Rayman 2: The Great Escape (Ubisoft)
Four years after the release of the original Rayman and plenty of celebrated success, Ubisoft released a sequel that changed the concept of the series entirely. Unlike the original cartoon-like platformer that was tough as nails, we were greeted with a dark, 3D rendered platformer. While the jump to 3D was hit or miss for various gaming staples, Rayman found a welcome home with Rayman 2: Great Escape, touted by many (myself included) as one of the best 3D platformers ever developed.
If I mention a cutesy 3D platformer that stars evil robots and pirates it would be hard to tell if I was talking about a Ratchet & Clank, Rayman, or even Conker because the idea is so recycled. While the plot may remain the same, that’s where the comparisons end. Instead of the aggressive worlds that had one goal – to kill you – of the original, we are now given fully rendered open environments that crave exploration. For the most part you are tasked with going from the beginning of any level to the end, but along the way you also collect the glowing lums from the original. For the lums that are on your path and along the way this is no big deal and it will surely get you to end of the game, but if you want to unlock everything you will have to find all 1,000 lums. That is where the game goes from a simple level-to-level game and becomes a test of platforming abilities and risky gameplay. It felt a lot like the convention we saw in Super Mario Galaxy, where the game can literally be as hard or as easy as you like, but back in 1999 this was a new concept. Rayman 2 is also much easier as a whole, which allows you to appreciate the game and environment instead of threatening to destroy your controller with every new turn. It’s just a fun ride with enough levels to secure a 6-10 hour campaign.
Which one do you have?
Given the popularity and the mass of platforms available at the time, Rayman 2 has made several appearances on many consoles. At launch it was released on the Dreamcast, N64, PC, and PS1. The first three versions are nearly identical, the PC version having the highest resolution, although the Dreamcast has some additional minigames and mild tweaks. The PC version has issues running in XP and on 64-bit systems if left unpatched, so it is advised that modern PC players get the version on Good Old Games. The PS1 version had several tweaks to work with that specific hardware, mostly moving things around and famously reducing the number of total lums in the game to 800. A few cutscenes were altered and one of Rayman’s interactive choices in the game was removed and instead he just makes the right choice automatically. This version, however, is significant because it has all 5 European languages on the disc and instead of gibberish, the characters actually speak the chosen language. Collecting 720 or more lums also unlocks a level from the original 2D prototype of Rayman 2. This version has been re-released on the PSN’s PSOne collection that works on PS3 and PSP.
A year after its release, Rayman 2 came out on the PS2 with the new subtitle Revolution although this is the same game. It updated many of the graphics, replacing any 2D models with 3D renders, and redistributed the 1,000 lums throughout the game (including moving the hidden 1,000th lum out in the open). To assist in collecting the myriad of lums in the game Rayman can now get a gadget that helps him track them down and gives you the choice between having voiceovers in one of the 5 European languages or in gibberish (called “Raymanian” in the options menu). Unfortunately the game suffers framerate drops and stuttering, which is a distinct contrast to the smooth 60 fps frame rate the series celebrates on all other formats.
Despite the janky camera system not holding up too well today, Rayman 2 was ported several times including the DS (as Rayman DS and it’s a port of the N64 version), iOS (Dreamcast version), PSOne re-release for PS3/PSP, and finally it was converted to 3D in the 3DS launch title Rayman 3D (which is a 3D port of the Dreamcast version).
Rayman 2 began life as a 2D platformer for PS1 and Saturn that would probably have been quite similar to the original. Eventually the concept was scrapped and reinvented as a 3D platformer, although the aforementioned PS1 version does have a level from the prototype of this version as an unlock. A Gameboy Color version of Rayman 2 was released, which is nothing like the other versions and in 2D. I’ve heard claims that the game is based on the original prototype although since very little information on that version exists, the potential similarities are irrelevant.
No matter how you choose to experience it, Rayman 2 is as essential to the 3D platforming gamer as Super Mario 64. It is a real testament to Ubisoft’s innovation and contains varied level design and gameplay mechanics to keep the player involved and having fun. While I personally find the Dreamcast version to the be the definitive format, the game has been ported so often that you should have no excuse not to pick it up and play on something in your house.