Reviewed: March 27, 2003
Released: March 4, 2003
Rayman has been around since the mid-90ís and has graced just about every game system available in the past eight years. Our limbless hero has made the move from 2D platform games to 3D next-gen action titles and even found his way to the handheld market as a GBA launch title.
Rayman 3 is the latest incarnation of this loveable action hero and easily one of the best platform games I have ever played on my GBA and probably the best game Iíve played this year Ė yes, I know itís only March so thatís not saying much.
While Rayman 3 was released and is now available for all gaming systems, the GBA version puts a unique spin on the gameplay found in its ďbig consoleĒ counterpart (Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc). Obviously, the GBA canít offer all the same sophisticated graphics and 3D gameplay of the major systems, but Ubisoft has taken the time to include plenty of features including bonus link-features for those with the GameCube version and a link cable.
Anyone familiar with Rayman Ė especially those who played Rayman 2: The Great Escape or Rayman Advance - will immediately feel right at home the moment they turn on this game. All of your favorite characters are back including many of Raymanís friends and even some of his enemies. This adventure revolves around Globox who has swallowed a Black Lum, an evil and dangerous creature that spreads evil across the land like a virus. Rayman must get help for his friend as quickly as possible but the evil Razorbeard and his gang of baddies are also trying to get Globox and extract the Black Lum for their own unspeakable and no doubt, evil purposes.
If you have ever played Rayman on the PlayStation, Dreamcast, or the Game Boy Advanced you will slip right into this title like a pair of comfortable old slippers. Even if this is your first Rayman experience, or possibly your first GBA-platform experience you will still find this game remarkably easy to learn and play.
Rayman starts off with a traditional library of moves such as jumping, a double-jump with a helicopter spin for extra distance, crawl, and a fist punch that you can charge up. All of these moves are available from the beginning of the game unlike the previous Rayman Advance that forced you to earn some of these moves by playing through several early levels with nothing more than a jump.
There are still additional and more powerful moves for you to earn in this game. These are bestowed upon you by Ly, the fairy, and will allow you to do destructive body slams, power fist and double fist attacks, and a Super-Helico move that lets you fly for extended distances. As you might expect, these moves will all become critical to the gameplay sooner or later.
Rayman controls like a dream with the D-pad moving him left and right. Pushing down will cause him to crouch and crawl. The A and B buttons jump and punch while the L/R triggers are assigned to Raymanís two power upgrades that he receives later in the game.
Those of you who have played Rayman Advance may notice some immediate similarities when you start playing Rayman 3. The gameplay is pretty basic and even though you have a full library of moves you donít do much more than jumping and swinging for the first few levels. But your patience and continued gameplay will soon be rewarded as you venture deeper into this 50-level game.
It wonít take long before the levels become much more creative in their design, including some interesting mode-7 stages. There are four such stages, two of which have Rayman water-skiing through swamps collecting Lums and avoiding obstacles, and two other stages that put you in a Mario Kart-style bumper car race around a track with deadly lava pits on either side. These clever stages are scattered through the game and are a welcome diversion from the traditional platform-style gameplay found in the rest of the game.
All of these levels are structured into four unique worlds that are accessed via a traditional hub in the form of a world map. Each level is broken down into several sub-levels creating what would seem to be a massive gameplay experience. In reality, most of the levels are relatively short and hardcore gamers can probably finish this game in 10-15 hours.
As with most platform titles, collecting items is the core of the gameplay and Rayman 3 gives you plenty of things to search for and collect. There are 999 Yellow Lums and 50 cages to uncover and when you have found all of these only then can you access the Lum Challenge level to claim the 1000th Lum, and only then can you access the bonus stage available via the GameCube link feature. Of course, none of these collectibles are required to finish the game. You could conceivably race to the finish of each level and still win, but where is the fun in that?
And what would a platform game be without ďboss battlesĒ? Rayman 3 features a respectable collection of creative bosses, but unfortunately the boss fights arenít particularly challenging. Like most any boss battle, the trick is to learn the patterns and exploit the weaknesses of each boss you fight. Most of the earlier bosses in Rayman 3 arenít all that complicated. Youíll learn their patterns in a minute or less and it wonít take much longer to defeat them. Fortunately, as you get deeper into the game the later bosses will ramp up in difficulty and probably take you several retries before you figure them out.
Rayman 3 is one of the few new Game Boy Advance titles that make use of the GBA/GameCube link cable to provide added value content for owners of both systems. In this case, those fortunate enough to own both systems and a copy of Rayman 3 for each will be able to unlock several exclusive features to enhance their Rayman experience including:
Rayman 3 looks fantastic with some of the best colors, animation, and visual design I have seen on any GBA title in a long time. Those who have played Rayman Advanced will see some similarities but Rayman 3 has improved upon those graphics immensely with loads of details and perfectly smooth animation.
The characters all look and move great and those who have played the console version of Rayman will be able to see that the same 3D characters have been somehow flattened and perfectly ported to the GBA. All of the sprites are colorful and sharp and stand out against the equally colorful backgrounds. Level design is creative and fun and pays homage to levels found in all of the previous Rayman games.
Rayman 3 has plenty of great music that features remixes of many of the tracks from Rayman on the console. There are original pieces of music for each level that surprisingly fits the theme and compliments the visuals for that level. There is also some very smooth musical cues that seamlessly change the music from the normal background tunes to enemy-specific themes when you start fighting. Naturally, the music pales in comparison to the more powerful console versions, but given what the developers had to work with, itís good stuff for the GBA.
The sound effects are excellent, clean and crisp and nearly identical to their console counterpart. Some of the effects are so perfect (like the Teensieís cries for help) that Iím sure they are the same samples used on the GameCube.
As with most platform titles you can finish the game and you can win the game Ė yes, there is a difference. Seasoned platform gamers can finish Rayman 3 in less than eight hours but if you want to win it (collect every last item and unlock every last secret) then expect to spend twice that amount of time.
There are also four multiplayer mini-games that will keep you and your friends busy for even more hours. These include variations of the Bumper Car mini-game found in the main game where you can race other players around a track or in a demolition derby arena. You also have a Tag game where you try to tag the other players and a Burglar variation, which is the opposite of tag where you try to stay tagged the longest. Most of these modes need to be unlocked through single-player gameplay.
Rayman 3 is a model of platform perfection. The gameplay is flawless and fun and with 50 levels there is plenty of it. The mode-7 mini-games are a welcome and refreshing novelty in an otherwise traditional platform experience, and the inclusion of the multiplayer GBA-link games makes this a perfect party game. The added value of the linkable bonus features is just icing on the cake and a nice perk for those fortunate enough to own both systems and copies of the game for each.
If you are a fan of the Rayman series or just looking for a great platform title for your GBA then look no further. Rayman 3 is about as good as it gets and is a worthy addition to your GBA game collection.
GameCube / GBA Connectivity Gameplay Screenshots