Review: Rayman (Jaguar)

The character with no limbs, Rayman, began his legacy on the Jaguar in mid 1995. This 2D platformer was one of the few big third party games for the Jaguar, and the only game from Ubisoft. Rayman plays like your standard 2D platformer.

This game's hook, is that Rayman himself is limbless. He features hands, feet, torso, and head, but nothing connecting these pieces. His main attack is actually throwing his fist at enemies, which can go quite far considering he has no arms. His hair also spins, and acts as a helicopter, allowing a short time of hovering. He can also hang from ledges and swing from hooks. Rayman cannot jump on top of enemies.

Rayman features 17 levels across 5 worlds. Dream Forest is a forest style level. Band Lands is a musical themed land up in the clouds. Blue Mountain is takes place on mountains and caves. Picture City is some type of giant art world. The Caves of Scope are caverns. The last level (and world) is Candy Chateau.

When you initially start Rayman, you do not have any abilities. As your progress through the the game, a fairy grants you your abilities, (punching, hanging, swinging, gliding, and running). After gaining new abilities, you can go through past levels and discover new areas are now accessible with your new abilities.

What I hate most about some platforming games is the constant need to play through levels over and over looking for every last widget and orb before I am allowed to progress through the game. Rayman falls into this trap, but it's only a minor offence. Scattered through each of the 17 levels are 6 Electoons which must be found. Only after finding all 6 Electoons can you enter the 6th world, Candy Chateau which contains the final boss. If you are into exploring every last nook and cranny of games, this game's for you.

The controls in Rayman are smooth and responsive. The jump works well, allowing you to change directions mid jump. The game is also very forgiving as far as the hit detection. You just need a small part of Rayman's body to land on a platform. Additionally, enemies need to hit the center of your body to register a hit. The game is very forgiving in this way and you never feel like you are dieing from cheap shots.

Rayman's main attack is a punch. You can charge up your fist by holding the B button down. The longer you charge it up, the farther and more powerful it is. It can also hit enemies on it's return. There are special items scattered throughout the levels that also increase the speed and power of the attack. Rayman can also glide with the C button. His hair spins around like a helicopter, which looks great, and helps with landing jumps. The glide lasts for only a few seconds.

A couple of the levels feature additionally powers. In one level, you have a magic seed which immediately sprouts into a platform. You then need to keep sprouting new plants and making your way upwards through the level. In another level, you are granted flying power. Instead of just a brief glide, Rayman can use his helicopter to fly. These special levels are a nice break between the regular platforming levels. You never know whats coming up next.

My biggest gripe with Rayman is the difficulty. Despite the great controls, there are a lot of levels that rely on tricky jumps and moving platforms. Many of the levels feature no bottom, which means missing a jump results in an instant death. The beginning of the game is far more forgiving, but it really ramps up as the game progresses. The only way to beat the game is to use a cheat code to get more lives. Enter 515253 on the opening sequence with Rayman's hands walking across the screen to start a game with 50 lives. This is probably the best use of the Jaguar's number pad I've seen yet.

When you get hit by an enemy, you bounce backwards. When you are on a moving platform, this means you will fall off. As noted above, many of the levels are bottomless, this means instant death. Annoying.

Graphically speaking, Rayman still holds up well. It is extremely colorful, detailed, and very sharp. All of the enemies are well animated. The backgrounds are a bit soft, but give a great illusion of depth. Most impressive are the giant bosses that take up the whole screen. These really are a step above the 16-bit platformers. In fact, this game was also available on the Saturn and Playstation, and not the Super Nintendo or Genesis. The frame rate is silky smooth. Overall, Rayman is visual treat that still holds up well today.

Everything in Rayman is very cartoony and cute. All of the enemies and characters in Rayman are limbless as well. My only complaint with the graphics is the lack of any special effects. With the limbless characters, there is a real opportunity to introduce some scaling or rotation effects. While I can't fault the graphics, it would have been nice to see the 2D platformer genre pushed farther with the additional power.

The music in Rayman is great. They all fit Rayman's fictional world well, and are never annoying. The sound effects are crystal clear and have a unique cuteness to them as well. While the Saturn and Playstation versions (which I have not played) featured CD quality soundtracks, this sound track fits the limitations of the cartridge medium.

Overall Rayman is a good title. The graphics are sharp and colorful and the game plays well. Despite it's cute appearance, this game is not for casual gamers. The difficulty level is a bit unforgiving at times, but can be overcome with cheat codes. The game is massive, and can't be beat in an afternoon. For Jaguar fans looking for a good platformer, Rayman can't be beat. Recommended.

Graphics - 7/10 Cute, colorful, and smooth
Sound - 6/10 Good
Game play - 7/10 Difficult
 Overall - 7/10 Solid platformer