I always thought Rayman 3 got a bum rap compared to the rest of the series. The first two titles always seemed to get the most attention, seeing as they’ve had the crap ported out of them, appearing on more consoles than I think even exist. Rayman 2 especially holds the distinction of being ported to two sets of successive consoles, on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo DS and 3DS, despite always being the exact same game. Well, nine years after its initial release, the Rayman 3 udder is now being milked, with a HD re-release on PSN and XBLA.
Rayman 3 HD (originally known as Hoodlum Havoc) is a lot more story-driven than many other Rayman titles, although that story is entirely off-the-wall. Rayman’s world is normally inhabited by health-restoring Red Lums, although as this game starts one of these has transformed into a Black Lum named Andre, who soon begins transforming his fellow glowing brethren and stitching suits for them to wear, becoming Hoodlums (get it?). Not only does Rayman have to stop this army of gun-toting mischief makers, but he has to help cure his friend Globox, who accidentally swallows Andre. It’s as weird a premise as you’d expect from the series, but it’s not always as funny as it’s trying to be. There’s a ‘ha ha’ funny line every now and then, but generally the madness just ensures you’ll be somewhat confused as to what’s going on.
This is partly due to some strange presentation issues, including an oddly balanced sound mix that drowns out characters’ voices. Even adjusting the audio settings manually doesn’t alleviate the problem much, and neither does turning on subtitles, which don’t appear for the majority of in-game dialogue (which is where most of the jokes are found) and only show up for important lines and cutscenes. There are some famous actors present in Rayman 3 as well, with Billy West as the tutorial-delivering Murphy and John Leguizamo as Globox, although he’s putting on the same voice he’s used for every Ice Age movie (and strangely, the character seems to have an entirely different voice actor in some cutscenes). At times these performances can be funny, but characters often talk over each other and the dialogue can be strangely worded.
Rayman 3 HD has also received a visual upgrade to 720p, and now runs at 60fps. The game generally runs well, although textures do become pixellated with the resolution increase, which detracts somewhat from the beautiful and bizarre design of the many stages in the game. There’s a lot of vibrancy and creativity in the environments Rayman explores, even if several of the earlier ones are very similar swamps and bogs. Characters are animated well (as you’d expect from a Rayman title), and despite clearly being a last-gen title, it’s generally a very cool title to look at. However, there are a fair few bugs that have not been ironed out in this release – such as important items not appearing and a camera straight from the depths of hell, which gets caught on anything and will spaz out on a whim.
The game still plays pretty well, which is the most important thing that Ubisoft have got right with this release. There’s a focus on combat over the platforming seen in the rest of the series, with a score and combo counter and several new abilities. Rayman gains the ability to curve his punches, which is necessary for just about every enemy, and can also lock-on to his opponents (a feature that is unfortunately a bit too finicky and doesn’t always leave Rayman facing the way you want him to face). There are several new power-ups that give Rayman the ability to throw whirlwinds, punch through heavy doors, gain Hookshot-like claws and fire Metal Gear Solid style remote controlled missiles. Most of these are integrated well into the gameplay, although the weirdest one has to be the miniaturising shoe. It shrinks Rayman down so he fits into one of his shoes, which initiates a mini-game where he has to chase his other shoe to gain a new power-up. I… don’t really get it.
The combat still works well, and doesn’t get too repetitious with several diversions added along the way. You’ll occasionally be transported into a psychedelic wormhole between worlds where Rayman will have to grind down poorly-rendered streaks of light, while at other times you’ll get to control vehicles such as a huge two-legged stomping machine. These are cool breaks from the regular gameplay, but their controls are pretty loose compared to the rest of the game. Other annoyances in the game include the odd camera mode, which lets you take a photo at any time by hitting the left trigger, which can occur accidentally far too often on the 360 and PS3 controllers, and at times unclear level design that leaves you wondering where you’re supposed to go next or when you have to backtrack.
The points you rack up in the main game can be used to unlock mini-games, which range from a recreation of the original 2D Rayman to a frog squashing challenge and, um, tennis. There’s nothing too amazing here that will hold your interest for long, but they do make for nice bonuses and are great as a little extra incentive to increase your score.
This review has probably come off more negative than I actually feel about Rayman 3, because even though the game does have many issues, it’s still a Rayman title. That means it has originality bursting out the wazoo, strong creativity behind its design and a lot of silly moments. If you’ve played the recent Rayman Origins and enjoyed it, then Rayman 3 HD is a fine title to download to see how the limbless hero fares in three dimensions, but if you’ve already beaten this title during its original release, there’s no real incentive to upgrade to this HD version.