Rayman 2 may be one of the most often-ported games in video game history. Originally released in 1999 as Rayman 2: The Great Escape for the Nintendo 64, it's since been ported to the Dreamcast, PC, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, iOS and you can even buy the PS1 version for your PSP. While some of these versions contain serious differences, most of them are straight ports of either the Nintendo 64 or the slightly modified Dreamcast versions. Perhaps that is why Rayman 3D is such a disappointment. Despite being called "3D," it's yet another port of Rayman 2: The Great Escape. There's nothing new or surprising here, and unless you've somehow missed Rayman 2 on an existing system, there's no reason to play it again.
For those unfamiliar with the game, it's one of the Mario 64-styled platformers released in the wake of Nintendo's genre-defining title. At the time that it came out, the game was pretty fun. Players are put in control of Rayman, a tiny little human-like fellow whose defining features is that he lacks arms and legs, but not feet and hands. You spend most of the game jumping around or shooting energy balls from your hands. What makes Rayman 2: The Great Escape reasonably fun is that there's a lot of variety in the levels. You'll never spend too long doing the same thing, and while Rayman doesn't have a wide range of abilities, the levels have you do everything from water-skiing with a giant water snake as your "boat" to riding around explosives.
A big chunk of the replayability in Rayman 3D is to collect the 1,000 Lums that are hidden around the game's levels. Some are hidden in plain sight, but others require some exploration. It's not particularly taxing to find every Lum in a stage, although it can be annoying to find some Lums that you missed the first time around due to a somewhat unhelpful map screen. There's a good amount of extra value in the game when you're hunting down these Lums — but only if you're the kind of player who likes collect-a-thon gameplay. Fortunately, the level design is good enough that you'll have fun even if you're just going through the game to collect Lums.
One of the biggest problems with the game is that the camera is absolutely archaic. Although it was arguably reasonable for the game's initial release over a decade ago, it's very clear that this camera hasn't aged well. It's awkward, difficult to control, and loves pointing in the wrong direction or suddenly reversing your controls. Whether you're randomly swinging around or getting caught on a wall, the camera isn't fun to use. Since the game is all about straightforward platforming, this is a bigger problem than it might be in a more complex game. It's the sort of thing that was frustrating but acceptable in 1999, but it has aged poorly when compared to other modern games — even the ones on the DS and PSP, which are notorious for camera problems. It's not enough to ruin the game, but there are better platformers available for any system, including superior versions of the exact same game. Unless you're dying for a handheld version of Rayman 2 and don't already have it on any of the other handhelds, you're not going to get a lot from this iteration.
Rayman 3D's big problem is that there's nothing new here. If you own any system on the market, including the original Nintendo DS, you've probably played Rayman 2 before. There's nothing that makes this version stand out aside from the 3-D and slightly improved visuals, and that is just a neat effect. If anything, the 3-D points out the game's biggest flaw: It's outdated. It was a Nintendo 64-era platformer that wasn't bad for the time, but it's aged more poorly than Mario 64, for example. There are a lot of minor annoyances that you wouldn't see in a modern game. It can still be a fun game if you can look past that, but the truth is that there's little reason to do so. There's not a lot of competition on the 3DS at the moment, but that's no reason to bother with a port of a game that's already available on the DS, even if it looks a little better … and that's a pretty big if.
The visuals were clearly not designed with 3-D in mind and it seemed to hinder the experience more than help it. There are times when it works OK, such a few moments when the improved depth makes it easier to judge some platforming sections, but overall, it tends to be distracting and uncomfortable. Elements such as the poor camera cause more problems with the 3-D than they might in a game that's been designed around it. It's not a very good-looking game in the first place, but when you consider that you're better off turning off the 3-D effects entirely, it becomes tough to figure out why you'd bother to pick up this version of the same game anyway. Even the DS version has the benefit of being far cheaper, if even less visually impressive.
The audio isn't much better and is arguably a step back. The PlayStation version of Rayman 2 featured voice acting for the characters, while Rayman 3D limits itself to the same "babbling" voices from the Nintendo 64 version. Considering that even Nintendo DS titles can pack in plenty of voice acting, this seems all the more inexcusable. The sound quality also seems extremely low, and there are a lot of times when I turned off the sound because everything sounded so bad, with lots of static and generally unpleasant sound effects.
There's very little to recommend Rayman 3D, even when keeping in mind the 3DS' rather limited launch lineup. There's the core of a good game here, but that's about all that this version of Rayman 2 has going for it. The 3DS-unique visuals hinder the game more than help it, and the entire port feels somewhat shoddy. It's also not a port of one of the better versions of the game, so unless you're absolutely desperate for a 3-D platformer for your 3DS, it's best to pass on Rayman 3D. It's not a bad game, but with better versions of it available for every system under the sun, it's tough to see why you'd pay full price to play the same game again, especially when there are plenty of excellent NDS platformers available.
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