Despite releasing in 2006, and being a
sequel prequel to a game I enjoyed just over a year earlier, I only just now got around to playing The Rub Rabbits!. I can’t explain the state of mind I was in at that time, but whatever, I’m over being that dude. That guy was a piece of garbage. John, of the Nintendo Fun Club Podcast, slapped that poison out of my body with a gift. The gift of…rub.
Does that sound weird? No. Don’t be a perv. John sent me The Rub Rabbits!, and it’s a fun game.
Playing The Rub Rabbits! eight-years late isn’t the most ideal situation. While I could call back to the launch day thrills of Feel the Magic to get me through its awkward moments, there’s no rose-tinted glasses laying around for TRR.
Yes, the game has its weak points, unless you’re some sort of stylus master raised on Palm Pilots. Some of the minigames are quite demanding, and only at their conclusion do they ever only call upon your abilities. Stampede for example, starts off simply enough with the task of tapping the bull-masked dudes that rush towards the screen. Once 100 of these guys are dealt with, the big mama bull comes along, towing along a rather large health bar. Between bouts of damaging her with a barrage of taps, she shoots a cluster of bombs at the player, which must diffused by (you guessed it) tapping them. The amount of bombs to dispose of becomes too much to bare in the time provided, and then it’s right back to the start. Other games follow this exact pattern, sometimes forcing me to rest my aching hand. This is not my first rodeo, mind you. I’ve been scratching DS touch screens for over a decade now, but only The Rub Rabbits! could bring me to tears.
For as tortuous as those handful of games are, the rest are fun, some were even delightful. I’m surprised by just how creative Sonic Team remained in the use of the DS’s unique features. Two-years into the handheld’s life and the studio still managed to impress with its creativity. My favourite example is Lovebomber, which finds the protagonist bound and left laying on the floor of the love-scorned villainess. She stands above you, raining down love bullets. In this situation, I’m forced to move the hero by twisting and angling his body, rolling him away from the incoming fire. His binding means his movement is stunted, but this only made the event more enjoyable. I found that many of The Rub Rabbits! events were fresh as hell, and never felt like repurposed content.
The minigames are assisted by the game’s narrative, which despite hinging on the same framework as its predecessor, manages to engage once more. It’s another darling tale of young love, one that charges you with overcoming countless setbacks. Tying the story and minigames to one another is genius, and allows each to feed off the other. The game ends as you’d imagine, but like any movie worth its salt, the real ending is after the credits. Turns out The Rub Rabbits! is a narrative prequel to Feel the Magic, as it concludes with the game’s protagonist forming the titular troupe (which would go on to aid FTM‘s hero).
It seems that despite defending the first game’s length, Sonic Team paid mind to the criticisms. TRR features a hand full of new modes, though I still argue that many of the series’ minigames don’t lend themselves well to any sort of high score competition. There’s a baby making mode that asks two players to share the handheld, slicing a cake down its centre as centered as possible. Once complete a baby is created, but its usefulness doesn’t go far beyond those initial laughs.
The Rub Rabbits! is a leaner, meaner follow up to Feel the Magic, one that doesn’t simply pile on new content, but instead addresses its predecessor’s issues. It’s a better game through and through, it’s just a shame it released on the heels of DS mania (New Super Mario Bros. and the DS Lite released just a few months later). It has its blemishes, but The Rub Rabbits! exists as a minigame collection done right.