Rayman 3 HD Review (Xbox360)

With the release of last year's Rayman Origins, Ubisoft's limbless hero is on the rise one again. Origins was one of the best and most surprising games of the year by my count, and so it seems Ubisoft are continuing with their revival of their original mascot without the influence of the Rabbids with the release of Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc in high definition for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

Those who played the HD version of Beyond Good and Evil, another Ubisoft classic, will know what to expect here. It’s a similar level of polish and a similar set of changes from the original PS2, GameCube and Xbox release.

While I’m still of the belief that the best of the original Rayman titles is the first, Rayman 3 is still dripping with a lot of the charm that was later lost from the series and regained with the excellent Origins. The colourful, zany world is under threat, and Rayman teams up with Globox to beat down the threat.

There’s cutscenes and dialogue, but they’re simplistic and don’t drone on – probably for the best given their execution, which shows its age. Sadly, there’s not even an option to skip these sequences.

The world fares much better, and in high definition the rich colour palette looks great. The game is vibrant and beautiful, and there’s a great variety in the levels that are on offer here. While textures haven’t been outright recreated like some HD rereleases, the manner in which they’ve been upped in resolution keeps detail without textures becoming blurry.

The game runs at a solid frame rate without significant hitches or screen tearing – as one would expect for a game this old running on 360. It generally looks and performs great on this new hardware, and in terms of performance after hitting GameCube, GBA, PS2, Xbox, PC, Mac and N-Gage this may actually finally be a ‘definitive’ version.

The problems with Rayman 3 stretch beyond things that could be fixed in a simple HD resolution upgrade and running on more powerful hardware – they’re things that are deeply ingrained into the structure of the game.

This game launched during the period when a lot of developers were still getting to grips with the idea of the 3D platformer, looking to titles like Banjo Kazooie and Super Mario 64 for guidance in how to build these impressive open behemoths. Rayman 3 HD offers up 9 worlds that slot into the traditional platformer tropes with a linear structure to actual missions with collectables and optional stuff hidden off the beaten path.

There are a few different powers Rayman gets his disembodied hands on, of course, and these are dished out as the game progresses as one might expect. These are sometimes traversal, such as being able to hover and fly for a little bit and sometimes combat-based, used to take down some of the game’s boggle-eyed baddies.

It's a true platformer, and all the tropes you’d expect are present from there in, too – pattern-based boss battles, the ability to revisit old worlds to find more stuff, puzzles and so on. Off from the story is a small collection of mini games, though, and one could see this as the genesis of where Rayman would later go with the mini-game focused Raving Rabbids games. These are a a fun distraction but by no means the main event.

It’s all very reminiscent of that late 90s and early 00s, though playing Rayman 3 again in 2012 I can’t help but be reminded how it simply isn’t as accomplished a 3D platformer as titles that arrived before it. Mario 64 and both Banjo Kazooie titles were both definitely more accomplished than this, though Rayman 3 shows a Ubisoft who were finally getting to grips with what to do with Rayman, a character who was born in a 2D game right as 2D ceased to be ‘cool’ to the mainstream.

The most obvious problem is the camera, a frequent struggle in games of the era. After being spoiled with modern game cameras it’s even more frustrating than it was before, hitching up in parts of the level, or veering away from enemies you actually want to attack. Worst of all is when it seems to fall behind during a platform sequence, sending you plunging either to your doom or to somewhere you don’t want to be. It’s not a good look, and is frustrating.

A handful of old-school design problems like this and decisions in the general structure of the game – which encourages heavy exploration and probably a touch too many pick-ups – make Rayman 3 show its age more than Beyond Good and Evil did in its HD remaster. Wanting to sling your controller across the room is never a good thing – especially as in the last decade they’ve since become wireless – and so can fly much further!

With those complaints noted, it’s still worth saying that Rayman 3 is well worth your time if you’re a Rayman fan, platform fan or simply looking for a new 3D adventure of this type, as they’re all too uncommon these days.

The addition of Achievements and Online Leaderboards will add a little to the experience for some, but most will come for the original game, which offers a decent amount of challenge and length and a great deal of variety in its levels. Just go into it knowing that the original game was released back in 2003 – and in spite of the HD upgrade, it feels like it.

Best Game Moment: Just how colourful it is! It couldn’t be more different to this generation’s brown-fest.

Format Played: Xbox 360

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