What has got no arms, no legs, a big nose and wears white gloves? Give up? Doh, it's Rayman of course, and the little guy is back in an all new 3D adventure. It is nearly a year since the PC release of Rayman 2, and I was beginning to jut my lower lip in depression at the prospect of it never hitting the PlayStation.
Fear not though, Rayman 2 is here on the PSX, and is every bit as fun, good-looking and downright addictive as it's PC and Dreamcast counterparts. From 2D platforming to a full 3D environment, Rayman has come a long way. I had a fear that the switch of environments would take away some of the charm of the 2D world I had become accustomed to, a fear that was to be short-lived.
Rayman once again is the world's only hope, as an evil group of pirates invade the planet, sapping all the energy from the land as they go. Rayman begins life locked in a cell at the mercy of the Robo-pirates, with no magic powers and fading hope. Enter Globox, Rayman's best friend, who is thrown unceremoniously into the same cell. Globox hides within his big mouth a gift - Rayman's magic glove. With jubilance they set about escaping the cell and so begins the adventure.
For the uninitiated amongst you (where have you been?) Rayman 2 is a 3-dimensional platform game in the mould of Mario 64. That may make it sound unoriginal and not worth the cutesy landscapes it is set on, however, the game is so jam packed full of playability that whether or not it has all been done before does not even enter the equation.
The action is viewed from a third person perspective, with the ability to sweep the camera to Rayman's left or right to view his surroundings better. You do have a freelook option accessed by pressing L1 and R1 simultaneously, but this is a tad cumbersome, and you find that some jumps are a matter of guess work rather than judgement. Thankfully this is not something that happens too often.
Rayman is able to somersault, climb, fly, slide, bounce and even swing his way around the colourful environments. His ability to fly comes by virtue of twin quiffs of hair, which he uses as propellors, though these only serve to slow down a decent rather than truly fly! Of course the world is not without nasties, and you will need a weapon of some description. This is where the famous Rayman glove comes in, firing out energy bolts, damaging any hapless soul that happens to get in the way. As you rediscover your lost powers throughout the game, the glove will become ever more powerful.
Before embarking on the more difficult levels, you will play through a couple of simple introductory missions. These not only introduce you to your fairy friend Ly, but also act as a perfect tutorial for Rayman's many abilities. Golden squares are dotted about in the tutorial and throughout the game. When Rayman walks on one of these Ly pops up and she will divulge some useful information to you.
Lums Lums Everywhere
Life gets more difficult once you meet the rather cute Teensies, who have a tough job deciding who exactly is King of their tribe, and comically fight amongst themselves! They will eventually transport you to the Hall of Doors, which is where the game truly begins, and is the main gateway to all of the levels.
Throughout every level there are coloured bee-like objects called Lums. Red lums replenish a small portion of your energy, green lums will force the game to restart you from the exact spot of collection, pink lums provide magical swinging abilities and blue lums provide oxygen when underwater. The most important lums of all though are the yellow variety. You need to collect as many of these as you can muster; they will be required as payment to the Teensies to progress through the gates to later levels.
If you reach the gates and do not have enough lums, you will have to revisit previously completed levels to hunt for any you missed! So it is well worth your while collecting every single one you see, just to be sure. You will also notice little squeaks for help emitting from small cages. Fire at these and you release a friend who will increase your health capacity by way of thanks. At the end of levels, you may find a Teensie trapped in a cage .. Release him and he will open up a vortex back to the Hall of Doors, preceded by a Russian dance of celebration. Hilarious stuff.
Graphics and Sound
The cartoon world of Rayman 2 is a pleasure to romp around, with the emphasis clearly on humour. I don't think anyone can fail to laugh at Globox's rain-dance, or when Rayman rides what look like fuel injected hermit crabs! The character models and surroundings are solid and lavished with radiant colours, really pushing the PSX to the limit.
Rayman himself is beautifully animated, from his bouncing strut to the deft somersaults as he jumps. Leave Rayman for too long and he will grab his torso using it as a basketball out of boredom! It is neat touches like these that keep you coming back for more. Story sequences using the in-game graphics engine play from time to time, and apart from being displayed in an overly narrow window, are good fun to watch and help the story along nicely.
Music plays a big part in the game, with songs suiting locations perfectly. The "Cave of Bad Dreams" level for example has a really spooky theme playing throughout, while the initial tutorial level music has a magical edge to it.
Spot effects are excellent, ranging from the strange noise made by the floating bombs to the huff and puff as Rayman carries something. The voice acting is also good, though the dialogue is a little staggered at times.
If you are to have any platform game in your PSX collection, you have got to have this one. It has all the ingredients you need and more besides. Excellent graphics and sound, coupled with smooth controls make this an absolute pleasure to play. Levels are nicely varied, and the humour from start to finish is a joy to behold.
One word of warning though, make sure you keep in contact with the outside world, this game could well have you tied to your TV for weeks to come! And if your arms and legs start disappearing, consult a doctor immediately!