Review by Lisanne

"Are those mushrooms REALLY jumping on top of one another, or did someone put something in my drink??"

Rayman 2, predictably, is the follow-up to the interminably dull Rayman, the latter being a very simple platformer aimed at children and with a less than hard difficulty rating. One would naturally assume that this sequel would be very similar in terms of game play to the original, but the similarities are superficial. Rayman 2 is an epic, multi-world, truly 3D beauty of a platform game that bears little resemblance to the original. All levels are fully 3D and immersive, and the difficulty level has soared. In short, Rayman has come of age.

If you're looking for a character-based platformer with a pleasant but non-complex story, then this is for you. The game is based around Rayman - a man with no limbs, instead being comprised of a torso and floating hands and feet, which are apparently not attached to him at all. His non-floating head (it's attached to his torso) has a permanent vacant expression. He looks like a floating kangaroo with no tail. The story is simple - save the nice lady from the bad pirate, hunt for missing friend, generally save the day. The various levels which you must complete in order to achieve your objectives are linked logically into the plot - you're always pursuing the aims, and the levels exist in order for you to reach your goals. This is a simple aspect, but it makes a big difference to the quality of play, as you always know why you're running around a level collecting miscellaneous objects, instead of blindly allowing yourself to be carried along.

The content of game play is primarily comprised of stereotypical platform fare - run around a level collecting various objects in order to advance. Vanquishing enemies goes further than the usual jumping on heads method though - you need to shoot from your fist to hit them. It is possible to lock on to a target and strafe around them to avoid their hits towards you - this works very similarly to a first person shooter in this regard, and makes a refreshing change to the standard platform game. The levels are anything but linear. Rather than following a set side-scrolling path to reach the end, you are faced with a fully 3D world, with various sub-paths and secret areas to uncover. There are hidden items, underwater areas and much more to explore through the course of the game. There are also various mini-games and bonus levels to be unlocked, which can be accessed and replayed from the hub you visit between levels.

My only real complaint concerning game play is to do with the combination of controls and camera which impact on the game at places. There is a certain move which you must successfully execute relatively frequently which is absurdly difficult at times solely because you need to correctly place the camera in order to hit a small target which you must then swing from. Accurately positioning the camera can be something of a pain - it tends to move in stages rather than smoothly, meaning that you do not have an adequate level of control when it comes to shooting with accuracy at times. Hitting an enemy is much easier than hitting a stationary object, since in that case you can use the ''shoot and hope'' method and the subject is likely to run into range. With stationary objects, you have no choice but to reposition yourself continuously until you get it right, and this can be rather frustrating. Otherwise, the controls are logically placed and easily used, and the camera AI is... not perfect, but certainly adequate enough to be seldom noticed.

Graphically, Rayman 2 is just gorgeous. The detail on the characters and backgrounds is superb, well-animated and very smooth. There are plenty of small features to the levels which add to the atmosphere of the game - flowers, wildlife, even mushrooms which stack on top of one another in front of your very eyes. Everything is very brightly colored but not too over the top - it looks cheerful rather than psychedelic. Sound effects add atmosphere to the levels. You can hear running water, splashing when you enter water, footsteps... the list goes on. The effects are well-done and sound natural and realistic. Music is very subtle - it fades nicely into the background but adds enough flavor to ensure that there is never silence.

Rayman 2 is great fun to play, and has better than average replay value for a platform game, mainly because of all the bonus levels that can be unlocked. Most fans of the platform genre would be delighted with this fantastically enjoyable action-style epic. I heartily recommend it to anyone.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/05/03, Updated 05/05/03

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