These days it’s pretty hard to find a new and exciting 2D platformer no matter what system you’re playing on. With the advent of 3D gaming 2D platformer’s have all but completely evaporate from the main stream of video games. Today the field is dominated by indie developers and Nintendo’s large cast of platforming characters lead by a certain red plumber that who won’t stop setting and re setting the bar for the genre. But this time its Raymans turn to set a couple of bars of his own.
When I first saw the E3 trailer, the first thing I though was “wow this looks amazing”. And after I got to play it for about ten hours, I realized that I’ve never seen a 2D platfromer look this sharp before. This could even run in a race for, best looking 2D game ever made. This is one of the only 2D pltformers that actually made me stop playing, and just take in the atmosphere of each level. Seriously how many 2D platformers even have an atmosphere, much less one that can evoke a sense of wonder like this game? The painted look and feel that all the backdrops have, make this game pop like no other, and the sound track only serves to enhance the entire experience. The character and enemy designs are all so silly and charming, that I wouldn’t even mind if this game had used them over and over again. After I’d gotten the ability to swim, I came across a part where around 200 brightly colored fish lit up the screen like a rainbow. You can’t do much with them, they just move out of the way when you swim by, but it looks incredible. In one of the later levels when you learn how to run on walls, the game has you run up the side of a mountain all the while letting you soak up the gorgeous environments that really puts the level into perspective. This is how you can tell the developers enjoyed working on a game, they put in all these little touches to make the player feel like they’re in the world of the game, and this game is over flowing with a style all its own. I could easily write several pages about just how good this game looks, but looks aren’t everything, and Rayman’s ok with that. It’s got way more than looks going for it.
The word I would use to best describe how this game plays is “smooth”. Walking, running, jumping, slapping, sliding, gliding, butt slamming, swimming, wall running/jumping, are all as fine-tuned as they will ever be. They even just for the heck of it, decided to put a Gradius like side scrolling shooter in the game. What’s even more amazing is that these levels add a lot to the game play, they’re not just half hatred add-on’s. This game has a giant tool box of mechanics and all of them are polished to near perfection. Throughout the game there are levels that you can unlock that are essentially difficult speed runs. While these levels are difficult, I never once felt like bad controls caused me to die, even when I had to transition from running, to jumping, to sliding to wall jumping all in about two seconds, I could pull off all of Rayman’s moves every time. And speaking of difficulty this game has a great curve. Sudden difficulty spikes or cheap death areas don’t seem to exist in this game. Whenever you receive a new function the game puts you through the paces for a little while, and gradually raises the difficulty as the game progresses. Also the game did it’s self a large favor, and did away with game overs as they would interrupt the game more than anything. The only flaw that the game has is that it’s a little too repetitive at times. While there’s no shortage of mechanics in the game, some of the worlds play a little too similar to each other. For the most part they all have pretty much the same length and some parts of the level feel like they were recycled from earlier levels. Also the areas that you have to enter to free all the pink balls with long hair start to blur together, you just run in smash some guys, and free the, whatever those things are. It also doesn’t help having 2 of these in every level, it probably could have been toned back a bit, or they could have made other kinds of bonus levels instead, to mix it up a bit more. This was my first experience with a Rayman game, and I hope it won’t be my last.
Now as a miner side note. I have to express my disappointment with the launch window of this game. This game had no business coming out at this time of the year, the shear number of triple A games that launched with it, will leave it buried under an avalanche, and most likely forgotten. Did Ubisoft really think this game stood any chance of selling while launching with the likes of COD, Zelda, Mario , Skyrim, Assassins creed, and Uncharted (just to name a few)? With gamers wallets taking some heavy hit’s there’s hardly any money left for games like Rayman, which is sad because this game really could have put him on the map in a big way.