When I think back to the era of the 8/16-bit revolution, an era when 3D graphics was but a conceptual vision, the Ninja Turtles were hip, and the platform genre was booming amongst gamers as the pioneers Sonic and Mario paved a path in which very few candidates could follow. I can recall the endless nights, hour after hour battling to reach the next level, the consecutive button-tapping, (the Con Ed bill), the woes I encountered when my hero fell to their deaths (curse those bottomless pits), and of course the welcomed climax of it all - my joyous shouts of success!
Ironically with the growth of technology shifting from the realms of fascinating 2D gaming to textured mapped, motion captured, (read: 3D)...I haven't been as captivated to expend so much of my time to be immersed in adventures that today's successors of the platform genre would have me embark. Aside from the exceptions of Crash and Rayman, I found little interest in today's newfound token heroes. While a character's image in itself says a lot as to one's impressions to embrace a game first hand - we've all on occassion have come to discover that it boils down to gameplay. Rayman always impressed me, as it was during his debut on the PlayStation that I became quite fascinated with the limbless adventurer. Overall, Rayman was quite enjoyable sans the degree of fustration I gained from his inability to reach new heights (I generally chalked it up initially to bad hand coordination on my part).
As it's become apparent with the transistion to 3D gaming, platformers designed on 2D engines are practically non-existant to the point that when such a title does appear, it's scarfed up like a thirsty camel to water. Add to the fact that my admired heroes which I once enjoyed in their simple form, became transformed. Suddenly they had dimension and their worlds were expanded, while the appeal seemingly went the opposite direction. Thankfully, the development teams at Ubi Soft never fell into this mix and took several pages from what made Rayman's first adventure an enjoyment and expanded upon those attributes a hundred fold.
The story takes place in a distant world (as to how far this dimension is to our own is beyond me). A gang of intergalactic pirates have arrived on Rayman's homeworld and have enslaved everyone in sight, (including our limbless hero) and have shattered The Heart of the World - the primary power source for Rayman and his magical friends. Thanks to the aid of his trusted friend Globox, Rayman escapes and sets out to free the 1,000 lums (best described as tiny yellow fairies). Upon resucing Ly from her clutches of imprisonment, a new objective is issued to Rayman - he must locate four magical masks in order to awaken the legendary Polokus, the Spirit of the World who holds the power to rid of the invaders from Rayman's world.
While Rayman 2 does not offer anything significantly different in the gameplay department as with the lot of other platform titles on the market, it is the pure, endless degree of ingenuity that raises it above those of its kind. You'll discover that the game boasts an abundance of gameplay styles during various points in the games; enough that they could easily have been marketed as a new product. Rayman 2 keeps you quite entertained as you use serpents to waterski accross swamps, traverse accross volcanic caverns, and navigate rocket-propelled chairs past numerous obstalces. This is all accompanied with the vast graphical depth of levels packed within the 14 magical worlds you encounter. Rayman 2 truly puts you into another world filled color, lighting and splendid textures which are apparent in lush forests, volcanic caverns, ocean bays, and many other beautifully rendered landscapes you'll encounter. It's warranted and quite understandable to actually stop to marvel the handiwork which was put into this game, much as I have on many occassions.
This factor of ingenuity continues to shine in regards to the game's character design, which only serves to harmonize perfectly with that of the levels themselves. Primary examples include Murphy who aids you with vital pieces of advice and hints. He's best described as a bug and a Cheshire Cat, the Teensies who are very wise, yet actually absent minded due to their age and thus don't recall who is their king and Globox, whose empowered to create small rain storms and allegedly is among just one of the characters who happens to have a large mouth (something commonplace which you'll discover within the world of Rayman). Rayman 2 echoes forth a personal style that has only been set by a number of exemplar games. Each character holds such a distinct personality, integrity and being among the most imaginative and expressive creatures, that its quite easy to become immersed within the adventure itself.
Control is basically second to none, and quite a signficant improvement since Rayman's maiden days upon the PlayStation. Making full use of the Dreamcast controller. Rayman can hop, strafe left/right to avoid attacks, grab, climb nets, walls, and webs with ease while pointing the analog pad in the direction you desire. To land with precision, simpy jump in the air and tap the A button; which activates his helicopter ability (tapping the button again respectively will deactivate this function). As Rayman acquires new powers, you'll be able to progressively increase the power of your shots by pressing B and holding it down; releasing it when the desired strength is obtained. Additional abilities include a permanent helicopter function allowing total freedom to navigate throughout levels, and grabbing onto purple lums to reach new unexplored areas. Naturally there are a variety of objects which you can use or must be familiar with. Among some of the items you'll encounter include. kegs which seal the 1,000 lums, plums to use as weapons or surfing lava flows, and magic spheres used to unlock doors to new areas). The most vital objects are the lums, which consist of numerous colors such as red lums restore energy to Rayman's lifebar, blue provide oxygen (even a limbless wonder needs to breath underwater too), and green lums record your progress in the event if Rayman has an unfortunate death, you will continue where the last green lum was collected.
The sounds and musical effects are just astounding. You'll discover that Rayman and the additional cast of characters all speak in a foreign dialect. Rayman rants on with 'zabuu zadu zi'tan zehu' and Globox, reminding me of the teacher from the animated Charlie Brown series I watched as a kid, expressing his form of 'expressions' Thankfully, English subtitles have been included to interpret the action story unfolding onscreen. The music harmonizes well with all the action and cut scenes within the game. Themes causally shift as you encounter new terrain or enemies, and is simply dead on - something that very few games in this genre have successfully achieved.The very moment that I was invited to review this game and sat to watch the inductory segment immediately had me hooked in the first five minutes of play, it's as if I was actually watching some animated cartoon through my DC!
With all of the positive acclaim one can give to this game, is there reason to suggest Rayman 2 possesses faults? Hardly, the game runs perfectly smooth, you'll never run into an object from thin air, as there's no pop up and most importantly - no clipping. The Dreamcast version even includes some exclusive extras, most which include the use of the system's net functionality to download special mini-games to thus unlock more bonuses and adding even more replay value to the entire package. Even if you should suddenly become a Rayman 2 master in a week, the game features a hidden four-player mode which can only be unlocked upon completed the Globox Village. Camera angles in 3D games have come to be the death of most platform titles in particular (Sonic Adventure was among the first DC title in which I discovered this). Thankfully, you won't suddenly lose track of Rayman as it's handled in an acceptable fashion. Should you wish to examine your surroundings, simply holding the L and R triggers simulaneously. There is an slight adjustment which will be made on occassion(such as jumping unto moving platforms when crossing accross swamps), but it's nothing short of being minor and in no way detracts from the overall enjoyment. I would have liked a more expanded options feature, namely to adjust the difficulty setting, and since I've been spoiled by platform titles of the past - I would've really excited to have a sound test feature. Save points can only be accessed when you reached a hub known as the Hall of Doors. While this raises the replay value up a notch, there are times when I wished to continue at a specific point, rather than having to start over again at the beginning of a level.
Without a doubt, Rayman 2 truly shines in a class of its own, breaking the typecast as being among the 3D clones which have surfaced since the debut of Mario 64. Without running the risk of concluding with a sales pitch, if you're looking for a new addition to your Dreamcast library, I'd strongly recommend that you'd look out this game. Boasting a high level of creativity, personality and most imporantly - entertaining gameplay. In essence, Rayman 2 breathes new life into what otherwise has become a genre watered down by the common platform titles of today, echoing much of the 'been there, done that' vibe.
· · · Bahn