Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Ubisoft Casablanca
How best to show off exciting new technology? Apparently with an 11-year-old game that's been given minimal graphical improvements and doesn't do anything interesting or new. Don't let the name fool you, Rayman 3D is not a new game made for Nintendo's 3DS. It's actually Rayman 2: The Great Escape, originally released in 1999. Don't bother buying it.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love Rayman 2. It's one of my favorite games. But it looks old, feels old, and it isn't doing anything interesting for a DS game, much less a 3DS game. The touch screen just tracks your collectibles -- it's never used for any real function -- and the visuals have been given only a minor retouching. Yes, Rayman 2 is one of the greatest platformers of all time, but Ubisoft wasted any of its potential for Nintendo's new system. At least the things that were good about Rayman 2 remain for the "new" Rayman 3D.
Rayman 3D is a whimsical platformer where you jump, swing, shoot and slide your way through a series of imaginative levels. There's something very childlike about Rayman, in a good way. It's like playing through one of Walt Disney's weird esoteric French dreams where Mickey Mouse is an abstract character with no arms, legs, or neck. There's a real sense of wonder and charm to Rayman and the goofy characters he meets along the way. They're all cartoonish and even silly, but the situations Rayman's placed in have the dire realism of a childhood playground fantasy.
As Rayman, you only have a handful of moves. Jumping and shooting balls of energy from your hand account for a good majority of the game. There's a fair amount of combat, which is quickly paced and requires some fast reflexes to avoid getting hit by incoming attacks. The combat adds a bit of tension to some of the slower platforming sections. There are lots of little tweaks here and there that make each successive level more interesting than the last, but at its core, Rayman 3D is built as a traditional platformer where precision jumping is required to avoid death.
The core game is still there. In fact, there's nothing really here but what was released a decade ago. The Circle Pad is used to maneuver our neckless hero and it works just fine. Rayman 3D is designed for analog control. Push ever so slightly on the Circle Pad and you move slowly. Push a lot and you run. Movement makes sense with a stick and not on the touch screen, but couldn't that screen be used for something? Heck, I don't know, maybe some additional content that I didn't play on my N64?
Worse is that few of the issues from original game have been fixed with the 3D re-release. The primary problem is the camera, which can sometimes point in the wrong direction. And there are times when you'll be headed one way, the camera switches angles, and suddenly the controls are flipped around and Rayman turns around for no reason. Bad enough to have that in any game - worse to leave that in after a decade and add nothing of real value while you're at it.
Cranking up the 3D doesn't do much for the visuals, which look outdated even on the brand new 3DS. It's neat to see some elements that once faded into the background have a bit more prominence, but jaws will not drop. No one is likely to be convinced of the power of the 3DS by looking at Rayman 3D. This is not the Avatar of gaming.
There are a few moments when the 3D does help the gameplay just a touch. In particular, the rare top-down sections, where you guide Rayman as he descends, benefit from the depth of field created by 3D. That's about all Ubisoft could manage on this one.
I'm all for reviving classic games so new generations can enjoy them, but it has to have some new element. Whether that's the graphics being redone to add a bit of wow, real refinements to the gameplay, or new levels no one's seen before -- there has to be a reason for this to exist on the hot, cutting edge bit of technology. The 3D is half-hearted in its implementation and adds nothing outside of the cheap gimmick of 3D butterflies fluttering in the foreground.