blows our freaking minds. It could incorporate the GamePad in ways that no one has even dreamed of. We’ll then call everyone we know and tell them about this new miracle born unto the Wii U, and spend far too many hours trying to convince people of the value of the system despite a complete and utter lack of interest. It will change our lives and bring peace to the world. But we’re not quite there yet.
Instead, the majority of the Wii U games are simply finding ways to incorporate the controller in somewhat basic, albeit original ways that could not have been offered until this technology. Developers are still feeling their way around the new tech, but some are more adventurous than others.
You have to give credit to Ubisoft for finding ways to use every possible application of the GamePad. Like a hunter making sure that nothing of their kill goes to waste, Ubisoft – at least in the case of Rabbids Land – has designed a game to fully embrace the GamePad, even though it comes at the cost of the game itself.
Designed around a series of minigames, Rabbids Land takes full use of the GamePad in a purely mechanical sense. Each of the GamePad’s functions are put to use in some fashion. The gyroscope is used to steer through an obstacle course, the touchscreen is used in memory-like games, the dual displays are used to play games that require you to coordinate between the two displays, and more. Every aspect of the GamePad is present, which makes it an excellent tutorial, if not always particularly fun.
Rabbids Land is presented primarily as a board game for up to four players. You’ll need Wii Remotes with the nunchucks as well, but the majority of the action takes place on the GamePad. The general idea of the board game is that you are represented by a rabbid that acts as your game piece and avatar, and the best part of Rabbids Land is the entertaining and amusing reaction of the rabbids themselves. There is a reason these characters spun off of Rayman and have continued to thrive. There’s a brilliance in their design that makes them endearing and amusing, even when you see the same things again and again – and you will in this game. They’ve also never looked better than in the HD on the Wii U.
The goal is to collect 10 trophies and then return to the starting spot. Each player takes a turn and begins with the roll of a die that you stop from spinning by touching the icon on the GamePad. The number you roll then gives you the number of spots you can move – always in a clockwise direction – on one of two rings. Every square then has something different, and can range from another roll to a quiz that asks you general questions, but the real highlight is the events, the minigames that make up the majority of the content.
These games can also be played individually, but they work much better as part of the bigger board game theme.
If you have a good group that is willing to engage in the board game scenario, then Rabbids Land can be fun. Playing it solo is just not worth it though, as the computer takes its turns along with the human player and unless the computer lands on a challenge, and unless that challenge picks you (which it often doesn’t), you are left sitting there waiting.
Tedium is an ever present companion in Rabbids Land. Whether you are playing against the computer or not, the game quickly begins to drag. From the unnecessarily lengthy and unskippable die rolling to the recycled animation of a characters receiving or losing trophies, there are huge chunks of time when you are left with nothing to do.
When the games do kick in, they are fun for a brief, shining moment for the two people chosen. The other players are left to watch, but eventually they will have a chance to play as well. After a few plays, however, repetition becomes an issue. There are plenty of games, but a limited number of styles that are possible. Ubisoft does an excellent job of getting the most out of the GamePad, and there are some clever uses of the new technology, but it’s also limited in scope. Once you’ve played a game a few times the novelty quickly wears off.
Rabbids Land is an impressive tutorial for what the GamePad and the WIi U can do, but it lacks the depth to really be much more. It is also inadvertently competing with the far superior Nintendo Land for party game dominance, and despite a good concept of bringing a board game to life, and despite the variety the games offered to you, there is still a very limited life span at work that renders Rabbids Land quickly forgettable.
Score: 5.5 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Wii U using a copy provided by the publisher)