Rayman 3 HD|
Ubisoft seems to be on a quest to establish, or perhaps re-establish Rayman as a prominent mascot for their video game company. After their outstanding cross-platform side-scrolling game, Rayman Origins, released last year the publisher is quick to follow up with an HD remake of their 2003 game, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc from the original Xbox, PS2, and GameCube consoles. Simply titled, Rayman 3 HD, the hoodlums and the havoc may have been dropped from the title, but they are still quite present in this classic 3D platformer that manages to retain all the content and charm of the original with some fantastic updated visuals.
While Rayman may have gotten a spectacular (by 2003 standards) facelift, the gameplay is sadly still rooted in in the past; a time where developers were still figuring out how to do 3D platform games. There have been a lot of advancements in game design over the past decade and sadly, those have not been incorporated into this remake. That’s not to say that Rayman 3 HD is bad, but what may have been an outstanding 9.4 title in 2003 falls just a bit short of 2012 gameplay standards.
Rayman 3’s story is the classic bout of good versus evil. This time the evil is a Black Lum name Andre – Rayman veterans will remember “lums” as those collectibles that come in assorted colors and bestow various benefits. Andre is bent on world domination and his plans include imprisoning all the cute Teensies inside cages then using the energy from the Heart of the World to reproduce himself. Before this bizarre cloning experiment can get underway Andre accidentally (or perhaps intentionally) gets stuck inside Globox, your bumbling oaf and best friend. The rest of the game basically has you escorting your friend to various sages in order to get the evil lum out of your friend. Naturally, each sage is at the end of a lengthy set of creative levels that share a common world theme.
Even though Rayman 3 dangerously approaches the “adventure game” category there is still enough jumping, fighting, and item collecting to keep it in the platform genre. Control is superior with variable speed analog movement and the face buttons handling jumping, attacking, and a first-person look mode. Especially nice and often useful is a 10x variable zoom that you can increase or decrease using the left and right triggers. What isn’t so nice is the camera system, which by 2012 standard is completely broke and can actually interfere with your gameplay, causing missed jumps, etc. The camera is constantly trying to swing in behind Rayman forcing you to continuously fight for control.
Fighting is done with a single button either at close range for physical combat or at a distance to rapid-fire your boomerang-like fists. A target-lock feature makes ranged attacks a breeze. You can hold down the fire button to spin-up your attack and do extra damage. The longer the wind-up the more damage, but if you get hit while spinning up you lose your momentum and have to start all over again. The attack button also handles any augmented fire modes you may have acquired through the numerous multi-colored cans of laundry detergent. Using these cans changes your attire and your attack for a limited time.
Rayman interacts with his environment seamlessly. He sticks to climbable walls and goes up and down ladders with the greatest of ease. He monkey swings across nets or textured ceilings and if you accidentally fall off a ledge you will normally grab and can pull yourself back up. Some might call this “easy” or “kid-friendly”, but I think it’s a smart design that promotes fun over frustration. It’s pretty hard to die in this game. There is an abundance of Red Lums (healing) and they spawn about every minute so you can just hang around and get healed at will. Nothing short of a boss battle will even come close to draining your entire life meter. The game auto-saves frequently, so you never have to replay too much of any one section if you do manage to die.
Power-ups are numerous, strategically placed, and almost always necessary to progressing through the level. Most of these are earned by freeing the Teensies from their cages. You might be able to shoot a Vortex, which is great for Hoodlums on stilts or to spin-down a corkscrew platform. There is a Heavy Metal Fist that does extra damage and knocks down doors. Things that normally require a wind-up attack (like the numerous piggy banks) can now be destroyed with a normal hit.
The LockJaw power-up serves two purposes. It grapples enemies and shocks them, but it can also be used to navigate floating rings that stretch across the sky or over deep chasms. Simply lock-on and fire then swing until the next ring locks-on and repeat. You’ll be swinging better than Tarzan in no time. The Shock Rocket is a guided missile that you fire from first-person mode then steer until it hits the target. These have a limited time of travel so you often have to find the best route to your target to avoid a premature detonation.
The final power-up is the Throttle Copter that enhances Rayman’s natural ability to use his hair to jump and glide. With this power-up Rayman can actually get some lift and reach previously inaccessible areas. All power-ups have a limited duration that is noted by a clever ticking clock in the corner of the screen. To make things more challenging many of the cans are placed at the outer limits of the timer in regards to where they need to be used.
