The developers of Rabbids Go Home have no idea how to make a third-party Wii game. First, you debug code from an old, rejected GameCube project. Then you add inane waggle controls—because, you know, immersion. Create cover art in Photoshop Elements, pluralize the title with a Z if the game is for girlz, and you’re done. But Rabbids Go Home doesn’t go by the book. No, the snobs at Ubisoft Montpellier commissioned an original brass-band soundtrack, hired witty writers, and obsessed over the details of their character animations. Some nerve. Rabbids Go Home makes everyone else look bad, including the Raving Rabbids mini-game collections that preceded it.
The demented bunnies from the Rayman series want to go home. Because they are stupider—yet more ambitious—than normal rabbits, they decide that their home is the moon, and they decide to build a junk pile tall enough to reach it. So with two Rabbids and a shopping cart, you loot a nearby city Katamari style, pilfering from angry townspeople as you hoard your way toward lunar bliss. The cart has a great sashay, unhinged but natural as you navigate it through each level’s urban obstacle courses. The challenge is low here—death is rare—and while each level offers a twist on the push-cart/grab-item template, the simple action can’t sustain a marathon session of gaming.
Played in one- or two-hour stretches, though, Rabbids Go Home offers constant rewards. The average gameplay is bolstered by a cartoon world with the polish of a Wallace & Gromit film. The Rabbids investigate new acquisitions in funny vignettes that get surprising comic mileage out of mundane items like a traffic cone. The supporting cast is full of treasures too, like a self-important TSA drone who yelps, “Someone call Barack and Michelle!” when the Rabbids barge through security. In that same airport level, you’ll hear John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane” playing on a mechanic’s radio, one of many classic backing tracks that add a touch of sophistication, even if the license fees were apparently purchased with Capri Sun product-placement dough.
Mario and Zelda aside, the Wii library has been aesthetically anemic for so long that it’s tempting to grade the platform’s games on a curve. Rabbids Go Home reminds us why that charity is unnecessary. The flesh of Nintendo’s little white box is willing; this game provides some spirit to match.