If you're a recent initiate to the world of games, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the only thing Rayman has ever done is do battle with those pesky Rabbids in the popular minigame franchise. Back in the day, however, he was a platforming superstar (which is pretty strange, when you consider he doesn't actually have any arms).
As Rayman is missing both shoulders, and arms, I'm not entirely sure how he's managing to carry that barrel.
Rayman 3D (despite the misleading name) is actually a port of Rayman 2, the game which marked the armless icon's first foray into 3D platforming (that's 3D as in the ability to move in 3 dimensions, not the in-your-face style 3D that's one of the main selling point of the 3DS) way back in 1999. While it sort of makes sense to redo Rayman's 3D debut to show off the 3D system, I can't help but wish they'd redone Rayman 3 if they had to re-release a Rayman platformer. Believe it or not, the 3DS version marks the ninth console the game has been released on (five of which I've actually owned). As it's been re-released so many times, you can probably guess that Rayman 2 is quite a critically acclaimed game (It's certainly on the list of my favourite platformers of all time, just behind Rocket: Robot on Wheels), so does the 3DS version do it justice?
The 3DS release of Rayman 2 is actually a port of the Dreamcast version of the game (which just so happens to be widely regarded as the best version), although the mini-games that were added exclusively for the Dreamcast seem to be absent from the 3DS release, which is a disappointment, to say the least.
Before I go on, it's probably best if I explain a bit of the story: You play as Rayman, the limbless titular hero as he tries to defend his land (known as the Glade of Dreams) from Razorbeard and his army of Robo-Pirates, who've invaded and destroyed the Heart of the World. Not one to take an invasion lying down, and with the fate of the world resting on his (non-existent) shoulders, Rayman needs to reuinite the 1000 shards of the Heart of the World (also known as lums), and collect four masks to awaken Polokus, the "spirit of the world", who'll help sort out the Robo-pirates. That's the very basics of the story, at least, but if you do fancy going into depth a little bit more, you can also unlock pages of a Rayman glossary-style-thing by collecting certain amounts of lums, which are scattered around each level, adding a further incentive to collecting them.
That yellow thing with wings is a "lum", there's usually 50 hidden in each level for you to seek out.
Since the announcement of Rayman 3DS, Ubisoft have been quick to play up the fact that they've improved the game's experience by adjusting the difficulty, one of the major niggles people had with the original version. In the first Rayman 2 (you know what I mean), falling off a cliff would take a chunk off your health bar when you respawned, so if you fell off a cliff enough times it was game over, and you'd have to start the level all over again. In Rayman 3DS, however, you don't lose any health from falling in the drink, making the game a lot friendlier for people who perhaps aren't too good at the whole platforming thing. In fact, the game over screen appears to be a thing of the past, as when Rayman's health runs out he simply respawns at the start of the area, with his health fully replenished. It sounds like quite a small adjustment, but when the levels are sometimes half an hour long or so, dying right at the end and having to restart the entire thing was more than a little frustrating - and now it's a thing of the past.
Because Rayman 2 was never really designed as a handheld game, the lengths of the levels don't really lend themselves well to portable play. With levels lasting anything from a few minutes to half an hour (and with no mid-level save-points) you can't just stick it on for a few minutes when you're bored waiting for the bus and do a level or two.
As well as being quite varied in their length, the levels are varied in terms environments too. From underwater caverns to volcanoes and flying boats, you're never really likely to get bored of seeing the same thing, as Rayman 3D always finds some crazy way to surprise you.
The air bubbles from this googley-eyed whale allow you to breathe for much longer underwater, just don't lose her.
There's also a bit of variation from the standard platforming fare too, with levels broken up with puzzles, robo-pirate fights, boss battles (one of which sees you facing off against what appears to be the demented brother of Mike from Monsters Inc) and the rather surreal sections that have you racing through levels riding on the back of what can only be described as a rocket with legs (and the mind of a dog). There's an emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving on most levels, while a notable few take the game in the other direction, and rely on split-second reflexes as, for example, you water-ski behind a lizard wearing a scarf.
If this were the DS version, I'd have probably given up and gone home by now.
And while the recent ports of Rayman 2 have been soured by the control schemes (we're looking at you, DS), with awkward controls rendering them almost unplayable, the 3DS version suffers no such faults. While the touch-screen stick used in the iPhone version just wasn't accurate enough for the quick racing sections (it took me far too many attempts to get past the second level in the swamps), and the D-pad controls on the DS game were a nightmare during the Rocket Dog sections, the 3DS version ticks all the right boxes, with the analogue slider allowing for effortless control of Rayman, and the various rocket dogs/jetskiing snakes you have to try and ride along the way. I actually managed to finish Rayman 3D on the 3DS, which is something I never managed to do with the iPhone and DS ports due to their controls. Get in!
Surprisingly for a game that's over 10 years old, Rayman 2 actually stands up quite well today. The only section that gives you the feeling of "why didn't they sort this out this time around?!" ends up being the very last section of the very last level, which is frustrating enough to have you launching your 3DS towards the nearest window, but when you finally beat the boss, and finally complete the game, there's a sense of achievement that's probably unrivalled by any other platfomer - a real "I just did that. Me.", feeling.
If you've never played Rayman 2 before, and fancy getting a platform game to go along with your 3DS, either this, or Rabbids 3D
are well worth checking out. If you've already played Rayman 2, however, how much value this holds depends entirely on your love for the limbless hero.
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