The level design in Rayman 3 is truly inspired, ranging from wondrous outdoor levels to sinister indoor areas. There are plenty of jumping puzzles, which normally might send gamers screaming into the hills, but these puzzles are more fun than frustrating. Even when you fall there is a ladder nearby to get you back to the start and some of the lengthier jumping puzzles with actually create a new shortcut when you get far enough into them, so if you fall during the second half you can attempt it again from a midpoint.
One of my favorite jumping puzzles, more so because of the cleverness of the design rather than because I was any good at it, was a series of room with platforms that were only visible in mirrored floors or walls. You could only see the reflections of the platforms, so you had to jump into empty space and monitor your progress in the mirror – reversing your movement commands of course.
The levels and worlds themselves are fairly conventional. You have your ice world, your lava world, your forest, your desert, your underwater levels…you get the picture. Things get more original and totally “funk-a-delic” during the travel sequences between each world. These are a cross between a snowboarding game and a bad acid trip. Rayman is sliding, skating, surfing, or grinding on these rails that hover over an abyss that is cycling all sorts of crazy patterns and colors like some sort of super-disco lightshow.
These levels are lengthy and will have you jumping from rail to rail (usually three across) and you need to pick the best path that offers the most collectibles. Of course, the penalty for falling is only a small point deduction and then you get to start pretty far back on the course, so you can always explore multiple routes and try to collect 100% of all the items. Rayman will automatically jump at the end of each rail, so you only need steer him to the next closest rail, but you do have the option to jump and switch rails at any time, which can often prove strategic and beneficial.
Rayman 3 breaks free from the current trend of hub-designed world portals. This game is presented in a linear fashion that plays out according to the story. Since you are graded on your collecting skills and the number of cages smashed you have the ability to go back and replay any level at any time simply by cycling to that level in the menu screen. This comes in very handy as I discovered early in the game. I had just finished the Land of the Livid Dead and had come up one cage short. Even though I had already started the next level I was able to temporarily exit that stage and return to the previous world to find my missing cage. The only bad thing about this system is that you must replay the world from the beginning, which kind of sucks if the missing cage is in the final levels of that world.
Smashing all the cages is certainly easier than getting a 100% collection score – something that you’ll want now that online Leaderboards and Achievements have been added. The Teensies inside the cages usually give you an item that is necessary to continue further into the level, so when you appear to be stuck chances are a cage is nearby. Just listen for those faint cries of “Help!” Finding and collecting 100% of the pick-ups is a much greater challenge, since most of the larger stashes of green, red, and yellow gems are cleverly hidden. Only the keenest and most observant gamers (or those with a good walkthrough) will ever get a perfect score on all the levels.
No platform game would be complete without boss battles, and Rayman 3 brings some of the most creative bosses you have ever seen to the table. None are terribly difficult but they all offer their own unique challenges that may require a few attempts to learn the patterns and exploit their weaknesses. One of the early bosses is a Hoodlum in a giant pair of stilts. You have to run around and step on three randomly lit buttons to spawn a Shock Rocket then shoot that rocket at the tiny Hoodlum in the giant pair of stilts. Of course once the power-up appears the Hoodlum will try to stomp on it and make you start over. If you do manage to beat him to the power-up he will then flee giving you only a couple of seconds to fire before he gets out of range. Once you defeat this boss you get to put on the pair of stilts and go on an arena rampage stomping on Hoodlums complete with an arena announcer doing a play-by-play commentary.
Rayman has always set the standard when it comes to graphics, even back in 2000 on the Dreamcast. Rayman 3 was a visual treat in 2003 on the Xbox and this HD remake only puts more polish on a great game with fantastic textures for characters and backgrounds that spring to life with vivid colors and ultra-smooth 60fps. Character design is as charming as ever. Rayman is still his adorable limbless self, and Globox and Murfy are back along with several new characters, and we can’t overlook the evil Hoodlums that are funny and sinister at the same time. Each is designed with ample polygons then textured and animated with meticulous care. Some of the idle animations are worth putting the controller down for a while and just watching. There are shadows, smoke, particle effects, colored lighting, and some of the best reflective surfaces I’ve seen in a game. There is one part very early in the game where you are running around these rocks over what appears to be floating in the sky, only to realize that it’s just the night sky being reflected in dark water about two feet below you. And there are some rooms with icy or highly polished floors that reflect the ceiling giving those areas a much more expansive feel. The mirrored rooms I mentioned earlier have a subtle level of realism. The mirrors look and act like real mirrors – not too perfect, slightly distorted and a bit grainy.
