Those Rabbids - they can do anything, can't they? From their humble beginnings as the sidekicks in a minigame collection, they've been to the moon, gone back in time, hosted a board game party, kickstarted the Just Dance craze, and starred in one of the best Kinect games so far. Not content with having just taken over games machines, they've even taken their cretinous antics to TV, starring in their own slapstick cartoon series, Rabbids Invasion on Nickelodeon. And now, they're bringing their TV show to games consoles too.
As the name suggests, Rabbids Invasion: The Interactive TV Show is, well, an interactive TV show. It's not so much a game as an exercise in pointing at the screen every now and then, or waving your arms about like you're trying to bat away a million invisible wasps. It's a strange combination that harks back to the early days of interactive TV, when companies sold teddy bears that would interact with a TV program as you watched - only this is more technological, and quite a bit less reliable.
For your (at the time of writing) £20-30, what you get is a collection of 20 of the Rabbids finest, and most chaotic episodes on a disc, with an added layer of interactivity over the top of it. When we say interactivity, we mean it in the loosest sense of the word, as you can't actually affect the show in any way - all you can really do is point at it.
Your interactions are broken down into four main types - sometimes, the game asks you to watch out for an object, and you have to point at the screen when you see it; sometimes, you have to match a rabbid's pose; sometimes, you'll have to scream at the sensor; and sometimes, you'll have to perform a certain action, copying what a Rabbid's doing. Complete the actions, and you'll be awarded points - and up to four players can play together. It may all be very straightforward - but it's actually not all that bad.
The episodes themselves are the usual Rabbids mix of over the top craziness, inquisitive minds and slapstick conseqeunces, as the oddly shaped rabbits find themselves enamoured with everyday objects, before inevitably coming a cropper, or discovering something they can do to beat each other up. Whether they're amazed by a radio, then terrified when an advert featuring a dog comes on, only to love it again when they realise it's been wired up weirdly, and can give them an electric charge, or end up being mistaken for an alien after playing with a few bits and pieces they found lying around at a petrol station, they're suitably off the wall, and usually involve plenty of speechless humour, and a lot of splatted rabbids.
Unfortunately, though, as is often the way with these things, even the rudimentary motion tracking here often proves too much for poor old Kinect. When the film asks you to match a Rabbid's pose, Kinect will sometimes simply ignore you completely, leaving you to miss out on some valuable points. Unfortunately, as there's no feedback on screen of what the game's actually seeing, you'll be left with no idea why you've missed out, either - if it told you your elbow was too low, or your head was tilted forward too much, you could do something about it - but instead, you're left in the dark.
The actions, on the other hand, seem to work pretty well for the most part, and the faster/harder you pretend you're climbing a ladder/shaking a radio/using some plungers to get yourself up the side of an escalator, the more points you'll receive - which is weird, seeing as we imagine the actions should be harder for Kinect to track than the poses, yet they work a lot better. Needless to say, pointing at the screen mostly works OK, even if Kinect does sometimes totally ignore you, and screaming is detected welll too - although it's not something we really ever want to see in a Kinect game. No one wants to hear kids yelling at the TV - not least their parents.
The episodes themselves are divided up into two types - either the "normal" episodes, which have a pretty gentle pace, and fairly regularly spaced actions for you to follow - or the "race" episodes, which are just insane. In the normal episodes, things aren't too bad, as you can usually manage to both watch the episode, and keep an eye out for the little icon that warns you to look for things - but in the race episodes, things get a little bit crazy. Here, rather than having a gap between the actions, you're pretty much always expected to be doing something, transitioning between looking for an item, to pulling off a pose, to performing an action with almost no chance to breathe. The problem is, this effectively stops you watching the episode itself, as with so much going on, you really don't have any time to think about anything else.
While up to four players can play together - in theory - you'll be pretty hard pushed to make it work in practice, again thanks to the wonders of Kinect. Sit too close together, move too much, crouch too much, sit down, or fold your arms or legs (basically, everything an excited/fidgety kid will do), and Kinect will most likely simply lose you altogether, only to suddenly rediscover you again, and decide you're a totally different player. Yes, while you're all competing to get the highest score in the game, Kinect will sometimes lose track of you, and then switch you with another player - which means you've lost your score, and someone else has taken it. Plenty of room for arguments there, then.
Technical glitches aside, perhaps the biggest problem with all this though is that you're only buying half the game. While there are 20 episodes on the disc, and one available as a free download, there's another 15 waiting to be downloaded from your favourite console's marketplace - for "just" £11.99 extra. It's not really a budget release if you only get part of the game, though, is it?
Still, Rabbids Invasion is one of those tricky games to rate, because it really depends what you're buying it for. As a game itself, it may not be up to much, but 20 episodes of the Rabbids TV show for £20 isn't that bad a deal - and they are pretty funny. While the menu's a bit of a faff, so you won't be able to leave it on for younger kids to watch and entertain themselves, and the episodes themselves have to be unlocked in game, leaving you to replay earlier stages in the hope of getting enough points, there's plenty of laughs in here, to the point where the added on Kinect features feel like a bonus. That said, those same Kinect features are handled in traditionally haphazard Kinect style - something which never fails to frustrate, as they could so easily have been achieved using a more reliable motion sensing device (like, say, a Wii Remote), and how much mileage you get out of this will depend on your kid. If they're old enough to realise the game's stealing points from them by simply not bothering tracking what they're doing, they may get frustrated, while younger ones may end up having a barrel of laughs.
If you're buying this expecting a rabbids game that's anywhere near as good as the ones that have come before, this certainly isn't for you - but if you're just looking to own the Rabbids shows on disc, this may be worth considering when it starts to drop in price.