Newest Review: ... platformer, with all the action you'd expect from one: jumping, climbing, negotiating obstacles, obliterating some enemies. But there's a... more
One of Rayman's greatest escapades.
Rayman 2 (PC)
Member Name: manifesto
Rayman 2 (PC)
Date: 16/03/12, updated on 16/03/12 (31 review reads)
Advantages: A real all-rounder with action, humour, inventive design, and great visuals and sound.
Disadvantages: A bit old by now, and the camera isn't always ideal.
Our titular floppy-haired, limbless hero has a real quest on his hands. Admiral Razorbeard and his robotic space-pirates have been out destroying harmless planets, and have now turned their attentions to Rayman's home, the Glade of Dreams, spoiling the land and enslaving its people. They've broken the Heart of the World into a thousand pieces, upsetting the balance of nature so that dangerous creatures proliferate, the population is weakened, and our beleaguered hero loses his powers. Rayman makes a narrow escape from Razorbeard's flying ship, only to find himself alone with just the barest of his powers left; he sets out to find his friends, recover his strength, and hopefully defeat the pirates and repair the damage they've wrought on his homeland. To do so he must enlist the help of Polokus, the dormant Spirit of the World, who can only be awoken by the uniting of four magical masks. Guess who's got to brave the depths of ancient tombs and temples to find those masks? Yep, there's no rest for Rayman, but at least he can't say his legs get tired.
The game is a quintessential platformer, with all the action you'd expect from one: jumping, climbing, negotiating obstacles, obliterating some enemies. But there's also much more to it than that. Rayman can also swing, swim, slide, strafe, and of course use his helicopter hair to float that extra distance, and the gameplay makes full use of all the mechanics at its disposal. Each level brings something fresh to the table, whether water-skiing over a swamp or making a long, tense helicopter descent down a huge ravine. The game sets a high standard from the beginning, but paces itself well and remains clever and inventive throughout.
There are about twenty main levels to play through, all of them unique and visually lush, and also a couple of bonus levels that are unlocked if you meet the criteria. As well as getting Rayman through the levels unscathed, there are other objectives to work on: gathering lums and freeing prisoners from cages. The lums are floating balls of light with different colours denoting different properties: for example, yellow to unlock further levels, red to recover health, green as a checkpoint, and blue to recover oxygen when underwater. The cages contain poor souls left to rot by the pirates: you can usually hear their cries for help from nearby, but sometimes the cages are hidden out of sight or are inaccessible until a later stage, adding a nice treasure-hunt element. There are several boss fights and big action sequences, but success is mainly down to tactics and timing, and once you've worked out a strategy you can breeze through without getting unfairly stuck. The game strikes a good balance between fast-paced sequences, strategic action, and relaxing exploration.
The central hub of the game is The Hall of Doors, from which Rayman can access new areas as they're unlocked, or travel back to replay old ones. Sometimes previous levels need to be revisited to develop the plot and explore new sub-levels, but you can also switch back and forth in your own time if you missed some objectives or just want to admire a favourite area again. The levels themselves are essentially linear, but their spaciousness and atmosphere makes them feel satisfying to explore. The whole game's pretty deeply engrained in my muscle memory now, so I can play through the whole thing in around five hours, but if you haven't played it before it should keep you entertained for days.
The graphics are delightfully colourful and quirky, and their comic flair and bold shapes have helped the game age well. It's a bit primitive and rough around the edges, but surprisingly good-looking for a game of its age, with Michel Ancel's uniquely whimsical designs remaining lovely to look at. The world is charmingly animated, populated with nice little touches, like harmless fish and butterflies drifting about their business. Though the characters speak in peculiar subtitled gibberish, there's a lot of physical humour expressed through their animations, like Rayman's victorious little Cossack dance at the end of each level, or penchant for bouncing his own torso around like a basketball when left idle.
Eric Chevalier's musical score is kooky and memorable, really bringing each level to life: magical glades and woodlands, gloomy swamps and temples, clanky and ominous robot-pirate strongholds. It's a diverse but distinctive score, some of my favourite music from any game, and a perfect marriage with the quirky visuals.
The controls and camera are simple and quite intuitive, though not completely spot-on. Control configuration is very limited, but since the default layout is a simple one (but old-school - arrow keys rather than WASD) I've never felt the need to alter them. Some players recommend using a gamepad, but I've always played it with a keyboard and never had any trouble. The camera mostly remains behind Rayman, but it can be panned around him clockwise and anti-clockwise, and holding down Numpad 0 activates a first-person "look mode" which is useful for orientating yourself or admiring a nice view. The camera can be more of a hindrance than a help at times, changing to a counter-intuitive fixed angle for some scenes. Thankfully these moments are brief, and the controls are otherwise solid and forgiving, so even if the camera's gone awry you should manage not to send Rayman to his death.
Overall, it's a great game for players of all ages, though some levels might be a bit spooky and difficult for younger children. The Cave of Bad Dreams scared me when I was young, though I see the funny side of it now! It's still a very charming, cartoonish and non-violent game, if you're picking it up for a young gamer, though I'd recommend it to just about anybody.
Rayman 2: The Great Escape is currently free on Steam if you pre-order Rayman Origins (£19.99) before March 29th. Otherwise, it's very easy to find an old copy for a pound or so at your nearest second-hand game shop. Though it's an old game by today's standards, I still highly recommend it as a near-perfect example of a 3D platformer.
Summary: A must-play if you enjoy colourful, creative platforming games.