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Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Rayman 3D

Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft

It's fair to say the 3DS has had a disappointing launch library. Nintendo released glorified tech demos plus Nintendogs + Cats, and other developers haven't really given us a lot to play at launch either. When the best games for your system at launch are a turn-based strategy game and a retread of a two-year old fighting game, that's a sign that someone, somewhere was asleep at the wheel.
So, Rayman 3D. It's a twelve-year-old game, redone in 3D. Originally released for the N64, Dreamcast, Playstation and PC back in 1999, it's been systematically re-released for every other system in existence, including wristwatches and toasters. Now it's the 3DS' turn to get a version, right after they release the inevitable abacus version.

Now, don't mistake my whining for hating. Rayman 3D is not a bad game at all. If this was the first re-release of Rayman 2 in a long time, I'd actually be very excited about it. The level design is tight, the main character is unique, and they switch things up quite a bit throughout the game. You're not always just running from point A to point B. Sometimes you have to go back to a previous level and open up a door in order to get a MacGuffin that opens up the next path in a different level. The camera behaves nicely. The sound is still a little annoying and Rayman still sounds like he has a mouth full of peanut butter, but it's not so bad.

That's what I think of Rayman 2 in general. However, if you're thinking about purchasing this game for the 3DS, you're not wondering about how well it controls or how good the level design is. Chances are, you've probably already played it at some point in the last twelve years, so you know that it's a pretty good game. If you haven't played it, you probably have no intention of playing it.

No, if you're thinking about Rayman 3D, it's probably for the 3D. You want to know if 3D improves a platform game or is just a distraction. I'm happy to report that it improves the experience immensely.

For example: At one point, you're falling down a long path slowly. Around you are various "lums," or the little bits that you collect throughout the level to open up bonus areas and the like. In the regular 2D version, it can be difficult to gauge your distance to the lums, and you might have found yourself bypassing them or whiffing completely while you aim at them. However, in 3D, this section is incredibly easy. You can tell your exact distance to them and figure out the correct angle to get to them without too much fuss.

In another part, you're water-skiing behind a character that looks like the Loch Ness Monster. In the 2D version, you may miss some of the lums along the way or end up ramming into the various posts and obstacles. In 3D, this section is a breeze.

Also, I swear to God that Rayman looks better. I don't mean that his texture looks better or he has more detail, because he doesn't. It's just that when you see him move in 3D, he looks more real. Another example: There's an animation that happens when you knock down a door. In 2D, it looks cheesy and weird. In 3D, I actually whispered, "Wow." It's all because of the depth-of-field illusion that 3D gives you.

It's not all perfect. In some places, if you angle the camera the wrong way, you'll end up with an object closer to the screen than your character. When that happens, you'll see an immersion-breaking double-image, as it seems that the 3D effect doesn't work so well the closer something gets to the screen.

Still, this is a twelve-year-old game. Once there are more games our for the 3DS, Rayman 3D is going to look less and less impressive. All they did was take a pretty-good game and reskin it in 3D. However, as a proof of concept, Rayman 3D demonstrates how the 3D effect will make other games look really, really good. It's easy to see why Nintendo was excited about 3D gaming and raises my expectations for games like Kid Icarus: Uprising, Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Super Mario 3D Land. It's just sad that Nintendo let Ubisoft beat them to the punch with a twelve-year-old game.

Final Rating: C+