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Limbless and Dangeous

Full Title: Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc
Genre: Platform Action Adventure
Developer: Ubi Soft
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Platforms: PS2, Gamecube, Gameboy Advance, X-Box, PC
Release Date: March 2003

In September 1998 Ubi Soft confirmed that they had already begun work on Rayman 3. If that sounded confident to anyone at the time then people were even more surprised that Rayman creator, Michel Aneel was not part of the Rayman 3 team because he was beginning work on Rayman 4. This news was soon overshadowed by Rayman 2, which was already generating excitement; it was the first Rayman in the series to go fully 3D. It eventually appeared on the Dreamcast in March 2000, and was followed shortly by a remixed version called Rayman Revolution on the PS2 in 2001. Fans of the first instalment proclaimed Rayman 2 a resounding success, some even said it was the greatest platform game ever. The PS2 follow-up was more of the same, but suffered criticism for a drop in graphical quality and not introducing anything new, but this did not deter people from making it a success. None of this really matters though as Rayman has easily established itself as one of the best platform games to date. Earlier this year, just before E3, Ubi Soft officially announced the return of everyone's favourite limbless hero in Rayman 3.

 

Looking good

"It is testament to the skills of this team that Rayman has become such a successful franchise and the technological leap forward that Rayman 3 Hoodlum Havoc makes delivers a mix of challenge and fantasy, that will not disappoint fans." A bold statement indeed, but with the graphical advances that Ubi Soft has made on its graphical engine it's hardly surprising. Visually, the game is beautiful. The textures are smooth, animations fluid, and the attention to detail is very impressive. You could be forgiven for missing details such as the misty lighting effects if you're too busy looking at the swamp reflections. You will however, be less likely to miss the animated facial expressions of the creatures you encounter or the reflections in broken mirrors.


Meet my fist, baby

Rayman has not just been given a visual makeover, but new moves and powers. Apart from his trademark power punches (Power Fist), he now has a Grapple and Super Helicopter. These new powers are rewarded when defeating enemies thus giving Rayman the ability to proceed, so the grapple chain enables Rayman to hook floating objects and swing to higher areas, and the helicopter backpack gives him the brief chance to, well, fly. If these brief excursions don't ease your flying urges then you will be pleased to know that the opportunity to fly a small plane has made a welcome return. Rayman and Globox will be touring underground caverns shooting everything in sight, but not forgetting those in pursuit by making use of the gun on the back of the aircraft.


Rayman the Explorer

There are 44 levels across 10 different worlds, which should keep you more than occupied. Only 4 levels were on demo at ECTS, which ranged from a crazy mansion chasing a boss through rooms full of baddies and wacky decorations, to 'Begoniax the Witch' desperate to turn you into a toad, and then a water based stage where the grapple hook is crucial to progression. It was the flying stage that looked the most fun though as you cruised around with a good level of freedom dodging walls, boulders, and enemy fire.


Don't under-estimate the power of the dark side!

As with all sequels we will be treated to a variety of new opponents, including Hoodlums (20 varieties of these), Knaaren, and Dark Lums, each with much improved AI. The player will have to be creative as the creatures will learn quickly from your attacks. I certainly encountered this for a frustrating, but refreshing five minutes as the flying enemy I was shooting at kept predicting where I was going to shoot next. However, my only concern was that one of the bosses I encountered seemed to have a very routine attack, which was easily overcome and the only difficulty was the speed of it's attack. I am hoping this is work in progress. This is a minor criticism when you consider that there are over 20 enemies, some of which are armies and transforming bosses.


As for the storyline, well, something about Dark Looms and their addiction to plum juice that helps them create an army of hoodlums. Globox accidentaly swallows a Dark Loom, which means the hoodlums are now after him, while Rayman fights off the hoodlums, as well as trying to find a cure for poor Globox. This is made all the more tricky as Globox has now an addiction to plum juice. I'm so glad I don't have to write these storylines.

Ubi Soft are looking at a March 2003 release date, and with this level of progress things are looking very good for Rayman 3. Beautifully designed levels, exciting animation, and lots of fun, but intelligent gameplay. Ubi is certainly keen to emphasise that the combat system is now improved, and I can safely say that I witnessed a very involving game. Compared to platform games I have played in the past, even on PS2, I can say that Ubisoft have picked the right elements, enhanced them, and crammed them into one game. Although time can be an obstacle, Rayman 3 still smells of success. I look forward to finding out.

Yao Song Ng / Vibes