Sometimes Silent Heroes Are Best
HD remakes are all the rage right now, and why not? Gamers seem happy to plunk down a few bucks in order to experience older games with prettier graphics. The latest of these remakes is Rayman 3 HD, a 3D platformer that debuted back in 2003. It’s been prettified and placed on the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade for a modest price.
The question of whether Rayman 3 will appeal to you is fairly simple. Are you nostalgic for the days of 3D platformers on the PlayStation 2? If so, Rayman 3 typifies the higher-quality games of that genre and era. If your platforming experience is limited to this generation of games, you may find Rayman 3 HD a bit dated and far less smooth to control than contemporary games like Super Mario Galaxy.
As usual for the time, Rayman 3 starts with a very simple premise. The happy little fairy-things called Lums that populate Rayman’s world have been corrupted and turned into Hoodlums. Andre, the leader of the Hoodlums, causes a particularly major amount of trouble, and Rayman must jump and punch his way through plenty of colorful levels in order to save his forest. The story and gameplay are nicely diverse, with Rayman visiting many different locales and doing everything from disco rail grinding to missile target practice.
The basic action of the game is fairly simple. Rayman punches bad guys and explores the relatively short levels (in this case, short is a good thing), collecting hidden treasures and solving simple puzzles along the way. He’ll find various power-ups that can temporarily help him do things like punch through walls and swing from conveniently-placed hooks. Rayman 3 HD has been optimized well for modern systems, running at a nice smooth frame rate and featuring responsive controls.
Of course, Rayman 3 still suffers from some of the common problems that faced 3D platformers in the PlayStation 2 era. The camera is frequently less-than-helpful, getting stuck, moving slowly or jerkily, or just plain refusing to pan in the desired direction. It can sometimes be easy to get stuck on the scenery as well, which can be frustrating when dealing with the timed power-ups.
The game’s developers also made some unusual design choices that don’t work as well in practice as they might have on paper. The game oddly places a high value on getting a high score in each level. Part of that score is, as expected for the genre, tied to finding hidden treasures. The rest, though, is tied to completing a level’s objectives as quickly as possible and attacking enemies without being hit. These objectives are a bit strange and frustrating for a 3D platforming fan, especially since it’s difficult to gather a lot of treasure in a short amount of time, since Rayman needs to wind up his swings in order to break most treasure boxes. The object of moving quickly and getting a high score seems at odds with the exploration-based gameplay that’s core to enjoying this kind of experience, and, in my opinion, the game is more fun if the player simply ignores the score. It’s mostly used to open up optional minigames of varying quality levels anyway.
The other unusual choice the developers made was to create a linear progression through the game’s levels, without offering the player the ability to go back to earlier levels in order to uncover more treasure or shoot for a higher score. Given the game’s emphasis on high scores, it seems especially odd not to have a hub world or level selection mechanism. Still, these complaints don’t keep Rayman 3 HD from being fun and interesting to play, just from being among the greatest examples of 3D platforming.
As for the game’s aesthetics, the revamped graphics are pretty decent, with modern effects enhancing the upscaled textures. Nobody will mistake this for a recently-developed game, of course. There’s only so much one can do with early 3D models, and the rough edges are particularly noticeable on natural objects like trees. There are some occasional inconsistencies in the HD upgrade as well. On-screen text sometimes looks very sharp, but other times looks jaggy and pixellated. With a maximum 720p resolution, the game is likely to look better on a smallish HD TV than a big-screen, on which I imagine the relics of the original graphic design would be far more obvious.
Ubisoft made an unfortunate sound design decision in Rayman 3, deciding to fully voice all the characters. The result sounded like a lame attempt to be hip and zany back in 2003, so now it sounds like a particularly lame attempt to be hip and zany. Rayman himself is all right, but some of the supporting characters are cringe-worthy. It just goes to show that sometimes silent heroes are the best heroes. As for the rest of the sound, it’s fine, but doesn’t hold a candle to the impressively imaginative music and sound found in last year’s Rayman Origins.
Gamers who miss old school 3D platforming should find a lot to like about Rayman 3 HD. After all, beyond Super Mario Galaxy, there hasn’t been a lot of pure platforming in 3D lately, and Rayman 3 can scratch that itch. It comes with some of the usual problems found in the PS2 era, though, and its weird emphasis on high scoring plus the annoying voice acting keep it from being one of the best examples of early 3D platforming. Those who are simply looking for a great platformer, whether 2D or 3D, might want to skip this and reach directly for the far superior Rayman Origins.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
There’s been obvious effort put into this HD upscaling job, though there are some inconsistencies. 3.5 Control
The game runs smoothly and responsively, but the camera can be frustrating and it can be easy to get hung up on the scenery. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and sound work well, but the game would be better without the voice acting. 3.4 Play Value
High score fiends might like replaying this game, but the lack of ability to go back to earlier levels at will limits the play value. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|