Creators of games for the Nintendo Wii have often demanded of their players a controller-waggling vigour that has them jostling the Wii Remote like a man in rush to shake ketchup from a glass bottle. Enough of that.
Yesterday I tried a new Wii game that so easily could have required players to do that Wii waggle. But it does not. On purpose. The game was a non-final version of Raving Rabbids Travel in Time. It is a November release, a successor to Raving Rabbids TV Party of two years ago, the most recent of a line of Rabbids games classified by that often-pejorative term: mini-game collection.
In Travel in Time, you and up to three other players can control Rabbids who enter game challenges that are set during famous historical missions. The missions are grouped by gameplay style. There are splitscreen shooting games and side-scrolling-bouncing games. There are flying games played by wielding the Wii Remote and Nunchuk like the motion-sensitive handlebars of an airliner's flight yoke. There are no games, Travel in Time's lead designer told me, that involve vigorously shaking the controller.
"No waggle," he proudly said, stunning me so much I forgot to take down his name.
Shaking the Wii Remote has become a classic Wii gamer manoeuvre. You shake it in Super Mario Galaxy to do a twirling attack. You shake it in Wii light gun games to reload. Mostly, you shake it in Wii party games, the kind of games that are supposed to be played by anyone in the household, young or old, anyone who might not be interested or able to press a proper button but sure can deal with being asked to shake a Wii Remote as fast as they can, faster than the other people playing the game.
There have been waggle controls in Rabbids games before. It made sense. Rabbids games are among the most popular Wii party games. They are stuffed with activities. And the Rabbids are the kind of ludicrous creations - perpetually screaming pranksters - whose games would naturally complement the physical experience of a group of people in a living room all shaking their Wii Remotes like they're all trying to get that ketchup out, or shake some orange juice or whatever analogy you fancy.
Enough with all that, Ubisoft is saying with Travel in Time. Waggle no more? At least: let's take a rest. The design goal for Travel in Time is to provide mini-games with more depth. For example, I tried a game that had me flying back to the Renaissance so that the Rabbids could try to make Mona Lisa smile. Soon, somehow, I was in control of one of four Rabbids flying a three-lap race, picking up Mario Kart-style power-ups along the way. In a 1929 stock market crash level, I teamed with the designer against two computer-controlled Rabbids to race through a room carrying boxes cooperatively toward a goal. Each Rabbids was tethered to its partner by unbreakable toilet paper, requiring the cooperation of players in a good Splinter Cell co-op mission. We did not waggle, which isn't to say a single hard shake of the Remote didn't sometimes punch another Rabbid.
No control technique is necessarily awful. But some are over-used. Some benefit from a rest. With Raving Rabbids Travel in Time, Ubisoft just might show that a party game - a collection of mini-games (don't hold it against them!) - can be waggle-free. Less flailing? More depth? Sounds good.
Raving Rabbids Travel in Time is set for release on the Wii this November. Unlike last year's Rabbids Go Home, this game is not a linear adventure for one, but a party game designed for up to four players. Solo-gamers will be accompanied by computer-controlled Rabbids. The game is set partially in a interactive and silly museum which enables time travel to the themed games. Lots of jokes are in there, including some player-controlled Rabbid burping. No waggle.