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Rabbids Go Home Co-Op Throwback Review — Steal Until You Keel

Zach: The Wii housed many unofficial trademark franchises, but perhaps the boldest was the Rabbids series. The party animals crashed every platform you could think of for their first installment, but soon settled as the informal Nintendo party game franchise when Mario Party or Warioware or Wii Play wouldn’t suffice. Nonetheless, the franchise hit something of a high watermark with Rabbids Go Home, the collectathon Black Friday simulator that remains fairly distinct today.

 

Max: The premise is simple. The Rabbids believe they hail from the moon, and they wish to return there. To do so, they plan to build a giant tower to the moon created exclusively out of random junk. What follows is an hours-long quest through a variety of levels were a small squad of rabbids stuff a shopping cart with any and all objects they can find, which can include crates of soda, canned goods, fire extinguishers, paint cans, clothes stolen off people’s backs, and small animals. The goal of each level is to collect a singular large item, desks, cars, hospital beds, cows, and jet engines

 

Zach: The structure is deceptively simple. Levels are five minutes to a half hour in length and all operate around the same objective, collect as many nonsensical items as you can and move to the next arena to do it again. Out-and-out platforming is rather rare, instead the knowingly unsteady handling of whatever informal vehicle your characters operate adds a steady sense of chaos to the title. Challenge does occasionally manifest in the form of enemies or precarious platforms, but mostly Rabbids Go Home aims to amuse and perplex rather than challenge. This is a smart decision given how wide of an audience the game appeals to as a result.

 

One would think this may be a more efficient means of getting to the moon… one would think…

Max: Of course, “simple” gameplay doesn’t mean straightforward gameplay. While a lot of the levels are simply “run around and grab as many items as you can”, as many others introduce special mechanics like floatier platforming, inner tubing down a mountain, a mostly dark level, racing a timer or another entity, or blasting through an airport while your shopping cart is being propelled by a stolen jet engine. Variety is the name of the game here, and even when the level mechanics are similar, they’ll be built in environments to make it feel suitably different.

 

Zach: In many respects, the game appears to be a scaled-back effort from Ubisoft. The game surely doesn’t allow its campaign to waste much time, unfolding over the course of about six hours. In-game engine cutscenes are minimal (with a single transition clip repeated constantly), hub worlds are rather confined and minor technical hitches do rear their head, but these cut corners rarely detract from the oddity on display. Rabbids Go Home is a surprisingly risky effort at points, which would perhaps explain a modest budget that would account for some of its technical failings.

 

Max: The entire game is cooperative, but it’s the same style as Super Mario Galaxy, where the second player is merely a cursor with a small handful of interactions. They can pick up items within a certain range (although some items are off limits and it’s not always clear why), and shoot a rabbid from the cursor. This can detonate explosives placed in levels, stun enemies, and knock things over, which is a moderate range of abilities. They’re more of an extension of the player, as player one can do all those things as well, but having the second player around is certainly useful when it comes to picking up items or managing combat. As the second player in our adventure to the moon, while I had noticeably less control than Zach did, but I certainly wasn’t bored, as the ability to throw rabbids at just about anything was certainly entertaining, and the general humor of the game isn’t tied too heavily to the gameplay so much as the experience.

A life of crime carries its own perks

Zach: Rabbids Go Home carries an isolated aesthetic, separate from and more coherent than the rest of the games in the franchise. Taking place somewhere between the 1950s and 1970s during a peak of consumerist culture, the game uses its setting to gently prod at the swiftly advancing gadgetry of the era and those who had to have all of it. Environments possess the sleek geometry and stark, standalone colors of the Art Deco design. This is inherited through the style of the TVs and soda boxes you steal throughout but also the stage architecture itself. Vegas looks its most garish, supermarkets look as Pop Art as ever, and the whole environmental design bleeds the primary colors. The soundtrack is stacked with smooth soul, calypso, and contemporary country from the era, all licensed material played out of radios in-game, enhanced with a swinging original score of brass band music. If this sounds very sophisticated, I assure you it’s not.

 

Max: Much of the original soundtrack for the game sounds like it was played by people who have a lot of practice with in instrument they’re entirely unfamiliar with. In-universe, much of this music is played by the Rabbids themselves, and you can see them whaling away on brass instruments. It’s loud and raucous, but damn if it isn’t just as catchy and exciting. On top of that,  the licensed soundtrack benefits from an incredibly eclectic selection, including “Louie Louie”, “Farewell Jamaica”, and “Country Roads”, of all things. It’s very jarring when you’re running around, “Bwah!”-ing the pants off people, and all of the sudden you hear Harry Belafonte lamenting having to be on his way. Due to the nature of the game, however, that dissonance works completely in its favor.

 

Zach: The chaos provided by every facet of the game is ultimately grounded by how intuitive the gameplay is. Explained in a vacuum, it sounds borderline passive. The bulk of player progress stems from three actions, moving, the character integral “BWAH” attack, and moving faster. Enemies will fruitlessly box players in, but are powerless a few hearty BWAHs later. Levels are linear and hardly give a reason for players to catch their breath. The immediate joy of collecting generally absurd items in your bottomless shopping cart is delivered in an unrelenting capacity, taking precedence over more rigorous mechanics. Rabbids Go Home is easy to play in the sense that it’s easy to constantly return to, a “grind” for collectibles that doesn’t really ask much of you so much as shower you in eccentric spectacle to make the pursuit constantly entertaining.

 

Max: The levels are split into a handful of “worlds”, simply separated by a barrier that you need a certain amount of stuff to surpass. There’s a total of 31 levels, and with one thousand feet worth of items per level, you’ll have more than enough stuff to reach the 23,000 ft marker (because the moon is four and a half miles away, apparently) and end the game. Levels can be replayed for additional stuff, so if one manages to give you trouble, you can skip it and redo another to balance it out. None of the levels are particularly hard, and with a guaranteed 600 feet simply by playing the level, you’ll have no trouble making it to the moon in only a few hours.

Alien rabbit facsimiles with no concept of jumping > the average Wipeout contestant

Zach: Of course, not every item is a handout, spurring on replay value and giving the game something of a difficulty curve despite its children’s game makeup. Some of the platforming can bear the brunt of this, to an extent that increases challenge on a dime. This can detract from the occasional platforming-centric level because you generally lose all you’ve collected upon failing. Your collected items don’t carry over to your next life, making the checkpoint system a meager band-aid covering your wounded morale. Some of the more trial-and-error levels ditch taking away your stuff entirely, but the punishment’s presence runs counter to the collectathon purposes of the game and can lead to some frustrating restarts. Luckily, replaying each respective level isn’t too much of a hassle.

 

Max: Rabbids Go Home was certainly made for kids, considering its simple mechanics, ridiculous story, and obnoxious characters, but that doesn’t stop it from being far more enjoyable than it has any right to be. It’s simple, yes, but that simplicity allows for its absurd nature and unique gameplay mechanics. There’s absolutely nothing like it, and if you’ve got the time I’d highly recommend trying it out with a few friends.

 

Zach: It’s easy to praise Rabbids Go Home conditionally, saying it’s good for a children’s title, or ambitious for a third-party Wii game, but this does a disservice to the fact that the game manages to stand alone to this day. There isn’t much like the game within its own genre or otherwise, and given how intuitive of a playing experience it is, there’s little reason to not give it a chance.

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