Review by snowblind

Reviewed: 12/07/03

A step down in fun from Rayman 2 but still very enjoyable

Ah Rayman 3, until a week before I bought this I had no idea it existed. There was no hype surrounding it, no real public interest, but I loved Rayman 2 for the N64 so I had to buy it. I'd say it's almost as good as its predecessor but not quite there. It opens with a well made and enjoyable movie but the story is weak, with no depth other than you have to save the world from the bad guy by running, jumping and shooting your way through a series of levels. At least there's a little twist in the plot after a while that livens it up, though in all honesty the story is never the main motivation for playing Rayman games.. it's the creativity and fun you encounter in the enchanting worlds.

The opening movie reveals that Andre, a lum gone bad - dubbed a 'Hoodlum', is infecting all other lums and wreaking havoc on the peaceful world Rayman calls home. You start the game in a training area of sorts, with a flying frog fairy thing - no really - guiding you through the controls and the character's abilities. First task is to find your arms, which were pulled off when your friend Globox ran from the Hoodlums. So find Globox and get your arms back, then it's on through nine worlds, each split into smaller areas, to stop Andre from turning more lums (the life force of the world) into Hoodlums like himself. You'll travel and explore places with names such as Clear Leaf Forest, Land Of The Livid Dead, Summit Beyond The Clouds and The Desert Of The Knaaren. In every area are gems which you collect to improve your points rating for each area, as with Mario's coins or Sonic's rings they also earn you extra lives. It's one of the few platform games these days to place an emphasis on a points system, you'd be given a code after completing the game to enter into an international scoreboard on the official site, and I believe it's still going.. though I'm not saying where I placed..

Completing a level is usually as simple as reaching the end and walking through to the next, but occasionally you'll encounter a boss battle either half-way through or at the end. Some of these are easy, while others are hard and require some thought to defeat. Also in each level are puzzles to solve, with a nice logical feel to them. Nothing very taxing, just a case of exploring for that switch that opens the large gate or finding a new ability to help you pass some obstacle. Between worlds are bonus levels, Rayman surfing forward through a looong psychedelic tunnel on platforms to collect more gems, all to the sound of some cool funky music. It's a good change of pace and a fun way to break up each world.

Though a 3D game, the layout is more of a traditional 2D one, the levels are very expansive and you can see for miles in most direction, even if you can mostly only follow a set path that covers a small amount of the area. The areas may not be individually as large as in say Mario Sunshine, but you'll find a satisfying amount of detail to each one. You're spared dull level design and there's a good amount of variety between each world so there's some replay value right there.

The game looks amazing, some of the worlds are too picturesque for words. The graphics in the game are gorgeous, due mostly to the excellent art for the levels, the characters and anything else on screen. Technically they're great too, very crisp and detailed with a draw-distance as far as the horizon. There's a great deal of detail in the animation, from the movement of the character to the clouds gliding past in the sky. It's the environments which impress me the most - dark murky swamps, a winter wonderland bathed in a beautiful sunset, an overwhelmingly tall luminescent tower - they're a work of art. It's no surprise that, as seen before in PilotWings 64, there's the feature to take screenshots and save them to the memory-card. The look of the game as a whole is what stands out to me, it's amazing at the best of times, a delight even at the worst.

My only real criticism is the American voice actors it uses - I've lowered the volume for voices in the game because hearing the characters speak properly sounds just wrong. In Rayman 2 they spoke this odd gibberish, but it was charming and didn't distract from anything. Plus it made more sense than non-humans in a fantasy world speaking English. The quality of the voices isn't in question though, it's very professional. A friend of mine likes the voices though, so it's hit and miss I guess. The other aspect of sound, the music, isn't bad but nor is it great. A couple of levels have eerie, mystical themed music which does sound good. If I had to sum up the music in one word it would be 'inoffensive'. The music adds nicely to the mood of the game, indeed the opening area of one level with the music seeming to bring everything alive, was very serene and relaxing. So yes the music has its moments, it's just not outstanding. What of the sound effects? They're good. Not too noteworthy, but good and very fitting of the cartoon style of the game without being exaggerated.

The controls are very intuitive and very responsive. No slowdown at all and very precise movement, while retaining fluid animation, means that you're in complete control of Rayman. You can do the standard actions: run, walk at several paces, grab onto edges and pull yourself up, swim.. but Rayman has his 'helicopter hair' for those times when a jump isn't enough and can fire shots of energy from his hands to kill weaker enemies. Power-ups are found on most levels too, letting him shoot fireballs from his gloves strong enough to destroy strong doors, use a grappling hook to swing from ring to ring, and shrink into his own shoe to chase the other shoe around (it's gone rogue, you see, yep).

It's probably the first occasion ever in a game I wish a frustrating section would pop up to keep me occupied for a while. For those that played Rayman 2, remember the rocket-riding section where you had to avoid the stomping chicken-walker robot and jump to the island? Well I was on that for ages, but I've yet to see anything in Rayman 3 as difficult aside from the final boss. It's a game that anyone can reach the end of quickly. Inexperienced gamers will get far and will learn to cope with difficult sections, while experienced gamers will reach the end relatively quickly - though completing the game (collecting everything there is and getting 100%) will challenge anyone. A steeper learning curve would have upped the rating.

It's a very good game to me, I found it very enjoyable, a lot of fun, but I'd rather it had more innovation instead of cosmetically altering what made Rayman 2 so great. A very polished game that lacks that little bit of magic your favourite platformer has. So yes it's fun but nothing to get overly excited about. It's a recommended purchase to fans of Rayman 2 and a recommended rental to casual platformer fans.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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