Here's some Rayman trivia for you: Rayman was first introduced in 1995, on the original PlayStation. Since then, the franchise has spiralled somewhat out of control, from the relatively random appearance of Rayman in Raving Rabbids on the Wii, to iterations on nearly every handheld on the market.
Rayman 3 HD is an updated port of Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, which originally released on PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube back in 2003. First time around, it got mixed reviews - although they were generally positive. I didn’t play it back then, which puts me in an ideal position to assess its relative merits as a downloadable game in 2012.
I’ve always been fond of the Rayman series, in its 2D platformer guise, but a little skeptical when it comes to 3D platformers. Making the jump to that extra dimension is something that few developers truly succeed at, which puts a well-loved franchise at risk when its attempted.
Rayman 3 HD proudly boasts the fact the game is in HD - it’s right there in the title - but what does that actually mean? What we’re talking about here is 720p support and hi resolution textures; the polygon count looks to be the same, so don’t expect any huge improvements since its conception on last gen hardware.
However this is not a bad thing; in fact, Rayman 3 - as far as last gen goes - is actually pretty good visually. It’s a bizarre and wonderful world that Ubisoft Studios have created; reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, with large mushrooms, blue grass, and gelatin-like water. It’s all very strange, which entices you to explore around for secret areas in each level.
Rayman 3 HD has reasonably good audio, however voice acting seems hit and miss at some points. There is a fair bit of dialogue in this game, and as banter between the main villain and your colleague happens throughout each level, they do start repeating themselves. But... there is just enough variation to not get too distracting. The music itself is pretty unmentionable until you get to the bonus levels, which I will get into further details about later.
The main characters, like in previous iterations, return in this adventure ,and are as strange as the world which is put in front of you. One in particular, the cowardly Globox, is a gentle, sensitive glute, who follows Rayman around through the game. Globox actually ends up swallowing the main villain André, a Black Lum who is an angry, small and fluffy ball with wings who berates both Rayman and his trusty side kick from within his belly as you go world to world looking for the right doctor to get him out.
The sense of humor in Rayman 3 is surprisingly juvenile, with a lot of hidden connotations and even some innuendo in some areas. As an example, I was having trouble getting my rocket into a small hole to hit a switch on the other side when the villain taunted me by saying “I hope you're not this bad with the ladies”. Juvenile it might be, but this kind of casual dialogue actually got a bit of a chuckle from me now and then.
So how does the gameplay fair? 3D platformers can have their frustrating moments, particularly when it comes to camera positioning or jumping between distant objects. Rayman 3 does struggle a bit in some areas, but you can see Ubisoft really tried to minimise it. The developers go so far as to pull the camera back when there's an opportunity to do so, and in some rare cases even pulling it so far back as to make it look more like a 2D platformer. However, the 3D movement mechanics are still there, so you sometimes misjudge where you are going to land - particularly when the platform is screen size of a pea on screen.
If you want camera control, the right analog stick does give you some control over the camera, but this can be slow and a little clunky at times.
Each level is linear in progression, but some hidden gaps or holes will lead you to special gems for more points or to local inhabitants you can rescue from captivity. There is also a lot of variation between the worlds you traverse; one in particular was desert themed and you couldn’t stand on the sand, so you had to navigate by jumping between large bones that protrude from the surface, while other levels had you swimming underwater or flying high in the sky, meaning that each level actually felt quite different to the last.
As the story progresses, you are presented with a sort of bonus level between world themes. These involve "snowboarding", after a fashion, on thin platforms which can appear and disappear as you jump from one to another. All the while you're sliding your way through a psychedelic tunnel, listening to an almost hallucinogenic remix of boogie nights... This game sure does have random and bizarre moments you just don’t expect.
As far as extra content goes, you get a gallery of art work and you can also upload your scores to the leaderboards, to see who among your friends can collect gems faster with better combos. There are also some bonus mini-games you can unlock as you progress, which involve beating up waves of enemies, solving puzzles, as well as a bonus 2D platformer esque level, but they're nothing to get excited about.
To sum up, I really enjoyed playing Rayman 3 HD. So much so that I’m surprised (and a little miffed) that I didn’t play it in its earlier form. Its set in a bizarre world, with a straightforward story, quirky humor, and - some might say - it's trying too hard to break the fourth wall, but I actually had fun playing Rayman 3 HD. So if you’re looking for that nostalgic hit but don’t want (or aren't able) to dust off the old PlayStation 2, I’d say this would scratch that itch.
As far as pricing goes, it’s not too bad when it comes to value, $18.90 on the NZ Store is OK, but if you have a PlayStation Plus account, it’s $15.12, and I think that’s about right on the money.