Rayman
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Ubisoft
  • Publisher:
    • Ubisoft
  • Released:
    Jaguar
    • US 09/01/1995
    PS1
    • US 09/09/1995
    • JP 09/22/1995
    • UK 09/29/1995
    Saturn
    • UK 10/30/1995
    • JP 11/17/1995
    • US 1995
    DOS
    • US 04/30/1996
    • UK 1996
Score: 70%

This review was published on 02/16/2012.

Rayman first made his debut on the Atari Jaguar in the mid 1990s. However, Rayman was later ported to other consoles, such as the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. As you can probably guess, this was the period in the 1990s where every developer wanted in on the platform mascot action. Rayman is Ubisoft's answer to Mario and Sonic. The difference being that this was a platform mascot on a then new, improved, 32-bit system with a CD-ROM format. That's if we're talking about the PlayStation and Saturn versions, of course. The bits and format varies depending on which version of the game we're talking about, but it was clear that all versions were a step up above the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo in terms of technological supremacy. Ubisoft wasn't messing around with this one. Despite looking great, Rayman suffers from problems in the level design department that prevent it from besting similar platform games released on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.

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The story stars the titular Rayman, a disembodied... thing. This fellow looks like the platform hero from the Dynamite Headdy game, which came out for the Sega Genesis before Rayman was released. In any case, Rayman's objective is to save these small, pink things called "Electoons" from a nefarious entity known simply as "Mr. Dark." Those are some creative names, Ubisoft. What next, a villain who goes by the name of Dr. I'm the Bad Guy? The story is about as interesting as going out for a cup of coffee, but that's to be expected out of a ho-hum platform game, and in no way acts as a detriment. I did find the opening cutscene with the explanation of the story to be mildly entertaining, though. It's a nice animated sequence complete with somewhat competent voice acting. The game knows its story is basic and tries to get some humor out of that by poking fun at itself in its opening sequence. It's nice of them to try. What I find annoying about Rayman's story is how it assumes you'll save all the Electoons. That's a little presumptuous, if you ask me. What if I don't want to save the Electoons? They are optional, after all.

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The first thing you'll notice about Rayman is the graphics. It's all rendered in beautifully animated, 32-bit, 2-D art. They did extraordinarily well with the color palette, making the game an absolute sight to behold. Seriously, it's some of the best art I've ever seen. It helps that the environments are nothing short of spectacular, too. You've got the prerequisite jungle world, the intriguing music world, a serene mountainous world, a bizarre world filled with pencils that makes no sense, and a cavernous world of magma. All of these environments are incredibly detailed. The sprite work is also pleasantly whimsical; in the first world, there are these hunters who shoot bullets with arms that swing a mallet at you. That's a little overkill, if you ask me. It reminds me of something out of Looney Toons or Tiny Toons Adventures. I would go as far as to say the entire game's animation and character design has a Tiny Toons vibe to it. I'm not sure if that was one of their inspirations, but this game sure does look like a cartoon. The music is pretty all right, too.

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We've avoided the issue of game play long enough, so it's time to get right to it. Rayman is a side-scrolling 2-D platform game, as mentioned above. You walk around, you jump on platforms, and Rayman can throw his fists at enemies like a boomerang projectile. The level design starts off well enough in the first world, if a bit bland, but quickly declines in world 2 and beyond. That's around when things start getting awkwardly long. The colossal levels could have really benefitted from being broken up into smaller pieces, especially with the inconsistency of the checkpoints. Some levels have a little too many checkpoints, while other levels have no checkpoints at all. It's uncanny. A fair warning: this game becomes infuriatingly difficult from world 2 onwards. I'm not docking any points for that, but I thought you should know. None of the levels left much of an impact on me, aside from one or two levels late in the game that let you fly whenever you want. You still jump around like normal, but pressing the jump button repeatedly makes Rayman fly. It's good fun.

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I'm going to interrupt this good fun with discussion of enemy design, though, since enemies pretty much are a part of the level design in platform games. The enemies are fine, for the most part, but there's one that strikes me as an odd decision by the developers: these strange, small, blue things. These blue dudes are the most common enemies of the game, yet they are too small for Rayman to hit. This is due to the fact that Rayman can't duck and attack simultaneously, probably because he suffers from crippling arthritis. What a wimp. You can only hit these enemies if Rayman is shrunk down to miniscule size by fairies in some levels, or if the enemies are high enough off the ground, neither of which is a common occurrence. I wouldn't mind this if these were special enemies you'd rarely encounter, but they're public enemy number one.

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Then there's the boss fights. Every platform game has to have boss fights, right? Yeah, Rayman has boss fights, except they suck. These are some of the worst boss battles I've seen in a video game. The reason these boss fights suck is because they overstay their welcome with huge life bars and monotonous attack patterns. You can only ever inflict one point of damage per hit, and the bosses can only be hit during moments in their attack patterns where they reveal their weak spot. None of that would be a problem if these fights were shorter. Not only does it take forever for a boss to reveal its weak point, but it takes a large amount of hits to defeat every boss after the first boss in world 1. Most platform games have underwhelming boss battles, but they usually have the good sense to make these battles short. Rayman does not have this good sense. The only good thing I can say about the bosses is that there's not too many of them. That's until you get to world 4. Almost all the levels in world 4 have boss fights, and they're easily the worst in the game.

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So there's this "Betilla" character, a fairy who grants Rayman a new move every now and then. While I don't have a problem with this concept, there are several issues that I need to address. First off, Rayman starts his quest without the ability to attack enemies. This leaves you completely defenseless against your foes until you get your first attack move. Thankfully, you do get an attack move as soon as you complete the first level, but not having this ability right from the get go is beyond moronic. Another stupid thing is that you don't get the ability to run faster until much later on. Yes, Rayman initially lacks an ability that almost every platform hero has: the ability to run at higher speeds. Not only that, but you get the run ability nearly at the end of the game. What's next, a platform game where you need to get to world 6 before you earn the ability to jump? A shooter where you have to make it half way through the game to be able to shoot things? I think you see my point. There's nothing wrong with the mechanic of obtaining new skills, but these feel like things that should have been a part of the core move set. On the bright side, Rayman does learn a cool grappling hook move that lets him swing across chasms. I approve of this.

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So the Electoons are hidden throughout every level in the game inside of these cages. Once Rayman has the capability to attack things, he can bust the Electoons out of their cages. There are six cages per level and some are difficult to find. The cages are this game's only optional collectible. I like that. What I don't like is how you can't beat the game proper unless you have freed all the Electoons. So while they are optional, you do miss out on the last level and final boss if you don't get them all. My big beef with these cages is that a lot of them are found in incredibly stupid ways. For example, many cages are invisible until you stand in a specific spot. There's no rhyme or reason to the spots you stand in or why they reveal these cages. It's not like you're standing on a switch or pulling a lever; these are just inconspicuous spots anywhere in the level. How the heck am I supposed to know I need to stand there to make a cage magically appear in another location? There's just no logic to this. This is the kind of thing you'd expect out of games from the 1980s. Sorry, Ubisoft, but this is the mid 1990s, and such design conventions were done away with for a reason.

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As hard as it is to say this, Rayman just pales in comparison to most notable platform games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. That's not to say that Rayman is totally without merit, though. The game does a good job of demonstrating the potential of 2-D graphics on systems more powerful than the SNES and Sega Genesis, and can still prove to be a fun time. Rayman also provides CD quality audio if played on the CD capable consoles. There's not much wrong with Rayman, aside from his game being completely average in every way outside of the pretty visuals. Rayman just lacks the punch to make him stand out from his competition.

Word Count: 1,680

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