Has Sega managed to improve its quirky mix of naughtiness and scribbling for this DS sequel? We discover where babies come from inside.
The DS launch in late 2004 served as a sandbox of sorts to see what developers were going to do with the dual screens and touch-sensitive display of the portable. While games that would fully utilize the system's many unique features were still a way off, there were a couple that tiptoed into originality. Now, just over a year later, Sega is back with Rub Rabbits, a sequel to Feel the Magic: XX/XY (aka Project Rub). Disappointingly, it doesn't offer the advancements I would have liked.
The original Rub game played very much like a collection of minigames threaded together by a largely superfluous story. That's not to say that it wasn't fun. As I alluded to above, I thought it was one of the better uses of the DS hardware. But having played the superb DS games that have come out over the last six months, it feels like a step back to play through something so similar again.
Mechanically, there's not all that much that separates the two series offerings. While the more left-field minigames are gone (no arithmetic gymnastics required here, for instance) and there is a wider variety on offer, you're essentially doing more of the same while in pursuit of your monochromatic partner, and it still feels mostly like a collection of minigames, such as crashing snowballs into other snowballs or rubbing ointment on your girlfriend's leg.
As the WarioWare series has shown, being all about the minigames is not always bad, but I got the sense playing Rub Rabbits that Sonic Team was struggling to come up with novel ways to use the hardware. This is supported by the few minigames that are repeated - inexcusable when there are only around three-dozen of them in the first place.
By far the most enjoyable minigames are the "bosses", which mostly ask you to move around on the screen while using spinning motions to attack. I also got a primal thrill out of the many minigames based on rapid tap-tap-tapping to destroy the obstacles blocking my path to true love. By far the most loathsome are those that use the microphone. As with several others, fine control here is hard to find. The only good thing about them is that there are less than a handful of them. I would have liked to see more of a general emphasis on finesse rather than the brute-force approach you're so often forced into.
A bigger problem than the lack of subtlety is the brevity of the main game, and this is largely the fault of a difficulty level skewed much lower than is necessary. Yes, a Ninja Gaiden-like demand for perfection would have been out of place here, but when you can breeze through most of the levels first time through you know that there's wiggle room. Of course, if difficulty is what you want, you can always spend your time playing through the individual puzzles, which are unlocked as you progress through story mode. You also unlock costumes for your girlfriend, who you can outfit afterwards and even design clothes for.
The original Japanese title, translated as Where Do Babies Come From?, might give you the impression that there are more mature themes on offer, but you'd be wrong. Apart from landing your ladyfriend and a simplistic "baby making" cooperative minigame, there's little baby-related gameplay to be found here. Sonic Team has, however, gone out of its way to make this as social a game as possible. There's no online play, but the local (on one DS and several, including via game sharing) multiplayer modes go a long way to making up for it.
Ultimately whether you like Rub Rabbits will depend on how much you enjoyed the first one. The sequel is definitely better but the quality of games on the DS has ramped up recently and it might not be as fun as it was first time around. The short playtime could also put people off, though in an age where no one finishes games anymore, perhaps that's not so bad.
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New widescreen trailer (normal quality)
Thought we might as well stick this footage of the Project Rub sequel here as well. (Sega)
|2.05m||16MB||DF, SD, 30