Review by MaxH
"If anyone can create an ugly, utterly unlikeable video-game hero, it's the French"
'A Playstation game? On a portable machine? It would never work!'. I'm sure this is what people would have said if such a topic of conversation ever came up. But the truth is, it works even better on the Gameboy Advance than it did on the playstation (I find the GBA D-pad to be more responsive). The control is tighter and it doesn't seem as unfair as it used to. In fact in what it does, Rayman Advance is pretty much perfect. But times have changed, do we REALLY need a playable enough addition to a genre which hasn't seen ANY notable originality or innovation since Mario 64?
Before I started reviewing on this site, this game might have scored an eight, possible even a nine. But I'm really running out of interesting things to say about games like this. I can't flame them because they're good, and I can't rave about them because they aren't special. The platforming genre is in danger of becoming unpopular if third-party developers don't get some god-damn ideas of their own. Ubi Soft are perfectly competent developers -this game is testament to that- but they just have some horrifically unoriginal games.
I'll return to my ranting soon, I suppose I'd better mention some stuff about the actual game. Evil Mr. Dark has kidnapped the electoons and imprisoned them in cages, journey through the world and collect them. That's the story. Also, Betilla the fairy will grant you with some extra moves every now and then, like being able to throw your fist at enemies (Rayman has no limbs or neck, his hands feet and head float around his body) or using your ears as a helicopter to float across gaps.
Rayman advance is quite simply, stunning. The levels are bursting with colour and fantastically cartoony textures, the backgrounds are amazingly lush, to the point of almost becoming distracting. The character animation is splendid, the best I've seen in any 2d platformer, bar none. Rayman and his foes express real fear, anger and pain with their exaggerated face movements. It looks SO good that it almost makes the game more fun to play, you're always looking forward to seeing a new level theme or gigantic boss character.
The sound is fairly awful. Sound effects don't fit their actions and the music is floaty and annoying. But then I've come to expect this from developers Ubi Soft, they are French after all. But music (apart from story) is by far the least important aspect of a game, and the sound can always be turned down. So it doesn't affect the game too much.
Running through levels and smashing cages of electoons with your fist is fairly mindless and enjoyable stuff. However, enemies will get in your way more than in most platformers. The enemy AI is excellent. If they sense you they will go from walking into running after you, and they also duck quite skillfully to dodge your flying fist. Killing them can be a bit of a pain then, and sometimes slows down the light-speed pace of the game.
There are a couple of nice set-pieces, such as brass instruments blowing against you so you can have a slightly speedier jump. Doing this from mid-air platform to mid-air platform can be quite frantic and frustrating. Frustration plays a big part in Rayman advance. You will often find yourself zooming through the air for some reason or other. And while zooming along so fast the scenery becomes a blur, you are often asked to land on a platform in mid air... that's very tiny..... and moves. To do this you will have to perfect techniques like lowering yourself just before the platform comes into view, and then turning around and jumping as soon as you land to prevent skiddage. Techniques like this will be familiar to wisened platformer fans like myself, but only as 'the hard parts of the level' in most games. In rayman it's like this non-stop, and I DO mean non-stop. After clearing one challenging flight followed by platforms that move at a genuinely frightening speed and some difficult enemy combat, it's time to repeat the process again.
I don't mean by that, that it's repetitive. I mean it's constantly difficult, VERY difficult. The most annoying thing about this is that (because of the zoomed in screen) nearly every hard section includes a leap of faith where the odds are stacked against you. You will die about 20 times in ONE level (There are about thirty) before you will complete it, and this is consistent once you finish the music world (That's after six levels). Not because it becomes easier with practice (Leaps of faith that you haven't done before don't get easier because you've faced a lot of them) but because after dying so many times, you will have memorised the entire level and where and when you have to move.
You'll get used to this but sometimes you really wish it wasn't so hard, it makes it slightly less enjoyable to play. But it still flows extremely well and has those patented 'ride through the level on an animal/insect' bits that break it up a bit. Indeed, even some of the challenges are wonderfully presented. The game has a lot of variety, especially in it's style of tasks. However, I think I've now played too many side-scrolling platformers, and my tolerance level has gone down one point. Hence the seven I awarded this game.
Another high point of Rayman is that it will last a long time, and the platforming is of a consistently high quality. But that's not enough to get an 8 from me any more. I'll give them to games which have plenty of faults as long as they have some sign of ingenuity and good ORIGINAL ideas. The videogame market is too crowded for polished but still unoriginal clones now, after so many years of gaming we expect bright ideas, of which Rayman has a pitiful amount. It plays perfectly, it looks perfect, and it lasts a long time. So if you're a big platformer fan you won't be disappointed. But if you've played many before this it will seem slightly tired. A highly competent and extremely fun romp, but one that is pieced together from old games and improved only slightly. Still a better game than quite a few others, the developers need something to immerse and involve their players and they need it quick, I'm losing my patience.
Ray of light
+ Absolutely gorgeous
+ Excellent level design
+ Fast and furious
+ A long-lasting challenge with enough secrets
+ Consistently fun to play
+ Stunning character animation
+ Pleasing sense of progress
+ Good enough controls
- Awful music
- Misfit sound effects
- Consistently un-involving
- Easy to put down and walk away from
- Too many leaps of faith to count
- Constantly difficult
- Often unfair
- Stuffed full of old tired platform cliches
- Nothing to recommend it over any Mario game
- Rayman is an ugly little guy.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/28/01, Updated 08/28/01
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