Some retro games are not classics.
Ahhhh, Rayman… everyone's favorite limbless mascot character (unless you remember Plok for some reason, but don't worry if you don't). He started out as yet another side-scrolling adventure-undertaking mascot and has become… well, not much. But he has a new game on a brand-spankin'-new console to take another stab at grabbing some attention, and unfortunately it's more a reminder of what we already decided wasn't a great idea.
[image1]This isn't a "new" game; it's a port of Rayman 2 from about ten years ago. As a result, Rayman 3D suffers from what nearly every 3D platform title did from the late '90s: a terrible camera system. Instead of trying to stay directly behind Rayman, it's a floating camera that can be pulled behind branches, cave walls and the like, while you try to head forward in the level. It's irritating at best and outright cheap at worst, especially since there are a number of tight spaces littered throughout every level - enough of which revolve around bottomless pits that death is a constant fear. Seriously, who's building these areas?
The story is bland and adorable at the same time and involves collecting masks - not a far cry from other titles of the era. To be honest, I didn't pay much attention to it after a while, but since everything is cute, it doesn't matter much. Even the instruction booklet describes that "Rayman is a unique character of unknown origin." So I figure I'm not the only one who doesn't care about the development of this character.
As far as this being a 3D remake, the worst thing about this is the transition into three dimensions. As it was with early 32-bit platformers, any camera issues are only magnified in 3D. Getting caught behind something - anything, be it leaf or ledge - is not only jarring, but downright painful to experience. The world map with the screen turned up to its prettiest specs is nice (albeit sunken and little else), but actually playing the game lit my eyes with rage.
[image2]Controlling Rayman is simple, just jumping/shooting fare, but at least it's tight. Rayman can throw energy from his hands, spin his hair(?) like a helicopter to glide and slow his descent and swing from certain rings scattered around bottomless pits. Everything about the game is as classic as this genre gets, and for the most part, it's straightforward and fun. The level designs can get convoluted at times, and occasionally you're forced to travel through stages you already worked through to unlock the next area (and they only explain what's necessary once, so you'd better pay attention), but it's easy to figure out where to go and what to do once you've died enough times.
Some areas require you to take control of either a barrel rocket or a missile with feet (and even strap you into a chair on a rollercoaster-esque trip, riding a Tron beam), and are unfortunately some of the most infuriating spots in the game. The controls are usually fine - albeit a smidge too slow to respond - but have you navigating by memory instead of reflex. They're designed to be trial-and-error runs, and that's about as cheap as gaming can be. I had to play almost every one of them over 10 times to get through to completion just once, because again, the camera isn't where I wish it could be and I miss a crucial sharp-left. Though I admit, riding the Tron beam was the only spot that the 3D added a little bit to the experience instead of trying to explode my brain.
[image3]I have to say, I can almost forgive those flaws - many of them at least - if the whole thing didn't feel so glitchy. The game outright failed and needed a hard system reset multiple times, and I found myself falling through walls and weird places to my death. Maybe it's because it's a port, maybe it's because it was quickly pieced together for a launch release - I really have no idea - but it's sloppy.
As the guy who harps on classic gaming over modern masterpieces, I suppose I sometimes need to go back to the titles that give "retro" a bad name. It has to happen; not every game from a decade or more back should be considered a "classic", and it takes this kind of release to remind me of that. Hopefully it isn't a sign of things to come… I've been enjoying my 3DS and would like to do everything necessary not to bring back the emotional (and eye-strain-inducing) scars of the Virtual Boy.