You may love, or hate, the Raving Rabbids. We'd understand either stance. On the one hand, the little vignettes they appear in promoting each game are generally quite funny, and they've appeared in plenty of decent party games on the Wii. On the other hand, they've literally overrun the classic Rayman series that spawned them, to the point where they've had just as many titles as Rayman. Thankfully it finally looks like the two series are diverging, with Rayman Origins coming...sometime..., and Rabbids 3D hitting the 3DS as a 2D platformer. Is this the ideal combination for a 3DS launch title, or have the Rabbids begun to wear out their welcome?
As a 2D platformer, Rabbids 3D sees you guide a Rabbid around four worlds, or time periods we should say. Yes, the plot such as it is for Rabbids 3D involves a time-travelling washing machine transporting the Rabbids through time for no real reason or goal, we guess they just want to try leaping from life to life, putting right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that the next leap will be the leap home. Or something like that. The time periods on offer are Prehistoric, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome & Greece and Medieval Europe. It's a reasonably diverse selection of locations, but there's not a lot of variety in what you'll be doing across the various eras.
All you really do in Rabbids 3D is guide your Rabbid through the game's 64 levels, forever running to the right and collecting rubber duckies and what look like cheese wheels. Occasionally you'll come across enemies, who are other era-appropriate Rabbids, where you'll have the opportunity to 'thwack' them. Most enemies can be defeated in just a few hits, although sometimes you can ground pound their heads to collect hats from them. Hats and shirts can be collected from fallen Rabbids to accessorise your own, should you feel the need to replay the game with your Rabbid in suit or a cowboy outfit. The rubber ducks you collect contribute to your overall score, which unlocks extra levels and little 3D dioramas that are frankly useless and not funny. You also have to collect energy spheres to unlock certain levels, and it can be extremely frustrating if you miss one, as the game's world map doesn't specify which levels have spheres, and which ones don't. You have to enter each level one by one and check the bottom screen to see if the sphere icon appears, which gets old real fast.
The gameplay becomes monotonous fairly quickly, despite the fact that after the first two dead easy worlds that see you stock up on tonnes of extra lives, the difficulty suddenly ramps up in the remaining two (although it's still not too taxing). There's never really much skill involved. In fact, we didn't even realise we could perform a running jump until halfway through the game, when the game introduced larger gaps. It's difficult to describe why the gameplay is so uninspiring, as a lot of the elements of other good platformers are present, with traps and hazards becoming more and more prevalent as you continue on. There are a couple of levels where you're 'chased', which are a little more engaging. Maybe it's because the charm of the Rabbids is largely lost amongst all this. You never really get to see them do anything funny. Whenever you meet a new enemy type, a short in-game vignette will play but they're all just missed opportunities for comedy, and never elicit a laugh. There are 'boss levels' of a sort, where you just have to thwack a number of Rabbids, but they never pose much of a challenge.
It's a shame there's not more visual slapstick in Rabbids 3D because the graphics are actually OK. The Rabbids themselves are quite well detailed, but we never really get to see them up close in-game. The 3D effect, as you might expect in a 2D platformer, is superfluous and only used as a gimmick. While scenery fills the foreground and background, none of it ever interacts with your Rabbid. Occasionally, a bug will fly around in the foreground and attach itself to the screen, which is a cool effect and obscures your view for a few seconds, but it is very rarely used. There's also a cute effect when you die that sees your Rabbid smashing the 3DS' screen, but that's about the extent of the 3D integration.
The problem with Rabbids 3D is that it's just such a pedestrian experience. The level design is so uninspired that there's no incentive to keep playing, when you know the reward is just more levels. The Rabbids themselves are never funny, and the 3D effect really is just a gimmick. Little kids are going to get the most out of this title, as its relatively inoffensive, largely quite easy and quite colourful. But for everyone else picking up a 3DS at launch, this should not be your first port of call as you search for a decent launch title.