It feels like I’ve been writing about the “Rayman” series quite a lot lately, but it seems such posts have always gotten a rather positive response, so I said to myself, why not write another one. Why not indeed? You see, this is one of those series that has some really great games, and yet hasn’t really gotten the attention it so deserves. Fortunately, that’s all started to change with the release of “Rayman Origins” and “Rayman Legends” in recent years, but how many of you know about the old “Rayman” games from before the series started to gain more recognition? And it is for that reason, and because thinking up ideas has been rather hard for me lately, that I have decided to summarize the “Rayman” series for all of you who have yet to become converted to its limbless greatness, or who have simply missed out on the games from its past.
I very much enjoy this series, just in case I have yet to make this fact clear, and I’ve always felt it has a rather magical vibe to it. The games are filled with beautiful and unique locations, with no shortage of detail, making the series one of the most eye-catching I’ve ever played. The creatures are strange and include such characters as the frog-like, rain-dancing Globox and the forgetful and large-nosed Teensies who’ve forgotten who their king is and have no choice but to take turns. And let’s not forget our hero Rayman, a strange being if there ever was one, as he’s entirely lacking in limbs, though this appears to hinder him in no way whatsoever. Aside from defying the very laws of physics, Rayman can even shoot balls of energy from his fists and fly with his helicopter hair. That’s right, helicopter hair, even though I guess that’s not too uncommon, considering Dixie Kong can do such a thing, too. But, it’s still cool. I wish I had hair with such amazing properties.
And while the series has had some rough patches, as all do at one point or another, unlike many of the series out there, Ubisoft managed to at least dig themselves out of these rough spots with the recent release of some of the most amazing platformers the world has ever seen. The world. That’s a fact. Yes. Anyway, as you might expect, my description of the series would not be complete without a summary of the games themselves (not including such games as “Rayman Rush” and “Rayman Arena”…), so without further ado, whatever ado is…
The series began with a game simply entitled “Rayman”, where the main villain was Mr. Dark, though I don’t remember what he was actually up to in this game. This was actually my second “Rayman” game, which I bought in the form of “Rayman Advance” after loving “Rayman 2” so much. I’ll admit, I wasn’t a big fan of this game, but it may have been partly due to the fact that I had a handheld version of it, and handhelds and I have always had a rocky relationship. Though, I believe my main problem with the game was thanks to the fact that it had a different tone than what I was used to and a somewhat different art style, as well (especially when it came to Rayman). Which distressed me. For some reason. And it was hard. Really hard. And I never understood why it seemed like once you ran out of continues, you could never get more. (Not lives, continues. Lives were impossible to get, too, though.) Or maybe you could. But, if such a thing is possible, I’m not aware of the means of doing it.
Nevertheless, as with the later “Rayman” games, this game did include the same beautiful and brightly colored graphics the series is (or if it’s not, it should be) known for, along with the strange creatures I love, such as that bizarre pink mosquito and the Livingstones, which I never get bored of frightening or tossing plums onto their heads. Hee hee, ha ha. Stupid things.
But, where the series really started to shine was “Rayman 2: The Great Escape”, still my favorite game of the series, and not just because it was my first. This game was dark. And I typically like the dark entries of a series the most. The main villain was a robotic pirate named Admiral Razorbeard who seemed bent on enslaving Rayman’s world and doing all manner of other naughty things. This game was even more beautiful than the previous game, with locations even more enchanting, and it also gave us the characters that appear in the games that come after, such as Rayman’s friend Globox, the Teensies, and Murphy, this talking fly with a mouth bigger than the rest of his body. (Strangely enough, I don’t think he really starts to make excessive use of that mouth until “Rayman 3”.) The game also had Ly the fairy, who never appeared in any main games since, as far as I remember, which I think is a huge shame, as she was pretty cool.
While the stages were still fairly linear, I felt like you were given much more freedom to explore than you were in the original game (I mean, the first game was a sidescroller, after all, so I guess that’s not a fair comparison). Most of all, however, I must stress that this game was fun. It could be pretty challenging, but it was a blast the whole way through, with a wonderful variety of amazing locations to explore that felt so magical and mysterious that they continue to captivate me even to this day. I really believe this game was the high point of the series (that’s not to say the two newer games aren’t fantastic), and I just wish they’d make another game like this.
