Review by honestgamer
"Everything a handheld adventure should be, minus the illegal substances..."
Sometimes it's fun to imagine what life would be like with no arms and no legs. No matter how enjoyable that pursuit is, though, it simply can't compare to watching the latest adventures of Rayman, the videogame industry's limbless hero. Rayman has consistently provided gamers with some seriously cool platforming action since his debut several years back. While he's not Mario, he never claims to be. Instead, he just calmly hops his way through levels and throws his hands at monsters. It's a concept that has yet to tire, even now that we're seeing Rayman 3, the most recent entry in the franchise.
With each new game, there's a new story. That's the case here, too. Rayman's pal Globox swallowed a dark lum, and now Rayman has to help his friend by romping through four large worlds collecting lums and freeing pals that have been locked up in cages.
The story is quite cartoony, but don't let that push you away. You only see the occasional cutscenes here and there, which you can skip through. If you choose to watch, you'll be happy to see they're accompanied by simply delightful little illustrations and rather generic text. Personally, I didn't care about the story and instead was interested in gameplay. And as did its predecessors, Rayman 3 definitely delivers in this department.
More than just a standard platformer, Rayman 3 is a true adventure. To master this title, you're going to have to run, jump, and fly your way through quite a few areas. Each of these areas has a set number of lums to collect, as well as a stated number of caged helpers. The general process is that you enter one of the game's four worlds, then run around looking for tents. These tents are the entrance to levels. Each tent leads to a single area. When you stand in front of a tent, you can see a record of how many of the lums you've collected from that area, and how many caged critters have been freed. In all, the game holds 999 lums and 50 of your less fortunate buddies.
Once you enter a level, the fun begins. Most areas are divided in two sections. You start with 3 lives to get through one half of an area, then you continue to the next half. If you lose all your lives, you start back at the beginning of the section half where you left off. Fortunately, you don't have to collect all those lums again.
Two exceptions are the two race courses in the game. These take place on lakes of lava, and you'll have to race through three laps without falling into the soup too often or running out of time. Collecting every last lum in these courses can be a true challenge. Though the first of these courses is a good deal of fun, the second one has you working against such a limited timer and such great odds that you're likely to find the whole ordeal extremely frustrating. Also, you're forced to complete each area in order to advance to the next portion of the world map.
The race courses aren't the only diversion from platforming. There's also what could best be described as a waterskiing section. Two of them, actually. You ride behind a swiming creature, swinging about to collect lums while avoiding sand bars and mines. The first of these is quite enjoyable. The second one is much more difficult, but still not so frustrating as the second race course. All in all, I'm glad the developers included these little mini-games.
Regardless of the type of stage you're experiencing, the graphics are a true treat. Rayman is animated with all the fluidity one could hope for. He swings, rides rockets, throws barrels, hangs from vines and the whole time looks stylish doing so. It's not just Rayman that is good to look at. Even more impressive are the numerous environments he'll explore. These for the most part are swamps, lava caves, and fortresses, but they all look vibrant. The level of detail is also amazing. Then there are the enemies to consider. Their animations also are impressive, to the point where you sometimes must watch them in order to determine when it's safe to attack. All in all, these are some of the best graphics you'll ever see on the system. They're artistic, useful, and beautiful all at once.
Music is also above average for the handheld. Repeating any stage enough times is going to tire you of the music it contains, but the first few times you hear any of the songs you're likely to find your foot moving along with the beat. It really goes well with the artistic direction you'll be seeing on the screen.
With so much that Rayman 3 does right, you're likely wondering where it fails. The answer is that it doesn't significantly fail in any area. As I've noted, graphics are simply amazing. Music is some of the best on the system, too. Play control generally isn't even an issue, as Rayman moves precisely the way he should at nearly any given moment. There was only a time or two when I pressed a button and he didn't respond. I died both times, but that's certainly not crippling considering the game will last you several hours.
In fact, there are only three real marks against Rayman 3: challenge can sometimes be slightly uneven (as in the case of that second race I mentioned above), the whole thing doesn't always feel as fresh and original as Rayman 2 did, and the game ultimately isn't going to last you all that long, despite Ubi Soft's best efforts. Collecting all 999 lums just isn't something most people will care to do. Often, both lums and caged animals can be quite difficult to find. This provides some amusement, but still doesn't lengthen the amount of time you'll play Rayman 3 past around 10 hours.
With that said, this is a platformer. Most handheld platformers don't last as long as this one, and have even fewer reasons to replay. So if you're looking for a good handheld adventure that's perfect for a weekend road trip, look no further. Rayman 3 is definitely your game. Just don't go in expecting 50 hours of gameplay and you'll likely be quite happy.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/26/03, Updated 05/26/03
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