Reviewed: April 14, 2003
Released: March 18, 2003
If you havenít seen it, the commercial advertising Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc features two stoner-types on the slopes, taking a break from snowboarding. The first snowboarder pees his name in the snow, and thinks itís pretty cool. The second snowboarder pees his name more intricately in the snow, and thatís thought to be even cooler. But they are both impressed when Rayman writes "RAYMAN 3" in gigantic letters that take up the full height of the slopes. This is the level of sophistication that Rayman 3 employs.
Once this has been said, itís simply up to you, the reader, to decide what to make of that. There are a lot of good things to be said about Rayman 3, and Iíll try to say most of them, but essentially what you have is a very well developed platform game with an overcast of mentalities that range from childish to sophomoric. Not that this is intrinsically bad, but it did leave a somewhat sour taste in my mouth.
Rayman 3ís plot is oddly simplistic, if youíre willing to accept the premise that has been established in the games preceding it. There is a world inhabited by beings called "Lums". There are Red Lums and Dark Lums, Red Lums are good, and Dark Lums are bad. The game would be remiss if there werenít a pun attached to this, so the hosts of the Dark Lums are called Hoodlums.
Now that weíve gotten that out of the way, your friend Globox has a Dark Lum accidentally stuck inside of his belly. The Dark Lum wonít leave, so you make your way to various doctors/sages in an effort to remove it, overcoming the many obstacles along the way, which have a lot more variety than youíre probably accustomed to seeing in a platform game.
Control deals with two basic concepts: punching and jumping, with as much spice as can be mustered in doing so. Your square button will make Rayman punch, but keeping in mind that he has no arms and legs, a punch means actually throwing a ghost of your hand (your actual hands stay where they are) for a distance of about fifteen feet. The square button can also be held down for a wind-up punch, which of course is more powerful.
To give you a better sense of accuracy, you can use the R1 button to lock on to the closest target, and all punches will be thrown in that direction. Additionally, holding down a direction while you punch will make for a disembodied left or right hook that can weave around shields and comes in necessary quite often.
Jumping is dealt with similarly, with the length of time you hold down the X button affecting Raymanís jump, and the ability to push and hold X again to turn Raymanís hair into a helicopter, making your descent more gradual and your jumping distance farther. But the real benefit to this helicopter trick is the ability to hover carefully over your next surface, something that becomes invaluable when you get into more difficult jumping puzzles. And of course, being the forgiving people they are, the developers allowed for Rayman to cling to the edges of surfaces he didnít quite make or accidentally slipped off of.
Yes, the developers were forgiving people. Your life bar should almost never run out, lava doesnít kill you immediately, auto-saves are frequent, health pickups (Red Lums) are omnipresent and re-spawning, and the punishment for a lot of failed jumping puzzles is merely that you have to do them over again.
Yet even with all of this, this game isnít exactly "easy". Thereís very little instruction given throughout the game, so figuring out some problems means figuring out what youíre supposed to be doing in the first place. Thereís an "escape from the collapsing mansion" level, which is quite treacherous, and even though the trippy rail slide levels have checkpoints, they can still be rather difficult.
The first rail slide level will probably be the first thing that really gets your attention. After a somewhat blasť first level, youíre told of a doctor that may help you with Globoxís Lum problem and immediately thereafter youíre flying through kaleidoscopic daises and peace signs, riding a jet-powered rail slide over floating neon tracks as dance-friendly house music plays in the background. Oh yes itís just as hallucinogenic as it sounds.
You end up experiencing two more of these, and thereís also snowboarding level and hovercraft challenge that keeps swapping you from cockpit to tail gunnerís seat. The only weak link in this chain is the miniature shoe-car levels that pop up from time to time. Every so often Raymanís torso, head and hands will shrink and fall inside his left shoe, and his right shoe flees. Your shoes then operate like cars, and you have to hunt down the other shoe and knock into it, over and over, until it relents and you unlock a new part of the level. Iím not sure what exactly was intended by this confusing mini-challenge, but it comes off as a bit distracting.
But most of the variety just deals with the standard game engine itself, and figuring out new ways to explore it. One bit that Iím particularly fond of is a level where you have to collect a certain number of crowns placed in specific locations, in order to open a door and move on. Finding these means jumping your way into a certain door within a time limit, navigating a machine using alternating right and left hooks, and my personal favorite, jumping on moving platforms which you canít see, but are visible in the gigantic mirror behind you. With few exceptions, this game has refreshingly clever level design.
