You don’t see a lot of Rayman any more. While technically he has his name on a few prominent Wii minigame compilations, Rayman has since been cast out of his own spinoff series by the Rabbids. But now he’s back, sort of, as Ubisoft has unleashed the limbless freak’s first outing on DSiWare.
It certainly is a pretty affair. Vivid colors, fluid animations and generally cheery Rayman aesthetic are all here and help make this one of the prettiest games on the download service. Character sprites are large and crisp with excellent detail; it’s kind of funny how an originally disc-based game can fit within DSiWare’s size restrictions and still look virtually identical, so hats off to Ubisoft for that. Unfortunately, the decision to keep the same sprites intact has forced a camera concession; not everything fits on the screen like it used to, with the camera zoomed in and having to pan around Rayman depending on which way he’s faced.
The main problem with Rayman DSiWare is that the gameplay feels exceptionally cheap. The camera is a major culprit here; your lay of the land is simply zoomed in too much and asks you to make too many leaps of faith. Boss fights suffer because of this, as sometimes it’s impossible to see where they’re coming from, and in at least one boss battle there doesn’t seem to be any way to escape getting hit – a hallmark of horrible game design. It’s tough enough to navigate enemies while you’re on moving platforms with obstacles swinging all over the place, and not being able to see what’s coming and when is a huge pain. You can use the map to alleviate some of the stage navigation issues, but since the map leaves out enemy placement you’ll still be screwed over somehow.
The added hardware capabilities of the DSi have wiggled their way in with mixed results. Use of the camera is the most obvious addition; you’ll get snapped each and every time you save the game and when starting from a save point, but the photos aren’t stored, which is nice in one way as you won’t have to clear your system memory of pics that you don’t want, but if you do wind up with a good one there’s no way to keep it. You also can’t turn off the shutter sound, which is sure to lead to a lot of perv-accusing looks your way on public transportation. You’ll also likely rack up a lot of annoyed-looking photos of yourself as Rayman bites it for stupid reasons, and since all of the game’s action takes place up top, the touchscreen is relegated to displaying the stage map. You can drag it around with the stylus to see the lay of the land, where the ending is and your own location, but it doesn’t show enemies or other moving obstacles.
Speaking of enemies, the game has an extremely annoying habit of respawning defeated foes once they’re outside the camera range. But wait, that becomes a crapshoot here because the game uses the original camera range as reference, which you can’t see! Prepare to clear a platform of pesky bad guys, only to turn around and have the same jerks be right there again and ready to kick you in the throat like in a certain 1988 Tecmo game. Had the map actually shown you where enemies were then it’d be less of a problem, but you simply don’t know.
But it’s not like the game is devoid of fun, since when it all works it’s possibly the best traditional platformer on DSiWare at the moment (of course, that’s like saying this poop cake tastes better than that poop cake). There’s an in-game achievement checklist to tick off, lives and continues are generous and its overall charm is very appealing. It’s not a particularly long affair, a few hours at most (which may be a blessing in disguise considering its jerk deaths) with the option to even skip a few stages via branching paths.
Had Rayman not been so annoyingly cheap then it would be a highly recommended platformer. Unfortunately, it is annoyingly cheap and should only be traversed by those with either a masochistic streak or diehard Rayman fans. And on a system brimming with quality 2D retail releases it simply can’t compete, even at a lower 800 Point asking price.