Review by clarkisdark
"One > Three"
Rayman has always come across as the struggling mascot always one step behind Mario, Jak & Daxter, and all the other big name heroes of the video game industry. He must be doing something right, though, since he's on his third "official" release. This second GBA title coincides with the bigger 3D release of the same name. I wasn't able to play that version, but if it's anything like this one, it's probably moderately fun, as well.
The game features beautifully painted backgrounds and wonderfully animated characters. It looks almost identical to the original Rayman on PC, and that game was a visual treat. But while everything is glossy and pretty, the game makes it hard to discern what is part of the background and what is something you can climb or stand on. Result? A few cheap deaths. Ah, and speaking of such, the camera is panned in very close to Rayman, so you really can't see much of your surroundings at any one time. This, too, results in cheap deaths since you spend a lot of time blindly jumping into things.
Rayman 3 on the GBA sounds very much like Rayman 2 (N64, PS1). What, they can't think of any new music? The console version of Rayman 3 had a cool soundtrack, but what's here really isn't that exciting. The sound effects are excusable: not annoying, but could very well be if you're in the right mood.
Rayman is your typical platformer. He may not be able to do much, and his levels may not be all that intricate or mind-bending, but it's still solid fun. Think back to the days of the first platformers, where games were enjoyable because they were simplistic and challenging. There you have Rayman. Some levels go a bit further and have you do things like stop moving platforms with your fist or ride a plum down a lava flow. Along the way, you'll need to keep an eye out for collectable lums and cages, as well. But four worlds with only a few levels in each equals not very much. However, each level is actually two levels played back-to-back. I don't know why the developers of Rayman games insist on doing it this way, though. There is the occasional 3D race level, but these seem out of place and really aren't that fun.
Rayman does what he has always done. He still can't run, either, but trots along at his casual pace. His jump, float, and crawl all work great. It's very easy to go from one right into the other. The controls will never result in your death. Oh no, leave that to something else...
Rayman is a strange character. He dies instantly when he touches water or spikes. What kind of video game hero is that? The game, for the most part, is designed very well, but the camera makes it frustrating. Sometimes, you have no idea if it's safe to drop down or not. When you first go through a level, a trail of lums will often (but not always) lead you through a treacherous jump, showing you where to go so you don't just fall blindly to your death. Play the level again and the lums are gone, which means you will probably die. I've had to play levels numerous times just to learn what to do and what not to do. Thankfully, Rayman won't make you restart the pair of levels over again when you run out of lives.
The game itself is fairly short. 5-6 hours, perhaps? But never fear, for Rayman offers a lot in connectivity. Sure, you might hate the whole connectivity thing, but you have to give Rayman credit for going all out. Connecting to the Gamecube version of the game grants you access to bonus levels. Connecting to another copy of Rayman 3 for the GBA opens up a slew of multiplayer options. I haven't gotten to try either of these avenues out, but they sound like fun. If you have a friend or sibling with a GBA but no second copy, you can still play an exclusive air combat game. It's simple, but it's neat that it exists.
I've always wanted to consider myself a Rayman fan, but after playing this installment, I realize his games just don't have much to them and are usually rather frustrating. Rayman 3 may come across as being an intricate "next-gen" platformer, but don't be fooled; it's a basic game masked by elaborate visuals. That's okay, though, because the solid design is still fun. Rayman also makes good use of the connectivity, GBA and Gamecube. If you have access to the requirements, it's worth investing in. Otherwise, stick with the first Rayman. Hence the formula: 1 > 3.
+ Solid design
+ Extended connectivity
-- Background confusion
-- Blind jumps
-- Not very intricate
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/03/04, Updated 02/10/05
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