Reviewed: April 10, 2000
Released: March 21, 2000
This is probably going to be the hardest review I have ever had to do for any title. Words (and even the accompanying screenshots) cannot do justice to the splendor of this magnificent title. Everything about Rayman 2 oozes with glorious perfection. Ubisoft has created a visual masterpiece that ranks right up there with a Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks feature length movie. Even the official Rayman website is a visual masterpiece if you have the bandwidth to enjoy the high-speed version. Every attention to detail has been taken to make this the premier platform title for the Dreamcast. Rayman makes Sonic look like a 1960's episode of Bugs Bunny.
Some of you may remember Rayman from his 16-bit days and some of you may already have played Rayman 2 on the N64 or Playstation, but nothing can prepare you for how well this game looks and plays on the SEGA Dreamcast. Rayman has now entered the 3D era of gaming and unlike Gex, Mario, or even Sonic, Rayman actually plays better in 3D - a testament to the care and quality programming that went into this title.
Rayman 2 is one of the most creative platform titles to ever be released. Unlike those who have preceded our hero, there are no impossible puzzles or frustratingly difficult jumping sequences. Rayman 2 is a game that almost anyone of any age can play and thoroughly enjoy. Even kids who are too young to master the controls will have fun just watching their siblings or parents play. Rayman 2 for all practical purposes is an interactive cartoon and will enthrall kids (and adults) for hours on end.
Ubisoft has packed in several mini-games that break-up the routine 3D exploration of the game's massive levels. Rayman can swim, waterski, and ride several...err...unique vehicles such as a rocket-horse or a flaming keg of gunpowder. Many of the puzzles in Rayman 2 have multiple solutions, so gamers are rewarded for thinking rather than being punished (dying) for trying new ideas.
A quick look at this title may have you thinking it is just another "kid's game" and in some ways it is - but is that really bad? The world of Rayman is full of unique characters, each with their own distinct personalities and traits. You will interact with many of these characters and they will help you on your quest in various (and often humorous) ways. Most of the characters in the game have their own agenda and will follow it despite whatever it is you might be doing. It's like playing in a living and breathing world where things are happening around you and you are a part of it.
Of course no platform game would be complete without things to collect and Rayman has plenty. The "heart of the world" has been shattered into 1,000 parts called Lums and you will need to collect as many of these as you can find. Some areas of the game are inaccessible until you have a certain number of these Lums and collecting all 1,000 will challenge even the most expert of platform gamers. In addition to collecting Lums you will also need to bust open any cages you encounter to free your friends who have been enslaved by the pirates.
Level design is impressive with huge and highly detailed levels. You are free to explore every inch of the world from the deepest lake to the highest mountaintop. The levels all flow together with game engine cut-scenes to carry the story along between and during levels.
Controlling Rayman is a joy and so much easier than any of the other platform titles I have played in the past. You are never fighting the camera in this game and even though you have full manual control over it you will almost never have to adjust it. The commands are simple and straightforward and you don't have to learn dozens of combos or buttons to play this game. Controlling Rayman under the water gets a little weird, but you get used to it after a few trips into the water. You can even go into a first-person viewing mode, which offers some spectacular views when done from the appropriate locations.
You have infinite lives and frequent checkpoints throughout the game, and they always seem to be located at just the right place. You may die every now and then, but you will never have to repeat more than a few minutes of any level if you do. Saving is a bit awkward as you can only save your progress to the VMU when you are in the World Map screen between levels. Some levels can be quite lengthy so this has the potential of being an inconvenience.
The graphics in Rayman 2 are beyond words. You will be captivated from the opening moment of the original movie to the closing credits. The use of vibrant colors, special effects, and exquisite attention to detail on each of the games levels will pull you right into the game and keep you there for hours.
The vibrant colors of Rayman are never masked with fog or any other visual tricks, and you will never see any pop-up or clipping problems in this title. It is obvious that Ubisoft put a lot of extra work in the Dreamcast version. This is not a straight port from any other version. All the graphics are rock solid at 60fps no matter how much is going on or how many characters are on the screen at any given time.
The sounds and music in Rayman 2 are just as good as the visuals. Each character you meet in the game speaks in a unique language. It all sounds like high-speed gibberish but it is always different for each kind of character you encounter. Subtitles are always available in a large and easy-to-read font, so the speech is there for atmosphere only and it really adds to the game.
Sound effects are of excellent quality and variety. The tiniest sounds are present in this game from the squeaking of a swinging prison cage to the snoring of sleeping pirates. Sounds as soft as the trickling of a creek to the roar of a waterfall are all presented in superb stereo sound. Even your footsteps are accurately reproduced for whatever surface you happen to be walking on.
Each part of the world has its own theme music, which is pleasantly in the background and even though it loops it never gets distracting or repetitive. Ubisoft has also managed to link the music with what is currently going on in the game. If you enter a dangerous area or begin a battle the interactive music will increase tempo or change to whatever is necessary to set the mood for the action.
This game is going to keep you busy but not for long. A casual trip through this game will easily take you about 20 hours. If you plan on collecting all those Lums and getting a perfect score then you can probably double that time unless you plan on using a strategy guide or cheat codes. This is pretty short by many gamers' standards but the quality of this game more than makes up for it. I would much rather play (or should I say "experience") Rayman 2 for 25 hours than play anything of lesser quality just because it was physically a longer game. The fact that it is shorter means you can just go back and play it again that much easier without committing too much of your time.
There isn't much here to really make you come back and play again except for the experience itself. There are some mini-games that are exclusive to the Dreamcast version but the true joy of this title is simply playing it. Most of us can probably pick any episode of Bugs Bunny, Daffy, or Roadrunner and quote the dialog, but that doesn't stop us from watching it the next time it is on TV. And that is the lasting appeal of this game. Even after you have won it - got a perfect score - played the mini games - you will still come back and play it again.
Rayman 2 is easily the finest console platform game you can purchase today. If you don't have a Dreamcast then this is almost reason enough to buy one. It might not be the lengthiest game in the Dreamcast library but it certainly shows off the power of this system. The game is suitable for the entire family - in fact I would recommend this as a family activity since everyone can enjoy this game just like any animated movie you might put in the VCR.
If you already purchased Rayman 2 for another system and you own a Dreamcast then you may want to try trading in your copy and getting this version. There are plenty of Dreamcast-exclusive goodies on this CD that you just aren't going to find anywhere else. Dreamcast hasn't even been out for a year and we are getting stunning games like Rayman 2. If it's true that the games only get better as the system ages then I can only dream of what is to come...hopefully a Rayman 3?