Shifting to 3D was a common decision when the 32-bit and 64-bit era approached. Some benefited greatly from this change, while others had trouble making the shift. Even worse is that many unfortunately don’t hold up too well nowadays and demand more than today’s players can offer. Rayman was also going to make this shift, even though it was originally planned to continue the 2D-approach and expand upon the first game. After experimenting with their first 3D-game; Tonic Trouble for the N64, Ubisoft then wanted to take Rayman to the next dimension. Released for the N64 and a PC-port following quickly afterwards in 1999, Rayman 2 was then ported to plenty of other systems, including the Dreamcast and Playstation, before being remade for Playstation 2 and even the DS, 3DS and mobile-devices.
Yarr, a more grim approach to the story
Among thousands of slaves, Rayman has been captured in a flying airship by robot-pirates, led by the terrifying Razorbeard. While trapped in his cell, Globox, a blue frog-like creature and a close friend of Rayman, got captured and thrown in the same cell as him. Though all hope seems lost, Globox gives Rayman a power, that he got from Ly the fairy, returning to Rayman his ability to attack. After making “the great escape” through the air-duct, Rayman must then find Ly the Fairy and rescue everyone from the dangerous Razorbeard.
This is definitely a more darker approach to the story in contrast to the first game, with characters from pirates to the guardian of bad dreams, and worlds ranging from mysterious forests to tombs giving it a much grimmer tone. Despite this, it never fully drops the lighthearted parts and sense of wonder, with elements such as the four Teensies trying to find out whom of them is the king and mystical items to save the world. The mix of the lighter and darker tone is also well done, since everyone is sincere and worried about the prisoners at Razorbeard’s hand (who even eats one of the Lums he captured), but they always show a glimmer of hope and light, with Rayman even saving Globox’s adorable children who sounds like squeaky dog-toys. With characters being enjoyable and creative and a plot that moves our hero forward, the story overall gives you more than just a reason to save the world.
Story score: 8/10
Familiar, yet fresh
You start of the game with propeller-hair and are able to ledge-grab and even get a new form of attack right from the start, unlike the first game where you had to unlock all of these skills. Instead of throwing his hand, Rayman now shoots energy-spheres that can ricochet of the walls twice and shoots at an impressive range. Later on, you will also get a charge-attack for your punches, as well as a grapple-ability to swing from purple objects. New moves added, are the ability to swim in waters where there are no piranhas, climbing certain walls and ceilings, jump upwards between tight walls and a lock-on feature somewhat reminiscent of Ocarina Of Times’ Z-targeting.
The game features a lot of variety in what you do each stage, from sliding down and exploring dangerous caves to running from airships, yet the game never deviates from the core mechanics of what Rayman does well: platforming. You are always on the move with the platforming always changing up, without making it feel repetitive or out of place. Even the bosses are usually more like platforming-obstacles than real fights except for the last boss battle. The combat in this game is fun, making use of the lock-on feature really well and having the attack auto-aim the closest enemies while not locking on, even at a good distance, and combining all this with the ricochet of your attack and the enemies never becoming too daunting or too common, it makes the combat a good addition, but not the main focus.
To help you on this journey, there are temporary upgrades for your fists that do twice the damage until you get hit 3 times, red Lums that heal you and yellow Lums to collect and cages to break. The Lums and Cages are the most important parts, with the Lums giving you access to new levels and cages to extend your life-bar, with each stage only having a certain amount. Unlike the previous game, there is no lives system and you have unlimited continues. If you die, you just start at a previous checkpoint which never feel unreasonably placed. Due to this, the game is never as brutal as the first game, but still provides a good challenge.
The camera is good and one that even holds up much better than some do today, being able to move it left and right and never having to need to look up or down, as the camera will automatically do so if needed. The controls in general are really good and feel smooth. Even in stages that add variation such as sliding and rocket-riding, you are always navigating through platforming-stages and at a fast pace with the controls never being too different. It’s quite a marvel how Rayman 2 takes elements from its previous entry and makes them work in a 3D environment and tweak some other elements. No stage is dull or unenjoyable, making this a great run from start to finish.
Gameplay score: 10/10
From an imaginative dream to an imaginative nightmare
The game features a vibrant and colorful world, but by being set in dim forests, deep oceans, infested swamps and disturbing tombs, it definitely creates a dark tone. Despite this, it still gets to be creative, with detailed and varied areas and with characters being just about as interesting, from Globox the blue frog-creature to zombie-chickens. Some areas can even be creepy, with the Cave of Bad-Dreams being deserving of its name.
The soundtrack is also overall much more darker toned, with low notes and drums being focused on to create a more mysterious and lonely tone. While not as memorable as the soundtrack in the last game, it’s more rhythmic and serves to give a different atmosphere that complements each level fantastically.
Presentation score: 9/10
Save all the inhabitants
The game takes about 6-7 hours to simply beat it, but completing it and going for finding all the cages and lums can easily add at least 4 more hours. While there is no completion-bonus (except for the PS1-version), it is a fun challenge and simply replaying stages alone is a joy to be had.
Extras score: 8/10
Rayman 2 surprised me with just how well it has aged and it’s easy to see why it has been ported so many times. To be completely honest: the playstation-version misses half of the original content in favor of voice-acting, 3DS features glitchy gameplay, terrible framerate and bad 3D effects, and the DS-version isn’t much better due to only having the D-pad as an option for movement. I would highly recommend it for the PS2, since it features more content than the original, is more challenging and has upgraded visuals, but the Dreamcast-version is also well done, taking the advantage of the systems capabilities really well, and both the N64 and PC-versions are well-done and not a bad choice either. Rayman 2 is one of the best 3D-platformers I have ever played.