One of the strangest characters ever created for a video game is back in a 3D-enabled port of what is arguably his best outing yet. That would be Rayman, the arm and leg-less wonder, who somehow manages to get around through platforming action, even though he doesn’t have the necessary limbs for support. This strange conundrum is brought to new light now with the release of Rayman 3D – a port of Rayman 2 and one of the most intriguing Nintendo 3DS launch titles. A new generation of gamers can now experience one of the most creative platformers from the past, though this is by no means a perfect port of a classic title. The proverbial road is a bit bumpy, but it’s generally a fun and enjoyable ride. Let’s discuss the landmarks you’ll be seeing.
Rayman 2 has to be one of the most oft-ported video games of all-time, considering the fact that it’s been available for ten different systems (counting the 3DS) since its inaugural release during the 90s’ last hurrah. There is good reason for this as the game is fun, creative, unique and interesting all in one, with a decent storyline. You see, Rayman’s world has been drained of its heart essence by a maniacal robotic pirate named Admiral Razorbeard, and his metallic minions.
The loss of world cheer and spirit has drained our titular creation’s powers, leading to his capture and holding on Razorbeard’s slave ship, along with his friend, Globox. Though the wonder with no limbs manages an escape thanks to a silver lum fairy, his friend is left aboard the ship, awaiting his use for slavery. Due to this, it is up to our magical hero to jump, swing, puzzle and fight his way through many different stages, in order to earn the four necessary masks required to awake the world’s god and last hope. Show those rust-bucket pirate imposters who’s boss.
At its core, Rayman 3D is an action-platformer, reminiscent in some ways to games like Banjo-Kazooie. You guide the magical being around over twenty different levels of varying types and elemental effects, each with their own puzzles, duties and requirements. The great thing about the game is just how creative these levels are, ranging from more basic designs to creative adventures where you’re riding along a rollercoaster, racing on top of a gas-powered bug or traversing through a lava-filled crater on top of a rolling blueberry.
Character and creativity are two things that this game has in spades. Sometimes its attempt to do so many different things can affect its more traditional platforming polish. Though it’s hard to complain about the abundant creativity because it really adds a ton of charm to the eight hour experience, with several optional hours added if you try to find all of the collectible lums to unlock its bonus stages. So much so, that it’ll make those who traverse through its worlds, want to go back and re-play their favourite stages. Whether you’re jumping, flying, swinging or using his ears as a helicopter device, Rayman has a lot of tricks up his sleeve that are put to good use in this lengthy platformer.
As with most three-dimensional platformers from that era, the game’s main issue is its camera. It can very easily get in the way or obscure your view of certain things. Depth perception can also be a bit tough on the smaller screen during the odd challenge, but it’s not an overly prevalent issue. If you’ve played these types of games before, you’ll understand the problems that can arise with a wonky camera.
Centering options are available as is a first-person view, though the game unfortunately doesn’t allow you to shoot at things through Rayman’s eye view, which would have made some moments a lot easier. Frustration can occur when you’re forced to retry a section more than once because of these issues, especially when you’re attempting to shoot your hand out towards a swinging handle, as the shots only tend to hit when they want to. Those are the most frustrating moments in the game because you’re tasked with jumping into the abyss, while pressing the shoot button, with the hope that one will land on the above handle, propelling you to safety. You have thirty three percent odds of that happening, give or take a percentage or two.
Other than the aforementioned issues, the game controls relatively well in its translated form, and plays a lot like the N64 version. Its design is also very similar to that one, considering it features the 100 collectible lums that were first adopted in the Dreamcast/N64 versions, while the PS1 version only had eighty. Moving around each environment is generally pretty smooth, though there is the odd hiccup.
Though there is one major issue that was uncovered, which had to do with the unlockable bonus races, which are incredibly tough and put a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on your device’s face buttons. That’s because you must quickly alternate two buttons in order to propel your racer forward with enough speed and momentum to win the race. A lot of momentum is required to beat the tough competition, so you’ll find yourself restarting a few times, pounding on the device in each attempt. It’s not really worth it in the long run.
This port of the eleven year-old title looks very nice on the smaller screens of the 3DS. It’s vibrant, colourful and has a nice art style that makes it stand out from other games of its ilk. Each world you go into has its own charm, featured design elements and creative art styling. Rayman and his foes animate relatively well in this world, though the game’s frame rate tends to slow down quite noticeably when enemies are on-screen.
A lot of the time, it will occur even if there’s only one baddie on the viewing plane, especially if he’s a large brute using a ray-gun. There are some other brief sections where there’s an alteration in the game’s speed and animations, but nothing major. The powerful hand-held device handles the former console classic quite well, though those aforementioned issues create a smear on the little grey cartridge port.
Of course, it’s common knowledge that the most talked about and prioritized aspect of this port will be the game’s 3D capabilities. The added dimension gives the game some nice depth on the top screen, adding some extra length and size perception to the game’s relatively large worlds. Its effects are most noticeable during underwater moments where Rayman swims with some nice fish, as well as some sea creatures who tend to be not to so nice.
The underwater coves look nice in the extra dimension, so it’s recommended to turn the slider on full for those moments. However, the game’s 3D tends to be more frustrating than fun when looking at it in a general view. It’s very tough to find a ‘sweet-spot,’ meaning that you’ll get a haze around characters and enemies most of the time. Don’t move if you find that perfect viewpoint because, though it’s there for the finding, it’s very tough to get back to. The port looks just about as nice in standard 2D, so you won’t feel like you’re being ripped off if you play it with the slider turned all the way down.
The game’s music fits well, with haunting melodies and some more upbeat moments. Its musical components do a good job of setting the tone for an upcoming battle or quirky moment, though the musical melodies tend to cut out at strange places, leaving you in silence, with only grunts and footsteps for audio.
This effect doesn’t seem like a glitch – instead, it feels like it’s just a strange design choice. The sound effects are pretty prevalent and sound nice for the most part. Though, it’s suggested that you have the game’s overall volume set to half or just above that, because it tends to be quite loud with some distortion appearing at higher volumes, during some musical medleys. Rayman doesn’t talk, so you don’t need to worry about having to strain yourself to hear a piece of voice over work. Instead, he speaks only in brief dialogue sections that resemble ‘Simlish.’
Overall, Rayman 3D is a fun and engaging port of a creative platformer from two generations prior. Though it has its issues and questionable 3D design choices, it’s well worth checking out for its entertaining, joyful and interesting gameplay design. The Nintendo 3DS does a relatively good job of running its lengthy adventure using its tiny grey cartridge and upgraded processing powers, though there are hiccups along the way.
If you’ve enjoyed Rayman 2 in the past or, if you’ve never played it once in your time on this green and blue globe, it’s worth giving a shot. Even though it’s been approximately twelve years since its inaugural console release, the experience has held up very well due to an abundant amount of creativity that most games do not come close to showing. It’s not perfect, but this port and its added dimensional capabilities is charming fun for the whole family.
Unique gameplay and tons of creative and fun level design make Rayman 3D stand out.