Rayman review — June 1996, US edition
Every Sunday, Tyler Wilde publishes a classic PC Gamer review from the '90s or early 2000s, with his context and commentary followed by the full, original text from the archived issue. This week, the original Rayman is reviewed in the June 1996 issue of PC Gamer US. More classic reviews here.
In 1989, Prince of Persia on the Apple II made Super Mario Bros' animations look downright primitive, and got me obsessed with the dream of playing as a real cartoon character. Before I ever thought polygonal heroes were a good idea, I sought out the phrase "cartoon-quality animations" and hoped (though I wouldn't have been able to tell you their names at the time) for games to take after Chuck Jones and Tex Avery cartoons instead of ReBoot, that '90s CG-animated cartoon about low-poly computer people.
It's a thin thread, but with a lot of Ubisoft news this week—Far Cry 4 is coming, The Division has been delayed—I've pulled out our review of the first Rayman game. It bestows Rayman with that holy praise—"cartoon-quality animations"—and I'm so happy that Ubisoft and the great Michel Ancel are still upholding that standard. In 2006 (the year Rayman Raving Rabbids released on the Wii, for reference), I was panicked by the thought that great Western 2D animation had plummeted off a cliff with no one around to peel its flattened corpse from the desert floor, but despite Disney ditching the medium last year, its heart beats on in games and film, especially in Europe.
Sheepishly, I admit I still haven't played the latest 2D Rayman games, but it's comforting to know they're waiting for me, along with fantastic 2D animation across the industry. It's not often the hand-drawn work I grew up with, but I'd rather the artform evolve and live on than turn to dust in the desert of dead media.
Required: Double-speed CD-ROM drive; 486/33; 4MB RAM; VGA
We Recommend: 486/66; 8MB RAM; Supported sound card; Gamepad
If you're the least bit familiar with the console videogame market, you may already know about Ubi Soft's Rayman. This side-scrolling action game falls into the same category populated by Nintendo's Mario, Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, and Shiny Entertainment's Earthworm Jim: it puts a cute (and marketable) action hero in the middle of intensive shooting, bashing, and jumping action. And it looks like this little guy can hold his own with the best of them.
Like most games of its type, Rayman is a little thin on story, but in this case, the plot's worth a mention. The mysterious Mr. Dark has defeated Betilla the Fairy and stolen the Great Protoon from a peaceful world. As a result, the small electoons that used to happily circle the Great Protoon are scattered over the world, captured by the minions of Mr. Dark. Your job? You guessed it: free the electoons and make your way to Mr. Dark's lair to rescue the Great Protoon and restore universal harmony. It may sound like a quantum physicist's nightmare, but it's entertaining stuff.
There are a lot of nice touches throughout, from the variety of Rayman's powers and the ability to choose which level you'll visit next, to cartoon-quality animations that bring it all to life. Each level is unique, ranging from traditional side-scrolling scenes to vertical climbs. And unlike other games that force you to try countless times to finish the same level, Rayman lets you choose your path from a variety of options. Helpful, since you often have to go back with powers you receive later in the game to recover all of the lost electoons, which means more challenge in a familiar setting.
On the suface, Rayman looks a little like a children's game, but the colorful, cartoonish style of the animation will please players of any age. And, unlike many recent games of this type, there's no violence. The enemies are simply booted off the screen, not destroyed, and Rayman always has a happy grin on his face, even when facing overwhelming odds.
If you're an adult who's fond of platform arcade titles, or if you have a kid you need to wean off of Doom, this is definitely the game to get. —Michael Wolf
Highs: Great animation; lots of variety; precise play control.
Lows: Could be too challenging at high levels; chances to save can be few and far between.
Rayman is undoubtedly one of the best arcade-style games for the PC.