A great game gets a lacklustre port in this clunky re-visit to a past fondly remembered.
It’s good to see Rayman back on our screens, after being relegated to a backbench character as a result of being over run by the Rabbids on Wii and DS. Even if the comeback is a retrospective one from way back on SEGA’s Dreamcast (and other platforms).
Regarded as one of Rayman’s best outings by critics at the time, Rayman 2 was a great platformer borrowing the finest ideas from Mario 64, Sonic Adventures and Crash Bandicoot and injecting it with an original style and charm of it’s own. But this review will not dwell on the game itself, instead focusing on Gameloft’s porting of this great game to iPhone and iPod Touch. Unlike Driver and Earthworm Jim, Rayman 2 is an exact replica of the original game, almost like an emulation of the Dreamcast but with touchscreen control implementation. So, if you’ve never played the game and want to know what it is about, and the gameplay you will encounter, then you need to visit here before continuing this review.
As I have mentioned above, this is a direct port of the original game, with nothing added or removed. Gameloft have done a great job of replicating the visuals of the original, and it looks as good as I remember on the Dreamcast. The texture work of the environments has the same smoothing as the Dreamcast’s, delivering a soft and consistent style throughout. The game runs at a solid frame-rate in both the in-game cutscenes and the gameplay action itself, whether you are engaging enemy pirates, riding air currents using you heli-ears, or sliding down sewers and didn’t once experience visual hiccups on my 3GS.
Oops, not many good things were there? Well before I outline the negatives I will point out that the following problems do not cripple the game beyond playable. Instead they are simply clunky barriers to enjoying the game to its fullest, and originally great, potential.
Gameloft have a great reputation for delivering great touch screen controls on their lineup of sports, racing and FPS games. Even platformers such as Castle of Magic and the Earthworm Jim remake worked well. In Rayman 2 though, something is a miss.
The analogue movement controls work well for the most part, in fact no worse than I remember on the quirky Dreamcast pad. but combined with clunky camera controls it’s a frustrating experience. Unlike many modern 3D platformers today, Rayman 2 doesn’t adopt an auto camera system, instead relying on you the user to position the camera where you see fit. This is all well and good, but the approach Gameloft have adopted doesn’t translate well at all. on the Dreamcast you could swing the camera by holding down buttons on the controller, but on the iPhone and iPod Touch you must swipe the screen. It feels too loose, and you don’f feel in full control. This is even worse and more apparent in the first person look mode. This allows you to search for level objectives that may be out of view or up high, but it’s unresponsive and slow. Many parts of the game the camera isn’t an issue, particularly the more open areas where you have more room for error. In the more cramped areas though, the platforming becomes a chore with you missing a jump or platform simply because you cannot see it. Any reset option for the camera, swinging it behind rayman at the tap or flick of your finger would be a preferred option here.
Finally on the controls is the worst implementation of pinch in and pinch out I have ever seen. Much like Zelda 64, the game requires a Z-target style lock-on for enemies, this allows you to freely run around an enemy while automatically facing him. However, on the iPhone, instead of employing a simply double tap enemies to lock on, you must pinch out the lock on, a fiddly, unresponsive and most of all unintuitive approach. Worse still, to unlock from the enemy you must pinch in, and should you kill him before this, then you are stuck in this strafing mode until you pinch-in. Crazy!
Despite the poorly implemented controls, the core gameplay can still be enjoyed. Unfortunately that enjoyment is not geared towards on-the-go play. The save system, or lack of, only kicks in when you have completed a level/section. A task that can take upwards of 20 minutes, more if you factor in being hampered by the controls. Therefore, if you receive a call mid game, have reached your destination during a commute to work, or worse, run out of battery…. you will have to start that level from the very beginning. This, on the iPhone and iPod Touch at least, is unforgivable. There is absolutely no reason why a checkpoint system could not have been implemented.
The Bottom Line
Rayman 2 reminds me of Nintendo’s Mario 64 port on DS… a great game and a great system that together just didn’t work. As much as I love Rayman 2, I feel that the 2D Rayman adventures would have been better suited to iPhone and iPod Touch, in the same way that New Super Mario Brothers is a better fit on DS. Until they can fix these frustrating problems then, it’s a case of thanks Gameloft, but no thanks!
Original Game (Dreamcast)
Rayman 2 is out now for $6.99 (£3.99)