Genre: 3D Platforming
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Ubi Soft
Release Date: 03/2003
Rayman has come a long way since the days he spent tooling around as the unofficial mascot for Atari’s ill-fated Jaguar console. His modest beginnings gave no indication that he’d eventually evolve into the 3D platforming mega-superstar that he is today. Rayman has worked his way up in the videogame industry, making his rounds on nearly every imaginable platform (PC, GBC, Jaguar, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, N64, Dreamcast, GBA). But it wasn’t until Rayman 2: The Great Escape came out that gamers perked up their ears and really started to take notice. It’s been over three years since that excellent sequel to the original Rayman was released and fans of the series have received little in the way of new Rayman action since (save for a 2D GBA side-scroller, countless Rayman 2 remakes, and the woefully disappointing Rayman Arena). But the time is finally upon us, fellow gamers. Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc has been unleashed on all three 128-bit platforms and while some may be disappointed to discover that it isn’t the revolutionary step forward from part two that part two was from the original, it does manage to further improve and refine the formula the made the series such a blockbuster hit to begin with.
The first thing that jumps out at you about Rayman 3 is its dark and moody motif. Though no less dependant on outlandish fantastical environments, Hoodlum Havoc is distinctly more mature, in both look and demeanor. Many characters from the last Rayman outing resurface in this game, some of which play considerably larger roles this time around. Murfy, also known as “The Flying Encyclopedia”, is back in fine form, dishing out tips, hints, and a heaping serving of sarcasm. Rayman’s portly purple friend Globox is back as well, and while you’d half expect him to start belting out children’s songs, instead he accidentally swallows the evil leader of the lums; a Black Lum named Andre who desperately wants to escape Globox’s tummy and constantly makes his desire for freedom painfully clear by thrashing around in his stomach and demanding prune juice. It’s up to Rayman to find a cure for his best friend’s messy predicament, traveling from one insanely imaginative level to the next in the hope that he’ll track down a doctor who specializes in Black Lum removal.
Hoodlum Havoc is decidedly more focused on combat than its predecessors, adding new flying-fist maneuvers like the curve attack, which attacks bad guys from the side when they are shielded in the front. The addition of new power-ups that temporarily grant Rayman with special abilities adds some semblance of strategy to progressing, but for the most part Hoodlum Havoc is just as straightforward as The Great Escape. These power-ups come in the form of different colored cans, made available by killing certain enemies, and transforms our limbless hero into a host of different stylish superhero variants. Once invigorated with the “laser washing powder” that these cans contain, Rayman will be able to break open passageways, traverse gaping pits, reach otherwise unexplorable areas, and shoot guided missiles. Each ability only sticks around for a brief time (unlike the previous games where once you earned a new ability you kept it permanently), so once Rayman transforms into one of his superhero personas you’ll have to hurriedly make your way to the location of the level where it can effectively be used.
Longtime fans of Rayman may initially scoff at the developer’s decision to utilize temporary power-ups in place of permanent ones, but once you come to the realization that the developers built the stages specifically around this concept you’ll begin to appreciate Rayman 3 on an entirely different, though no less entertaining, level. For instance, you may begin a stage and come across a door that cannot be opened except with the Heavy Metal Fists power-up, but the only power-up that may be readily attainable is the Throttle Copter which boosts you up vertically into a different access point and leads to say, the LockJaw power-up with which you’ll use to traverse an otherwise-unreachable area where the elusive Heavy Metal Fists are located so that you can break open the door that was initially shown to you at the beginning of the level. And since each power-up stays active for only 40-seconds or so, you’ll need to strategize your actions, making sure not to dawdle before putting the power-up’s unique ability to use.
Controlling Rayman is a cinch. Just like his previous outing in The Great Escape you’ll be able to move around with the analog stick, throw your fists at baddies, jump, and slowly descend by utilizing Rayman’s rotary-enhanced ears by hitting the jump button a second time while in the air. New to the series is a lock-on function which gives you the option to focus solely on a single enemy while strafing from side to side. Attacks performed while locked-on and strafing will result in the aforementioned curve-attacks.
Unfortunetly, Rayman 3 doesn’t offer up a whole heck of a lot of playtime, clocking in at around 15 hours when you include the unlockable goodies. As you make your way through the single-player adventure you’ll receive points based on how many jewels you pick up and how many enemies you dispose of. These points are used towards opening up bonus levels, comical animations, and even an occasional mini-game. More points can be won by stacking up combos. The way this works is if you consecutively rack up points without letting too much time go by in between scoring, the additional points you receive after receiving the initial points will collect in your combo tally and are added to your total score. It isn’t the most original “combo” method, but it works, and it does give the player incentive to keep an eye on the surroundings for potential combo opportunities.
Visually, Rayman 3 manages to one-up The Great Escape which, as fans of that game know, is quite a feat in itself. Sure Rayman 2 was released over three years ago but its intricate and out of this world architectural design and subtle use of soft pastel colors ensures that The Great Escape is still a great-looking game, even by today’s standards. That being said, Rayman 3 does feature smaller overall environments, more focused due to the new power-up system. But the various levels, ranging from funkadelic rail jumping stages to sinister lum-infested stages, are 100% trademark Rayman. Overall, Rayman 3 offers up some serious eye-candy, making particular use of the PS2’s ability to render amazing particle effects. The frame-rate tends to be choppy in a few rare occasions, but other than that Hoodlum Havoc does graphical justice to the Rayman legacy.
In terms of sound presentation, Rayman 3 features some excellent musical ditties and surprisingly fresh voice-acting, not to mention support for Dolby Pro Logic II compatible sound systems. The music style is constantly changing to keep pace with the frantic on-screen action and tons of ambient sound-effects lend themselves to the immersion of the experience. John Liguizamo takes center stage in the voice-talent department, providing the squeaky and amusingly dumbfounded vocals and personality for Globox. And your sidekick Murfy, though voiced by a relative unknown, constantly nips at your heels spouting off funny and sarcastic quips.
All in all, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is a wildly entertaining, albeit somewhat short and simple, sequel to one of the best 3D platformers ever. Stylistically it has been tweaked just enough to not be a “more of the same” style sequel, but the fundamental dynamics that made the second game in the series so entertaining is completely intact. Really, Ubi Soft did a great job coming to an agreeable medium on Rayman 3. Fans of the series and newcomers alike should rejoice, for the limbless wonder hath returned.