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Rayman 3
Review By: J. Michael Neal
 
Developer:  Ubi Soft
Publisher:  Ubi Soft
# Of Players:  1
Genre:  Platform
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  7-10-03

The PS2 certainly doesnít want for platformers, and while Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc may get lost in a sea of them, itís deserving of gamerís attention to say the least.

Ubi Softís Rayman has been gaining critical praise and a core following since his earliest appearance on the ill-fated Atari Jaguar. Numerous ports, a party game, and two sequels later everyoneís favorite limbless mascot character is once again winning over fans with an extremely solid platformer with a lot of charm and a lot of humor.

If you want to get right down to it, Rayman 3 is just a damn fun game. Iíve never particularly been a fan of 3D platformers, but if games like Ratchet and Clank and Rayman 3 keep being released I just might turn into one. Hoodlum Havoc has all the things a 3D platformer needs to succeed on a gameplay level. It has plenty of gameplay variety, more than any other platformer on the market to be quite honest. It has clever puzzles and bosses that require skill and timing to complete. It has hidden items and secret areas galore, enough to keep perfectionists busy for a few weeks. It even has a clever point system that rewards you for how well you play the game. And youíll want to keep playing until you do it right, as some of the things you can unlock with your earned points are truly worth it, like bonus video footage, classic arcade-style mini-games, and even a 2D side-scrolling version of the game!

Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is also one of the funniest games Iíve played in a long, long time. It manages to actually be laugh-out-loud funny at times, which is a rarity in gaming. It doesnít take itself too seriously and often pokes fun of the fact that it is a video game, which is reminiscent of the early to mid 90s Steven Spielberg produced Warner Brothersí cartoons in that respect. It has some hilarious dialogue, delivered by killer talent including the always-incredible John Leguizano and the venerable Billy West, and even connects when its purely visual, demonstrated in the ďWanna Kick Rayman?Ē instructional videos. It just makes this game a joy to play and gives you something, even beyond the gameplay and tons of hidden material, to keep pushing ahead for.

Keeping with the stellar voice work, the music and sound effects in Rayman 3 are equally high quality. It has all the goofy, cartoon-like sound effects youíd expect in a game like this, as well as some very nice surround sound support. The soundtrack is diverse, to say the least, and features everything from whimsical, Danny Elfman-esque tracks to tribal beats to P-Funk flavored hip-hop cuts to disco numbers. Yes, disco. It can be a little schizophrenic at times, jumping back and forth between so many different styles of music like that, but it keeps with the frenetic pace and wacky, unpredictable feel of the game.

Like everything else in the game, the visuals are almost surprisingly well done. While not necessarily as high detail or impressive as Ratchet and Clank, they are definitely attractive in their own right. The game is wall-to-wall bright, vibrant colors, characters are smooth and full of personality, and the environments are distinctly different. There are, however, frequent drops in frame rate whenever the on-screen action gets intense. Hopefully this problem is only present in the Playstation 2 version, as the Xbox and GameCube should be more than able to handle this game at a constant, respectable frame rate.

One problem the game does have that I fear is universal to all the ports is the horrible camera. The Achillesí heel of nearly every 3rd person game to date, and particularly platformers, has been the camera. Does a developer go with a fixed camera? A pre-scripted camera? Over the shoulder? If so, how far away should it be from the character? How should you track enemies? Should players be able to control where it moves? If so, does it lock into place or should it just float around, auto-centering itself? Should we just forget the whole thing and make it fully manual? It seems like no matter what choice they make, itís the wrong one, and very few 3rd person games, platformers included, have ever gotten it right. Rayman 3 has the misfortune of having one of the worst cameras Iíve seen so far for a 3D, 3rd person platformer. Itís partly over the shoulder, partly pre-scripted, partly manual, and wholly frustrating. The camera swivels too slowly with the analog stick to be of any use, making anything but running directly forward tricky, and the pre-scripted angles are never in a friendly position. It damn near ruins the game. Luckily, Rayman 3 is so well done and so enjoyable that youíll learn to tolerate it and work against it just to experience everything this game has to offer.

Itís really hard not to like this game. The characters, the gameplay, the replayability, the things to unlock, the mini-games, the music, the colors, the humor; they all come together to form one incredibly tight package. Even the utterly horrific camera and rampant slowdown canít tarnish this game all that much. If you are a die-hard platformer fan this game needs to be in your collection, ditto for anyone Rayman fanatics out there. If you arenít a big fan of the genre you might want think twice, as you may be less willing to overlook the camera issues than others, but itís still worth checking out nonetheless.

HIGHS:

  • Bright, vibrant world.
  • Great sound.
  • Likable, humors characters.
  • Lots of gameplay variety.
  • Plenty to unlock.
  • Pretty darn funny most of the time.

LOWS:

  • Terrible camera.
  • Slowdown galore.

FINAL VERDICT:

Good enough to justify putting up with such a debilitating camera. Highly recommended for anyone with a sense of humor and a hunger for platformers.

Overall Score: 8.7

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