“The hoodlums get bored on Sundays. So they dream up stupid games.”
Rayman is one of those long-lasting franchises that appeals to a certain breed of gamer—in this case, the platformer nut. Ubi Soft’s mascot was once quite popular in Europe and has graced numerous platforms over the years. Since I’m a huge fan of Rayman 2: The Great Escape (Dreamcast edition) and its GBC sibling, I made sure to grab the latest in the series upon release. However, while Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is an enjoyable romp with some interesting surprises, it isn’t quite the extraordinary experience Rayman fans had anticipated.
For those unfamiliar with the Rayman, he is a limbless hero of unknown origin that lives in a kooky, cartoon-like world with fairies, witches and life-giving insects known as lums. His trademark moves include his hair helicopter, which slows his airborne decent and his long-range punches. Other returning characters include the simpleton sidekick, Globox, Murfy the instructional fly, and the wise but weird Teensies. Rayman 3’s story starts with a bang when André, lord of the evil dark lums, accidentally flies down Globox’s throat in a frantic rush to destroy the world. Rayman and Globox then set off to rid the world of the tainted lums—especially the one stuck in Globox’s tummy. The dark lums have a few tricks up their sleeves, though, and have assumed the shape of gun-wielding maniacs…
Like the last generation’s installment, Rayman 3 is chock full of personality—something that cannot be ignored. Its presentation clearly shows that Ubi Soft’s team wasn’t afraid to express itself in the face of popular trends. The result is something not unlike a European comic book: quirky characters, bizarre situations, and over-the-top animations crisply define Rayman’s world. A critical hit will even prompt various exclamations (such as “LEIU!!!!” and “GRAA!!!”) to appear.
Audio also contributes a great deal to Rayman 3’s irresistible character. Presented in Pro Logic II, the rich and varied music accompanies each level and responds well to changing situations. Some songs stand out more than others, but they're of high quality overall. The biggest surprise of the whole game is its dialogue. Whereas Rayman 2 relied on charming gibberish with subtitles, Rayman 3 has voice acting...and a lot of it. But even more astonishing is how good it is! Featuring the vocal talents of Billy West (Futurama’s Fry) and John Leguizamo (Super Mario Bros’s Luigi, Moulin Rouge) among others, it’s not hard to see why. Used throughout the game, the dialog is (usually) convincing and amusing—it even includes traces of sexual innuendo. The voices complement the game’s attitude well, but admittedly their frequency might annoy some. Fortunately this problem can be solved. Although the dialog volume is adjustable, Rayman 3 offers a much more enjoyable solution: foreign languages. At boot-up the game presents a choice of languages: German, French, English Spanish or Italian. This choice alters both the text and dialog, which also means you won’t comprehend any aural or visual tips (unless you know that language, of course). The voice acting is excellent in every language, and the German and French tracks in particular are highly recommended.
Rayman 3 plays in a similar fashion to Rayman 2 with a heavier emphasis on its updated combat system and power-ups. It still has plenty of linear platforming elements: Players must place jumps, hit switches, and swing on grappling hooks to stop the dark lums. However, battles are more frequent and varied, often relying on Rayman’s new moves and power-ups, including the ability to curve his punches. That’s not to say these battles aren’t fun, but they take up a large portion of the game, where as run-and-jump mechanics have always been Rayman’s staple. Rayman 3 also hosts other entertaining styles of play, such as sliding down slopes or manning pirate ship cannons. The controls are intuitive and responsive for the most part, but Rayman has some trouble turning sharply.
However, despite its enjoyable main game, Rayman 3 has some serious issues. Firstly, it is much easier than Rayman 2. Rayman’s difficulty is part of what makes the series so special, and to see the tradition broken is a big disappointment. This issue is compounded by its moderate length. Many of the ideas brought up in the game could have been elaborated upon; it’s as though large chunks of the game were abandoned to get the product to retailers. The result is a game of Luigi’s Mansion length, hence the $40 price tag. Admittedly, the game does have some lastability, though, as players can revisit old levels to improve their score, which unlocks simple arcade-style games and hilarious bonus videos. Most mini-games are only for a single player and are almost worthless, except for some of the GBA connectivity features, which can be mildly entertaining. Also worth mentioning are the highly compressed full motion videos, most of which could have likely been presented using the game engine. In addition to this, the audio in the opening video contains an unacceptable amount of clipping and distortion.
Rayman 3 is an amusing caper, but not an epic adventure like Rayman 2. Rayman 3 has some very strong qualities, but its brevity just cannot be ignored. So although the production standards of the game may be impressive, a purchase isn’t recommended, even at its lower price point.