Release Date: 20-Mar-2003
The original Rayman was a side-scrolling 2D adventure. While it certainly wasn't bad, the sequel, Rayman 2: The Great Escape, took the series to incredible heights as it utilized an awesome 3D engine. Gamers were engrossed in a hilarious storyline with awesome characters, clever level designs, and innovative game play. Many people wouldn't hesitate to call it their favorite 3D platformer. Now, after missing for several years (unless you count the mediocre Rayman Arena), Rayman has returned in a new 3D title. Is it worthy of a purchase? Read on.
Things start to go awry when the evil Dark Lums hatch a plan to seize the mystical heart of the world and turn it black. When the Lord of the Dark Lums, Andre, is accidentally swallowed by Rayman's lovable friend Globox, Rayman takes it upon himself to find a way to separate the two. Of course, the Dark Lums also want their leader back, so they've taken it upon themselves to track down Andre. This all leads to a crazy adventure where you come upon lots of interesting characters and environments. Not only is the story fun and interesting, it moves at a lovely pace.
You'll travel through the game in a linear fashion, completing different areas and receiving a level score based upon how much treasure you've found. Some of the areas are rather short, while others are much longer and require a good bit of skill and thinking. In between some levels, you'll get to take part in funky little mini-games, such as boarding on long beams of light over psychedelic scenery. Little segments like these are a lot of fun and help keep things from getting too monotonous.
One of the major differences in this sequel from the previous game is the way in which you find and use new techniques. In Rayman 2, you came across new abilities as you progressed through the story, and you were able to use them for the rest of the game. In Rayman 3, you do not acquire new moves. Sure, you still have your jumps, rolls, punches, and helicopter floating, but there are a number of other things that you can do for short periods of time. Some enemies will drop cans. These cans change Rayman's appearance and also allow him to do certain things, but they only last for certain amounts of time. There are some really cool abilities, from being able to hone a grappling hook-esque weapon to launching guided rockets. You'll be running all over as you solve various puzzles using these cans.
You'll also be doing quite a bit of fighting in this game - much more so than in Rayman 2. Thankfully, the combat system is nicely done, with Rayman being able to throw punches (literally). If you hold in the attack button, Rayman swings around his fist, allowing for a more powerful charged-up shot. The addition of the Strafe button is also important. When you hold in the key to strafe, Rayman will lock onto a nearby target and keep his eyes on it at all times. Pressing left or right will make you step to the side, moving in a circle around the enemy. Pressing left or right while throwing a punch will perform a neat little trick that makes the fist curve around. This can help you to hit targets hiding behind obstacles, or enemies that may be shielded in the front. Some of the power-up cans are also tailored towards attacking; while one increases greatly the strength of your fists, another makes you throw spinning vortexes that will cause foes to spin out of control. It's all a lot of fun.
It's not easy to make a platforming game easy to control with a keyboard. Thankfully, Rayman 3 feels quite natural once you've binded the keys to your liking. The camera is controlled by the mouse, but you almost never have to adjust it, so it's not a problem when you have both hands on the keyboard. It might still be easier to control Rayman with a controller, though, as analog control would probably come in handy in some situations. The developers also seem to have forgotten to change some dialogue when they ported the game to the PC - you'll see text at the bottom of the screen that still says something such as "control the camera with the right thumb stick." It's not really a big deal, but it can be a little confusing when learning to play.
The graphics in the game are surprisingly nice. Most of the characters are well-modeled and well animated. Some things look a little odd, like the ever-frozen grin on your buddy Murfy's face, but overall, both allies and enemies are a delight to see. The texturing is also extremely well-done - there's not a blurry coat of paint anywhere. The art design is what really makes the game look great, though. The game is very colorful, with exquisite environments, marvelous special effects, and kickass character designs.
Sound in the game is great, too. Sound effects work well. The background music is very nicely done, and you'll often find yourself humming it while playing. The voices are a bit of a departure from Rayman 2. In that game, you read dialogue as text while a gibberish language played in the background. I really loved that - it added a lot of personality to the game. Instead of doing that this time around, though, talented voice actors like John Leguizamo and Billy West take the roles of integral characters. They certainly do a great job, and are very convincing. The dialogue is also rather funny. It has a much more mature feel than before, often hinting at sexual innuendo or even making fun of the game. It works pretty well, as adults will laugh at what's being said and children will laugh at the silly voices.
It's hard to find much wrong with the game. Aside from a few little mess-ups that slipped by, the conversion from console to computer is rather nice. It might not control as well with a keyboard than a controller, but that isn't really the game's fault. Load times are pretty short, though, and saving's automatic - a nice touch. Once you beat the game, there's not a whole lot to do, but it's worth it to play through a second time to collect all of the treasure. If you collect a lot, you'll gain access to a bunch of neat unlockables. You'll probably end up clocking in at least a dozen hours your first time through, and you'll probably be stuck to your keyboard, intent on getting a bit farther, for most of that time.
Rayman 3 is indeed an excellent title. Sure, it may not be as revolutionary as Rayman 2, but it's still a damn fine game. There's a long adventure with lots to do and even some unlockables, should you go through the game trying to collect everything. The story is well done, the control is quite good, the graphics and sound are topnotch, and the game manages to be funny, too. Being a game heavily reliant on control, one might be better off picking up a console version of the game, but don't hesitate to get this version instead. It's one of the best platforming titles in recent years.