No Arms, No Legs, No Biggie.
Reaching the age of three is a huge accomplishment for any platformer mascot - especially when coming from a third party. I mean, how many of these guys can you think of offhand besides Mario, Sonic and Crash? The list is pretty short, and off the top of my head, not one of them is from a third party.
Except for Rayman, of course. Ubi Soft's lovable limbless freak has done pretty well over the years and now goes for the triple with the release of Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc.
Over the years, plenty of gamers have enjoyed the adventures of Rayman and his buddy Globox throughout colorful and creative worlds. Not bad considering that I still have no idea what Rayman might be (A spinny ghost aardvark? A cross between a muppet and a helicopter, perhaps?). So just how does Rayman look after turning the ripe old age of three? Not too shabby, but the wrinkles and gray hairs are starting to show.
This time around, the black lums (aka "hood" lums - get it?) are causing trouble and are threatening to infect the heart of the world. One nasty lum in particular, Andre the Dark Lum Lord, was about to do some serious damage when Globox accidentally swallowed him. Andre is still alive and kicking down in the nether regions of our clumsy friend, so it's up to Rayman to find a way to safely remove the pesky evildoer and save the day once again. If there's some kind of powerful bad guy laxative out there, he definitely need to find it.
If you've never had the pleasure of playing Rayman before, get ready for a visual treat. One of the best features of the series is the interesting world that players will journey through. This holds true in Hoodlum Havoc with some really creative levels. You'll run through Rayman's unique digs and meet some bizarre characters along the way. Some really nice soft focus and lighting effects pop up every so often; it's too bad it's not consistent throughout, but at least it is in there.
The sound is also pretty good, with a little comedy here and there featuring the voice of John Leguizamo as Globox.
The areas feel pretty small in comparison to the previous Rayman games. Perhaps this is because Hoodlum Havoc has more "puzzles" than any of the previous games. Or maybe Rayman just got fat when no one was looking. A few years without exercise will do that to a limbless duck with flaming hair.
Like any good platformer, Rayman 3 tries to introduce a new gameplay mechanic in order to separate itself from the crowd. So what's new in the Hood? Soap. Yeah, that's right. The hoodlums have apparently created some kind of "laser washing powder" that will allow Rayman to gain weird powers.
This powder comes in five color-coded cans. Green unleashes vortex power allowing Rayman to throw little twisters and knock down certain platforms. Red packs a punch and allows Rayman to bust through Hoodlum barricades. Blue throws a clamp/grappling hook into play, giving Rayman the power to swing from certain objects. Yellow improves Rayman's flight time with a helicopter helmet and Orange blows up the scene with a guided missile. Definitely some fun toys to play with.
The power ups also act as keys to progress through parts of each level. If you find a can, it's almost certain that you'll somehow need to use that power to get past some kind of obstacle. This might not be so bad, but when combined with the game's generally small areas, Hoodlum Havoc can start to bring on a feeling of claustrophobia. You're always led down a certain path with not many opportunities for exploration. Compared to other platformers like Jak & Daxter, it feels a bit too linear.
Another disappointment is the game's camera, which doesn't do the greatest job of tracking Rayman's moves. This usually occurs during fights and you'll often get caught facing the wrong way. The game's lock-on button should have helped in this matter, but it too doesn't always work properly, sometimes even locking on to a random direction instead of the enemies!
At least you can take a little time out thanks to a big grab bag of unlockable goodies. Unlike other platformers, Hoodlum Havoc give you points for your actions, which will in turn unlock a bunch of items including some Hoodlum comedy sketches and mini games. It's not anything to throw a party for, but it provides some welcomed extra distractions.
Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc may not have as much punch as its predecessors, but it still keeps the Rayman fun alive while adding some new tricks to the mix. A few fixes here and there and the Rayman series can easily get back on track. He may not have arms and legs, but he still has a nose for adventure.