Gentlemen, start your engines
Actually, Rayman M is best described as a cross country steeplechase dodgeball simulation. In one half of the game, you control Rayman or one of his little buddies and have to race several times around obstacle-packed courses on foot, whilst in the other half you have to try and knock coloured lums out of your opponents hands by lobbing balls at them. Collect all the lums yourself and you win. We got our first chance to play Rayman M at ECTS this year. Racing against Ubi Soft's Louise Gabriel, we first had to negotiate some tricky rolling barrels, before racing through some undergrowth and clambering round a massive tree trunk using oddly placed platforms to make our way up the side. Once out the other side, we had to scale some giant steps out of which grew large plants. These plants proceeded to slam us into the ground repeatedly so we couldn't escape, exposing one of the myriad tiny bugs still left in the programming. Frankly I was grateful for the respite, Rayman M seems like a manic, amazingly enterprising adventure game against the clock. Describing it as a racing game wouldn't do it justice. I heard whispering behind me from a few onlookers that the game moved a bit slowly for their liking, and it's true, compared to your average driving simulation or Mario Kart clone things are a bit lethargic, but that really isn't the goal of Rayman M as best we can tell, and to judge it based on our fleeting glimpse at it would be rather unfair.
The battle mode was a joy to behold. We caught this later, after our allotted time with Ubi Soft's representatives was up (we had rather a lot to see after all), and it looked like extremely good fun. The dodgeball idea is interesting, and we'll be intrigued to see how it works out in the long run. We also learned that the finished game will feature 29 tracks; 16 race tracks and 13 battle arenas. There will be a total of eight playable characters too - Rayman, Globox, Teensies, Tily, Henchman, New Henchman, Razorbeard and Razorbeard Wife. Try remembering all that lot the morning after the Babel Media party. As we learned during our previous session, the control system is identical to that of current Rayman games like The Great Escape - the only change in tactics being a result of your new environment and its confines. Rayman's animation is still excellent, and reminded us very much of The Great Escape. Rayman can still jump, glide, strafe, fire, flip and do more or less anything from that game, the animations looking remarkably similar, and the world graphics are also very akin to the previous title, although scenes have apparently been built up with a lot more detail to try and give the PlayStation 2's hardware a run for its money. From what we could see though there was next to no slowdown throughout the entire game. We were assured the finished article would still maintain this 60 fps smoothness for single and two player, as well, although when broken down to the four player split screen mode, proceedings would be limited to 30 fps.
Rayman fans will no doubt find the notion of Rayman M somewhat exciting. Personally, I sort of wish this had been included as a subgame or multiplayer mode in a new Rayman single player adventure, but I'm prepared to be impressed anyway. From what we've seen so far, it's going to be a difficult one to call, and we wait with bated breath to see if it can live up to its predecessors' success.