Most, if not all reviewers will start their critiques off by commenting in Rayman's third official game that the protagonist is missing arms and legs. In fact, I'll wager that my editor here will tag the by-line with something along the likes of: The man with no arms and legs must save the world again. He will be right on both accounts. Rayman has to save the world again. To be quite honest, I never noticed Rayman was lacking limbs, simply because whoever Ubi Soft tasks to produce the game is always delivering a quality product; the artwork is always fantastic and any notion or suggestion of realism is temporarily suspended. It's like watching a Disney movie and not asking the question why the head of lettuce has the peculiar ability of speech, or why the teas, pots and kettles like to sing. That simply doesn't enter your mind. Neither does it enter your mind when you play Rayman 3.
Rayman 3 continues the tradition of extraordinary artwork. Every backdrop in this game is simply luminous. This is almost par for every
Rayman title and it's incredible that after so many years, and so many different versions of the game for a multitude of platforms, that this continues to work in Rayman's favor. The eyes and facial expressions continue to charm and the enemies continue to look about as fearsome and terrifying as what you would see on Saturday morning cartoons, if not less so. On a handheld format, something Ubi Soft has tremendous experience in through its Palm, Pocket PC and previous Game Boy offerings, you never get the feeling you're playing a compromised or lighter version of the official Rayman franchise. This is the same game as the ones released for the Xbox, GameCube and Playstation 2, albeit from the tried and true 2D vantage point.
Cartoon style graphics pose as no stranger to Nintendo platforms; the company is uniformly acknowledged as the most "kid-friendly" by industry pundits. With the advent of cell-shading and games like Zelda rolling out on Nintendo, it would seem like one of Rayman's last trump cards is lost. But that's not really the case. Rayman's look and feel isn't the same as the latest Japanese cartoon titles. It owes more to the classic European style artwork like Revolution Studios' Broken Sword series. Good use of the color palette and intricately detailed (but not necessarily functional) backdrops.
With fifty levels in the Game Boy Advance edition of Rayman 3, there better be a lot of artwork to look at. Some of these levels push the envelope of the handheld format by introducing some limited 3D action.
In one instance, Rayman is waterskiing in the bayou. In another, he is go-karting to collect the requisite lums. Like past Rayman titles, you'll have to earn specific skills as you move ahead in the game. The option not to complete every level to its fullest extent has always been one of the best things about Rayman. In part, I think that's how it earned its kinder, gentler reputation amongst platform titles. But replaying existing levels is also encouraged, as they give you a chance to collect more lums and open up bonus features that might otherwise be blocked because you lacked a specific skill to access that hard to reach platform off the side of the screen.
Naturally, some of the special 3D levels translate to great multiplayer action. If you ever choose to play multiplayer using the Game Boy
Advance, this might be the title you'd like to select. With go-karts and waterskis, as well as the more traditional platform fare, the multiplayer support is stellar. None are too involving but they provide just enough complexity to make a simple premise fun for more than a few minutes. Slot in your human players to fill in the rest of the formula.
Care was also put into the sound effects for Rayman 3. While you don't get the full voice treatment of Hollywood stars like John Leguizamo (in terms of cartoons, of Ice Age and Titan A.E. fame) who gives credence to Globox on the other consoles, you do get some digital effects of Rayman during the game. Moreover, the soundtrack is another element of the entire corpus that reflects the spirit that Rayman brings to every title.
If you haven't noticed by now, Rayman thoroughly charmed me - yet again. But it's coming into the market in the midst of a slew of platform title revivals. The old vanguard like Mario, Zelda, Castlevania, Sonic and Metroid lurk around the corner. The "newcomers", like Spyro, Crash Bandicoot and countless other platform icons in the making are continuing their march for consumer dollars. In North America, Rayman is but one of many of these recognizable protagonists, although unique recognition might still boil down to the fact that Rayman is limbless. The whole phenomenon reminds me a bit of Kylie Minogue, the Australian pop singer who has had fabulous reception in Europe, but not at all in the North American market (save the Europeanized Canadian market). In Asia, most specifically Japan, I would imagine Rayman would be less appreciated. In Europe, Rayman can almost do no wrong. It is truly a European figurehead. Its style is a testament to that.
Rayman may have been a breath of fresh air when it was released years ago, but it can no longer claim that now. There are too many alternatives (good alternatives at that) on the market to distinguish yourself by simply being the third, fourth or fifth guy. As the franchise, genre, and the very gamer demographic that it serves matures, Rayman is able to escape the passing of age and will most likely remain timeless for many titles to come.