I don’t even know where to begin when we delve into the wonderful audio portion of this title. I guess the music is a good place to start since the first thing you hear is the kickin’ tune, “Madder”, from Groove Armada. The hip-hop, funky, rap, techno mix suits the opening movie perfectly and really sets the stage and attitude for the upcoming game. The rest of the music is equally as strong and eclectic, especially in those trippy rail-sliding sequences. I found it highly amusing that Globox was voicing my very thought during those levels when he said, “This is good music…what album is this?” and when the level was over he cries out in a distressed voice, “Where’s the music…bring back the music!”
John Leguizamo voices the loveable Globox who is always getting into trouble and always keeping you on your toes. Billy West is the incredible voice actor behind the hilarious voice of Murfy. Murfy walks you through the first few levels of the game reading from the “manual” and making plenty of wisecracks along the way. I challenge you not to laugh out loud during any given conversation in this game. Even funnier are some of the random bits of speech found throughout the game. The pure evilness of the Knaarens’ voices will send shivers down your spine as you hear them chant, “Brains…. brains…” while stalking you through the cavernous underground then just as fast will have you bust out laughing when they say, “Make him write bad checks” in the same evil tone.
The Teensies have some of the funniest comments in the game. When freed you will hear them say a variety of witty phrases. One has to run off and “Play with his hamster” while another has to “Take the kids to soccer practice”. And of course we can’t overlook Andre, the Black Lum who threatens to eat Globox’s arteries if he doesn’t get some plum juice. There are also plenty of pop-culture references including several Spiderman quips, a nod to Zelda, and several others.
All of this great sound, music and speech is presented in a wonderful Dolby Digital mix that is absolutely essential to the gameplay. I can’t even imagine playing this game in standard stereo and being able to locate the caged Teensies. Often, the only tool you have is your ears and the precise nature of the directional sound. I can think of at least four Teensies that I would have never found without following the sounds of their cries for help.
After nine years I had forgotten most of this game but it all came back to me level by level as I replayed this HD remake. Rayman 3 took me about 12 hours to finish in 2003 and another 10 hours to get 100% on all the levels. Back then you didn’t have achievements – you did all that out of a sense of pride. Expect to spend at least 15-20 hours if you want to smash every cage and rescue every last Teensie, but that is a much more attainable goal that finding all the “stuff” stashed in the concealed corners of this game. For those who are up to the task, your efforts will be rewarded with an impressive library of mini-games and a collection of hilarious short-films that show the Hoodlums torturing various creatures that are supposed to be Rayman.
Some of the mini-games are nearly as good as the main game and will keep you playing at least another 10 hours or more. This may even become your next favorite party game, as each game is quite short and you only get one life. There is a 2D Rayman that returns the franchise to its side-scrolling Jaguar roots, and another game puts you into a large mansion in a first-person shooter. Another game has you perched in a tower that you must defend from all four sides while another game has you jumping across popping balloons that span a bottomless abyss of swirling vapor. Perhaps one of my favorites is Missile Command where you pilot a Shock Rocket through a seemingly endless passage animated with psychedelic patterns and textures. There are easily twice as many more mini-games available and they are all just as creative and fun to play. You unlock them gradually by earning points during the main game. Exploiting the new point-combo system will help you unlock more of them faster, and these make a great diversion when you need to take a break from the bid adventure.
Rayman 3 HD is a great remake of an amazing classic, but it would have been nice if they could have updated the controls and camera to be just as good as the new graphics. What was acceptable and even celebrated in 2003 is now dated and a bit awkward in 2012, but that doesn’t make the game any less playable or enjoyable. There is a full retail release of gameplay here with next-gen graphics and sound, all for 800 MS points. If you played the original then you can’t pass up the chance to relive all those wonderful platforming memories, now in glorious HD, and if you’ve never played Hoodlum Havoc, then prepare yourself for a blast from the past and one challenging wild ride. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore but thankfully they do re-make them.