Robert Jung discovers
a new super-hero?
Superman. Spider-Man. Darkman. Blankman.
Okay, so it's
not the most inspired name in the world. Nonetheless,
is Ubi Soft's newest entry in the world of video-game
mascots, the star of their platform game for the Atari
Jaguar. Rayman's harmonious world has been disrupted
by the sinister Mr. Dark, who has stolen the Great Protoon
and sent reality into a tizzy. Now the Electoons are
scattered, weird and mean critters roam the streets,
and things just aren't so nice and harmonious any more.
Guess who gets the job of saving the day?
In game terms,
is a side-scrolling platform title. Rayman walks, jumps,
climbs, and punches through six different worlds, each
divided into a number of subworlds that are formed from
numerous stages. In each, he must find the captured
Electoons while avoiding Mr. Dark's henchbeings and
assorted other obstacles in his way. Fortunately, the
fairy Betilla will give Rayman new powers, and he can
find extra lives, bonus stages, power-ups, and other
goodies to help keep him going. Finally, three games
can be saved to the cartridge for later play.
Rayman is a
platform game for players who are tired of the recycled
formulas used in other platform games. While it features
many familiar play mechanics, it also has a strategic
tone and mellow pace which is fairly different from
the "hop-and-bop" horde. This is a game for
thinkers and explorers; there is no way to finish the
game by rushing through all of the stages, and blindly
attacking everything is often not worth the trouble.
cannot enter the last world until he rescues all of
the Electoons in the first five, finding them becomes
the heart of the game. A few are in plain view, but
most do not appear until Rayman moves through certain
trigger points, or are in remote regions that are inaccessible
until he earns more powers. As a result, the player
is forced to backtrack to earlier worlds and thoroughly
search each for the Electoons he missed before. This
is a fun and stimulating challenge, though the arbitrary
nature of some of the hiding places might annoy a few
If Rayman's only
novelty was the search for Electoons, then it would
not rate more than as a minor variant on the platformer
formula. Fortunately, it doesn't end there; the sense
of curiosity and discovery permeates the entire game,
and clever problem-solving skills are needed to find
most answers. Whether it's a barely-visible ledge or
a tenacious vine, players who take the effort to find
out how to reach them are rewarded with bonus stages,
level shortcuts, and other prizes.
other platform games, Rayman plays at a leisurely pace that supports its
investigative mood. There are no time limits on each
level, and Rayman himself never moves faster than a
brisk jog. But there's plenty of action and variety;
the stages can be anything from a small, straightforward
horizontal strip, to complex mazes several dozen screens
in size, to a forward-scrolling mini-shooter game. With
a diverse selection of enemies and obstacles and stages,
the game is far from boring.
The other aspects
of Rayman make it a friendly, hassle-free game. Levels
are well-designed, without any annoying dead ends or
blind leaps. Sympathetic collision detection allows
close brushes with enemies, and the controls are blissfully
responsive. The only real complaint is the lack of replayability;
like many other platform games today, there are no difficulty
levels or random factors, and thus little incentive
to play it again. But this is a minor flaw at best,
as Rayman's world is large enough to sustain most players.
It's safe to say that the typical gamer will require
at least several weeks of play before he can finally
rescue the Great Protoon and save the day.
The graphics in Rayman are
gorgeous! The game is rich in colors and detail and
animation, forming a visual feast which is far beyond
any other platform game available today. Rayman and
his fellow denizens quickly stop being sprites on a
screen and soon turn into actual characters, complete
with unique identities and personalities and attitudes.
The stages feature multiple levels of smooth parallax
scrolling, and are often loaded with animated details.
There's so much to see that one has to videotape a game
and play it back in slow-motion in order to catch everything.
The game does slow down when the screen gets overcrowded,
but these periods are so rare and so brief that only
the most obsessed nitpickers will even notice or care.
try to match the graphics' high standards, but ultimately
fall short. Sound effects are sparse but nicely done,
and helps enforce the game's "cozy comfort"
attitude. Game music consists of a wide variety, high-quality
tunes, from light and bouncy to dark and menacing, all
of which fits the game wonderfully. But they are far
too short; the typical melody cycles after thirty seconds
of play, and this can be irritating on longer levels.
It's a good thing that the music and sound volumes can
be adjusted at any time.
no new ideas to the platform game genre; instead, what
it offers is the flawless execution of existing elements
- precise controls, clever levels, friendly gameplay,
gorgeous graphics, and crisp sounds - all wrapped around
a design which actually taxes the mind along with the
thumbs. Players who prefer the frantic action of Sonic
or Mario might be turned off by Rayman's leisurely pace, but those who are looking
for a change from the hop-and-bop clones should definitely
give this title a try.