Rayman 2: The Great Escape has been ported 10 times since its original release in 1999.  You can find the game on pretty much every platform since the Playstation, so it’s probably been quite the challenge to avoid playing the game all this time.  Luckily for you, I’m always up for a challenge.  Rayman 3D is my first time playing the classic platformer, meaning I can go into it with a first timer’s perspective and give the game a fair shake.  Just be warned that Rayman 3D is at its best when played with fresh eyes, and if you’ve played it before in any of it’s incarnations there’s no new content to be had.  It can be safely skipped.

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Like most platformers, Rayman 3D tasks the player with collecting objects across a variety of worlds while jumping across chasms and tackling enemies.  In this case, the objects you collect are small yellow fairies known as Lums and the enemies are a clan of vicious robot pirates.  Your goal is to collect enough Lums to reawaken a being called Polokus, the only one who can banish your metallic foes and restore peace to the world.

After only a few levels it becomes blaringly obvious why the game is considered a classic.  The actual platforming is phenomenal.  Rayman can jump and float, and the stages are designed to take advantage of this and create some really exhilarating, fast paced platforming sequences.  Even the combat is fun, with Rayman dodging blasts sent out by his foes and retaliating by throwing balls of energy at them.

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Rayman 3D is built on a really solid foundation, but it does run astray every now and then.  Oftentimes the game will put you in a position with no clear path forward and the only way forward is through trial and error and lots of death.  Rayman 3D also has numerous sequences where you’re rocketing or sliding forward with very little control, and once again you’ll suffer numerous deaths before you figure out the correct way to handle it.  Luckily, the game is merciful in that you have unlimited lives and never start too far back from where you died.

The biggest problem with Rayman 3D is how little is explained.  At no point does the game attempt to explain what any powerups or items do or what happens when you collect all the lums in a level (you get to go to a bonus stage where you can unlock more health).  In this sense, the game shows its age, since the lack of explanation is mostly because it wasn’t needed when it was released.  Platformers have evolved since then and what seems unintuitive now was second nature back then.

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The original developers put a lot of love into the creation of Rayman and his world and it’s a joy to explore.  Most levels have a very similar visual theme (mostly pirate ships, volcanoes, or swampy forests) but a large variety in gameplay.  It’s extremely rare for any two levels to share the same structure or obstacles, so while every stage may look the same they’re all still memorable.  All of the stages, and all of the characters Rayman meets, have a cartoony, dreamlike quality to them.  It creates a unique feel and coherent world that’s really fun to explore.  All across the game you’ll find the characters speak in their own gibberish language that fits the nature of the game world, and the music is catchy if repetitive.

Rayman 3D is a direct port of the Dreamcast version (arguably the best version).  It definitely looks like a Dreamcast game, albeit in 3D.  Speaking of 3D, Rayman 3D has a subtle use that most of the time is barely noticeable, but in certain cases is very useful.  The best parts are during the sliding and rocketing sequences, where the added depth really helps you in seeing the twists and turns ahead.  Every so often you’ll even have a butterfly or fairy fly out of the screen at you, but they never seemed to be in focus and always hurt my eyes.  Also, the pause screen is breathtaking, with a spinning vortex in the background and rising blue glowing balls in the foreground and gives a really pleasing effect and great way to show off the 3D effect to other people.

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While the original Rayman 2 was a game clearly created with passion, the 3DS version is a loveless port.  There’s nothing to differentiate it from any other version, and even the second screen is relegated to doing nothing but showing a tally of what you’ve collected so far.  Despite this, Rayman 3D is a good choice if you’re a fan of platformers and have never played it before.  Aside from going back and collecting any Lums you may have missed there’s not a lot of replay value to found.  It’s likely you’ll only play this game once, but you’ll at least enjoy yourself while you do it.

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Title : Rayman 3D
Format : 3DS
Developer : Ubisoft
Publisher : Ubisoft
Release Date : 03/27/11

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