When Rayman 2 first saw the light of day on the Nintendo 64 console, it pretty much came out of nowhere and surprised many gamers with its amazing transition into the realm of 3D gaming. After seeing a host of releases on various consoles of the time period, the game was finally released on Sega's struggling Dreamcast system to surprisingly rave reviews. After a lacklustre attempt to bring the classic 3D platformer to DS, Ubisoft has taken another stab at it with Rayman 3D. But is this the game fans have been waiting for or just another vain attempt at bringing our limbless hero to the small screen?
Since Rayman 3D is basically a port of the 2000 Dreamcast version of the game, most of its gameplay conveniences aren't quite as up-to-date as some of the more recent 3D platforming efforts. Your main goal in each level will be to make your way to the magic warp door at the end of the level, collecting Lums and releasing caged inhabitants along the way. Once you've completed the level, you'll receive a tally of how many cages you broke open and how many Lums you were able to collect. You can even go back and revisit a level in order to collect any Lums and cages you might have missed the first time through.
As you progress through the levels on the world map, there will be times where face off against one of the game's bosses and while fairly standard in design, they do tend to make great use of Rayman's special powers, not to mention aspects of the level they take place within. These fights tend to be a bit too short and simple, but they offer a nice change of pace at given intervals and work well in laying out the story of your adventure as the game progresses along.
At the beginning of the game, Rayman only has a limited move set that mainly consists of being able to run, jump, and fire off his power fist, but he can also grab onto ledges and even climb certain walls and spider webs in order to reach tricky parts of the level. Having these limited moves affords you an opportunity to get a feel for the game before you begin gaining new powers to come to grips with. As if these basic platforming skills weren't enough, the game will also allow Rayman to ride various objects, including a gunpowder keg and a missile shell. These provide a whole new set of play controls and offer up a great diversion at different spots throughout your adventure. There are even a handful of underwater levels to further mix things up a bit.
If you're able to collect all of the Lums in a particular level, you'll be given the chance to take on a special bonus level. One such bonus level pits you against a pirate in an all-out foot race with you controlling one of Globox's children. While these aren't nearly as in-depth as the actual game levels themselves, they do provide a fun challenge separate from the main game and provide a nice incentive to go back and try to collect things you missed the first time around. Of course there are other hidden secrets to uncover as you play through the game as well, for those who are willing to put in the time and exploration to locate them.
Rayman 2 on the Dreamcast had some pretty good controls, but the developers have changed things up a bit for his 3DS outing. While the analogue Circle Pad makes controlling Rayman far more intuitive and responsive than the D-Pad used in the DS release, the manual camera controls have been moved to the D-Pad, which means if you need to adjust the camera yourself, you'll have to move your thumb from the Circle Pad to do so. While the developers made some nice improvements to the automatic camera, there will still be times when you need to adjust it manually, and this can take some time to get a handle on. Luckily the majority of the controls are very well implemented and give the game a very responsive feel for the most part. The game also received a few difficulty tweaks that make the game a bit less frustrating, but might not be as appreciated by fans who enjoyed the stiff challenge of the original release.
It's worth noting that Ubisoft did very little to upgrade the visuals when they ported this game over from the Dreamcast release, so don't expect the same level of visual flash we've seen from games specifically designed for 3DS. That said, the game does have its fair share of moments that will wow you, although it would have been nice to see more of them. The depth of the 3D visuals adds a very beautiful and realistic look to the surroundings, but it can be a bit distracting at times when you find yourself in a closed up area with walls all around you. The frame rate will drop down a bit at times when the action becomes overly intense, although it's nothing too distracting, and the game tends to remain fairly smooth in most areas, even with the 3D effect in full force.
Anyone that's played the console versions of the game will know what a great musical score the game features, not to mention the trademark Rayman gibberish talk we've grown to love over the years. While the majority of that soundtrack is present in Rayman 3D, the quality can sometimes be a bit streaky. For the most part, the music has a beautifully spacious sound to it and sounds quite good, but there will be times when the music becomes more intense that it will take on an odd static-like effect. It doesn't happen terribly often, but it does slightly diminish what is an otherwise wonderful musical presentation.
Ultimately, Rayman 3D might not be the complete reworking that some fans had hoped for, but it is a solid portable version of what remains one of the better 3D platformers. There are a few minor issues here and there, like the somewhat average visuals and a camera that doesn't always cooperate, but for the most part the game still manages to capture the majority of the magic from its earlier console days. Toss in the added depth of the 3D visuals and the gameplay enhancements, you get what is easily the best portable version of Rayman 2 and a game 3D platformer fans should definitely check out.