Of course, every 3-D platform is going to have a knock down, drag out fight with the camera angles to make sure that you can see both where you are and where youíre going, and in this case it was a fight that was mostly won - not 100%, but mostly. There are still times where you have to snap the camera behind you, and there still will be the occasional botched jump because your camera wasnít positioned correctly, but as Ubisoft is forgiving with lava, Iím going to be forgiving with this. It never seems excessive or badly planned, merely a character trait of the genre.
The characters of Rayman 3 are, as you might have guessed, cartoonish, imaginary creatures with giant eyes and exaggerated features, wide mouth smiles or sinister glares, small and helpless or massive with glowing red eyes. Itís the standard fare youíre used to, done with varying degrees of success.
The Dark Lums always look fantastic little black fur balls with housefly wings and a permanent sneer. The Hoodlums, a portly combination of wizard and Wild West outlaw, look equally as good. In fact, true to form of most good vs. evil sagas, the good guys never look as interesting. Globox is essentially a blue oval with hands and feet, and even Rayman (while I appreciate his hooded sweatshirt and no-arms gimmick) could use a little better distinction.
The levels are bright and colorful, running the gamut from a crystal palace to murky swamp and back again. The texture mapping is more than adequate, but what I think really shines are the location specific lighting effects that you get throughout the game. Torches and lamps actually illuminate the room, rather than acting as scenery. The moon gives the realistic, if exaggerated, illumination that it should. In an emerald castle you find everything shines in a minty green, and in a boiler room everything takes on a red glow. Dark and light is something commonly explored in game design, but light sources and effects usually arenít.
Music in the game, other than the much-hyped Groove Armada piece, MadderĒ, in the beginning and aforementioned house music during the rail slide levels, ends up pretty minimal. It changes into something more pulsating when you get into a battle or are involved into something particularly exciting, but besides that, I barely knew the music was there.
The voices, on the other hand, will not be ignored. Throughout the game, the character of Globox will be around you, in one way or another, which means youíll have a lot of opportunities to hear John Leguizamo, who did the voice of Globox. If you liked John Leguizamo in A Pyromaniacís Love Story, and you thought Spic-O-Rama was pretty good, and in spite of yourself, you still get a hankering to watch The Pest now and then please keep in mind that this is the same John Leguizamo that was in Super Mario Brothers: The Movie. So expect something more along the lines of Ice Age, and less along the lines of Carlitoís Way.
Fortunately, thereís another character in this game that puts everything into perspective. At the very beginning of the game youíre being carried by a flying creature named Murfy who tells you to steer into the Red Lums, then he immediately starts berating you for not doing it fast enough. Murfy will drop you after youíve collected all the Red Lums, but heíll remain nearby for quite sometime, making glib comments and acting as sassy as he can manage.
This character is quite possibly the most hateful creature to have ever been concocted, and when I finally made it to the first rail slide level and realized that horrible flying beast had not followed me, I ended up enjoying flying through kaleidoscopic daisies with that much more enjoyment. The voice, I should mention, was provided by Billy West, a cartoon voice actor who did little of real importance other than commandeer the Ren part on Ren & Stimpyduring the bad years after John Kricfalusi got fired for having Ren call the network executives "boogers and farts".
I played Rayman 3 from beginning to end in two sessions that took me about eleven hours. After that, I went back through certain levels to try to get all the hidden cages and amass a better score. The points you get unlock two things, one being a selection of short-films which is billed as snippets from a collection of training videos called "Wanna Kick Rayman", spanning 547 videos and one DVD (buy 546, get one free!) where a Hoodlum abuses various critters imagined to be Rayman. The training videos are all short, well done, and surprisingly good.
The other thing you can unlock is a sizeable collection of mini-games like "crush as many frogs as you can", "jump on as many balloons as you can" or "play tennis". The mini-games, on the whole, are short, fairly dull, and only worth a small amount of your time.
If you told me you wanted to rent this game, Iíd say you probably should. The gameplay in itself well thought out and engaging, and a good number of the levels give you a gaming experience thatís genuinely fun. If you told me you wanted to buy this game, Iíd say you might want to rent it first. Experienced platform gamers can easily finish this in a rental period and there may not be enough extras to keep this title around after the final boss falls.
I canít be ignorant to the fact that a lot of what I dislike about this game is based on personal opinion, but such is the nature of a game review. If I hadnít found the voices so annoying and the music so lacking, or if I was able to have the sound off when I was playing it, I might be more inclined towards a more favorable score.
As it stands, Rayman 3 received the Editorís Choice award for the Xbox and GameCube versions, and there are two other reviewers who found the game a nearly flawless playing experience. As for me, Iím just not sold, and I donít know how long I would let my 11 year old nephew play it before considering forcing him to put in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City instead. Sure, it might scar him, but at least Iíd be able to listen to "99 Luftballoons" again.