How well does Rayman’s second 3D adventure hold up to the first? Josh Goldie puts the two games side-by-side and see if this was a step in the right direction or not
Previously I reviewed the game Rayman 2: the Great Escape on the Nintendo 64. It was Ubisoft’s first attempt at taking their platforming hero Rayman into the third dimension. Like other games in the series before it, the transition was not incredibly smooth, though the game still turned out enjoyable for the most part. Now a year later, I had the opportunity to play the games sequel, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc for the Nintendo GameCube. This title is very similar in style and idea to the previous game, so I thought it would be a fun idea to look at the two games and compare them in order to judge whether Rayman 3 was a good successor or not. I will be referring back to my Rayman 2 review—so I urge you to give it a proper read before or after reading this article.
We will start with the story. In the previous game, Ubisoft attempted to dive more into the lore of the franchise and give a grand tale where Rayman had to save the whole world. The story was fitting as the series had gotten much larger in its jump to 3D and the game reflected that. So it comes as rather baffling that the storyline for Rayman 3 is non-existent. There is a story, don’t get me wrong—but because it was so low key, so inconsequential and so poor that it came across as an excuse to get Rayman to these locations rather than trying to detail out the world of the game. He may as well have been rescuing a princess or something. The story is this: the Lums from the previous game (fairies which give Rayman health and power) have turned evil and begin hunting the denizens of Rayman’s world. But Globox accidentally swallows their leader and so the two travel around in search for a looking a doctor who to remove the villain from Globox’s belly. That’s the premise that takes up all but the last tenth of the game.
The game has not changed much in its most basic controls from Rayman 2. All of Rayman’s abilities like climbing and gliding return here and you receive them all right from the get-go. These aspects have been tweaked however, and it is all for the better. Platforming no longer feels like a game of risk and everything is actually responsive. I never ran into problems like I did with the previous game. The cages return in this game and by collecting eight you are rewarded with Rayman’s health increasing. Some of these are optional while others mandatory. Combat is more common in this game and thankfully the battle system has been greatly improved, too. There are not many enemy types, but each one has some kind of unique way in order to defeat them which is nice.
Rayman 2 was filled with gimmicks in every level and Rayman 3 tones this down slightly. The rocket levels return from the previous game and are slightly easier to control this time around. Other than that, you get grinding levels in between chapters which I can only describe as ‘psychedelic’ in design but are fun nonetheless. The final gimmick is also the biggest focus of this game and that is the power-ups. Rayman can find 5 power-ups in this game that is frequently required to solve puzzles and move from area to area. These range from just increasing Rayman’s strength and copter abilities to giving him a rocket arm, grappling hooks and a punches that cause tornadoes on impact. These power ups appear everywhere and thankfully they are implemented seamlessly without fault. Using them is very simple and very easy to grasp and they make good editions to the game.
Unfortunatly that was the last positive thing I had to say about this game. Although the power-ups are great, it comes at the detraction that the game begins to feel very same-y. The level progression is more linear here than it was in the previous games which are emphasised by the removal of a map screen and the side levels. Each level is connected through the previously mentioned side areas and is split into segments. Each segment ends with a point of no return which means if you are exploring and accidentally end up on the games designated path, then the only way to return is to restart the whole level. This can be really frustrating at times and whilst this was present in Rayman 2, it was so uncommon that I couldn’t really complain. But now it happens all the time. Add this with the lack of new gameplay elements happening and you’ll find that the game truly becomes a bore to play at times.
Finally, we have the sound design which I only have one proper thing to say. The voice acting in this game is awful. Rayman 2 had a bit of English voice acting, but it was fine and underrepresented. Here, Rayman and Globox especially would not shut up and they have some really annoying voices. The dialogue is not funny and the quality of it dates the game hard. I found myself just lowering the volume outside of story important cutscenes and listening to my own stuff so I did not have to hear them talk anymore.
This next paragraph contains spoilers. I will be talking about the last boss much like I did in the Rayman 2 review and if you would rather wait and see it for yourself then just skip to the end paragraph. Otherwise keep reading.
This boss sucks. I did not think they could make a boss worse than the one in Rayman 2, but they somehow managed. The problem I had with the final boss in Rayman 2 was the controls of the rocket but here it is the monotony of it all. The final boss is a gauntlet, having three forms that are designed to utilize all of Rayman’s power-ups and it sucks so badly. The first part is hard to dodge his never-ending onslaught of attacks while you run around desperately trying to grab the right power-up and then attack him while also jumping up and down to avoid his attacks. It is a pain. But it is the only hard part of the boss as the rest is just dragged out instead. Next he turns giant and you are put into a mock 2D section. The problem here is that to get the power-ups needed, you have to run all the way to one side of the level and then run all the way back. Three times. All while dodging again. The third part involves using the propeller power to scale a bunch of platforms that are falling and it is just poorly designed. You fall way too easily and some platforms are just unreachable. Of course, ending off this nightmare is another rocket section. Though easier to control, it is still not great and just takes forever to do enough damage. Only after that do you win. And did I mention that you have to do it all without dying? If you do die then may the divine help you because you start all the way back to two rooms before the first part of the boss fight. I hated this and it amazes me that Ubisoft could be so bad at designing this. It just tarnishes the whole experience.
Overall, I have to admit I was disappointed with this game. While the gameplay was a lot more polished than Rayman 2 and the gimmicks were a lot more controlled and refined; the whole experience just feels like a step backwards. Everything else is worse—from the story, to the pacing, to the sound, and in the end I only felt compelled to beat this game just so I could write this review. That is not the sign of a good game and it’s a shame that this was the last original 3D Rayman title before the Rabbids took over for all those years. But if the series was continuing in this way, then maybe that Rabbid takeover was not really a bad thing after all.