Everybody Loves Rayman.
What's got no arms, no legs, and kicks serious butt? Well, I don't know either, but the folks over at Ubi Soft have named him Rayman. Rayman 2: The Great Escape is the latest platform title starring the limbless wonder. The oddly built hero with flying hair has invaded the Dreamcast in order to save his world from the fearsome Robo-Pirates and their maniacal leader, Razorbeard. With superb graphics, sound and gameplay, Rayman 2 has launched itself to the very top of the platform charts and is highly recommended for an excellent gaming experience.
I must admit, however, that my initial impression of Rayman was not very good. Before even seeing the game, I prepared myself for another boring kiddie title with some stupid character doing a mindless running and shooting bit. Oh, how wrong I was.
From the very beginning, Rayman 2 shows off excellent 3D graphics. The world of Rayman contains highly detailed atmospheres ranging from a lush tropical forest to a boiling volcano. The inhabitants of this world, from the dancing Teensies to the hilarious Globox, are all shining examples of well constructed characters that bring the game to life.
The sound quality also receives high marks. It's amazing to see just how much great sound can have a positive effect on the gaming experience. There aren't exactly any voices though, since all the inhabitants of Rayman's world have their own strange language. Still, every sound effect, from Rayman's own footsteps to Globox's sidesplitting rain dance song, is done to absolute audio perfection.
As experienced gamers well know, a pretty game with good sound does not always translate into the perfect title. Games in the platform category don't amount to anything without great gameplay, and this is where Rayman 2 just blows away the competition. Rayman can do it all. Not only can he run, climb, swim, and fly, he can also water ski, ride rockets, and lava surf on plums.
Control in the game has its ups and downs, depending on the particular activity that Rayman is performing. Some gamers may prefer to use the D-pad rather than the analog stick for normal movement, but sadly the option is not there. Analog stick controls are sometimes difficult to negotiate during chases and intense situations. Also, Rayman's swimming and flying controls are touchy, making movement difficult. Rayman's water skiing and rocket riding controls, on the other hand, are excellent.
Exclusive to the Dreamcast version of Rayman 2 are several mini-games that can be unlocked by finding the six Magic Crystals which are hidden throughout Rayman's world. One of these mini games is actually a multi-player experience, giving Rayman 2 definite party capabilities. Good luck in finding all the crystals...you'll definitely need it.
The one major problem that holds Rayman 2 back from absolute greatness is a bad camera. While the majority of the game's camera angles are fine, there are times when bum camera shots just kill you...literally. It's difficult to control Rayman when you can't even see him. A complete 360 degree view rotation would have made the game much better, but alas, nothing's perfect.
The best games in the platform adventure genre construct new worlds for gamers to experience. Then they create a character and a story that takes hold of the player and transports them to an alternate reality. This is exactly what Ubi Soft has achieved in Rayman 2: The Great Escape. Above all, this engrossing game is just plain fun to play.