Because “Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc” seriously doesn’t count. This game was just a bit too…to put it nicely…silly. I don’t expect the games to all be as dark as “Rayman 2”, even if I’d love it if they were, but this game went too far the other way, and while I do enjoy the game enough that I never plan to sell it, it was definitely a disappointment. The story involved Andre the Black Lum (or are they called Dark Lums, I don’t remember) who wants to take over the world, I suppose, or some such overused nonsense. But, he is kept from doing this at first because Globox accidentally swallows him. And if I recall correctly, a good chunk of the game involves Rayman and Globox trying to find a doctor that can get the Lum out of Globox’s belly. Which is really not a very good idea, considering Andre wants to do bad things when he gets out, but okay.
This game is the only one of the main games (I have no idea either way if the spinoffs do or not) with voice acting, and it’s not very good voice acting, and the personalities of the characters have changed, as well, with the notable exceptions being Globox, who is still just as cowardly, but not nearly as charming, and Murphy, who is no longer helpful, but instead, just plain obnoxious. Fortunately, he’s barely in the game. And at least Globox can be pretty funny at times, so that helps to ease the pain a bit
In the end, I would say the best part of this game is, well, despite its flaws, it’s still fun. And it can be funny. When it’s not being…not funny. And I think what I like most of all is the point system. I don’t understand what place points have in this game, but I still love it, nevertheless. The game gives you points for doing various things, like defeating enemies and collecting jewels (the latter of which are there for the sole purpose of giving you points and bear no other relation to the game), and you get double points while Rayman has one of his various special abilities. The points unlock goofy mini games and videos, but my main motivation to collect these points is the simple satisfaction it gives me to get more points than I had prior. This gives the game a replay-ability few games have because, if you’re like me, you can play it over and over again just to try and beat your old score.
Anyway, enough about that game. After this one, it was many years before any relatively normal “Rayman” games came out, so imagine my glee when “Rayman Origins” was released just a couple years ago. And then imagine my disappointment when I found it was a sidescroller like the first game. As the name suggests, I believe they were trying to get the “Rayman” series back to its roots by making a game closer to the gameplay of the original, and it wasn’t long before my disappointment wore away and became delight at how wonderfully fun this game was. It was so crazy fun, and the graphics were beautiful and bright. A bit on the cartoony side, but beautiful, nevertheless, and they still stayed true to the usual “Rayman” style.
And then I got disappointed again. Because this game is so hard. It’s absurd. Especially the dreaded Tricky Treasure levels, where you have to chase down this stupid idiot of a treasure chest through all kinds of nonsense, and it doesn’t help when one level is designed in such a way that there is basically a glitch that makes the level unbeatable if you’re not careful. I forgot how it’s done, but you seriously have to press the buttons exactly right, or you will never complete that level.
So yeah. It’s hard. And has no plot to speak of. At least, who knows why the villain is even doing what he’s doing. Or what it is he’s even doing in the first place. And I complained for a little while in my head about how silly some aspects of the game were. Stupid sentient forks…
Ahem, anyway, for the longest time, I didn’t have the best relationship with this game. I was just so frustrated with how difficult it was, until one day, something just clicked in my head. Suddenly, I really got the hang of this game, and I started to love it. Yeah, it was hard, but out of nowhere came the internal motivation I needed to keep trying no matter how long it took until I had finished every level 100%, including the ridiculous Land of the Livid Dead. And let me tell you, having a platformer with no lives is wonderful. I can kill myself on purpose, and it’s okay. Well, not literally kill myself, but you know. It’s okay to murder Rayman.
So I don’t know what happened, but I ended up loving this game. It was so refreshing having a game that was so challenging without being impossible. It’s rare to find anything like this anymore, and this was one of the most satisfying games I’ve beaten in a long time. And not only is it tons of fun, but the graphics really are a work of art, and it has one of the best, most unique soundtracks of all time.
And so, it made me quite overjoyed to find out about the release of “Rayman Legends”, which somehow manages to be even better than “Origins”. Even. Better. I don’t feel like getting into it too much, as I have already written countless praises about the game, so all you need to know is…it’s better. Oh, I already said that. But, it is.
Okay, this post is getting pretty long, so I’ll wrap this up. (Like those weird, healthy wraps they’re having at restaurants now in place of sandwiches. Which can be good, and sometimes aren’t.) I am quite pleased the “Rayman” series has been getting more love, but there are past games that need some attention, as well (mainly “Rayman 2”, really, but still), so I highly suggest that you check the older games out if you ever have the chance, not just the new ones, as wonderful as they are. Especially “Rayman 2”. Seriously.
Ubisoft Should Pay the Duck for All This Free Advertising…