Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rayman 2: Revolution (PS2)

While there’s a ton of games scheduled to come out in the coming months, including highly-anticipated AAA titles like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag or Skylanders: Swap Force, there aren’t that many that we collectively on this blog have actually been interested in playing. In light of this, with nothing coming out for us until the upcoming Saints Row IV, I decided to take a look at a game from the past, specifically from the Rayman series, since at one point I had played the PS2 version of Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc in a fit of boredom. Thus, in another fit of boredom, I played the PS2 version of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, called Rayman 2: Revolution (Rayman Revolution everywhere else). After spending about a week or so on this game, I found myself enjoying it, though it’s not without faults.

After Admiral Razorbeard and his band of pirates blew up the Heart of the World, splitting it into 1,000 scattered Yellow Lums (pronounced “looms”), Rayman has been captured by the pirates and imprisoned on their flying ship. Rayman’s friend Globox, having also been captured, is thrown into the same cell, where the two are happy to see each other. After sharing a brief hug out of joy, Globox gives Rayman a Silver Lum given to him by the fairy Ly (pronounced “Lee”), which gives Rayman back the ability to shoot with his fists. The two then make their escape, landing back on solid ground. From there, Rayman sets on a journey to not only rescue his friends, but also to save the world from Razorbeard’s clutches and piece the Heart of the World back together again.

Rayman as he appears in Rayman 2.
The story of this game is actually quite decent, with some amount of depth present to keep you wanting to play more. The main conflict involves collecting four masks which, when collected, can allow the creator, Polokus, to appear once again in order to eradicate Razorbeard’s forces. The story takes itself just seriously enough such that it creates a real sense that something is actually at stake in the world presented. The character of Rayman has some real motivations to want to take down Razorbeard, with rescued friends and prisoners helping him along the way. Overall, I don’t really have any complaints about the plot.

The gameplay has a surprising amount of variety to it, but done in such a way that none of it feels wasted. The basic actions include the aforementioned ability to shoot from your fists, as well as the ability to use your hair as a helicopter for limited flight. The helicopter hair ability is very useful for when you want to not overshoot a distant platform, though sometimes you might want to make a complete jump first so you don’t undershoot a platform. The power to shoot with your fists, aside from beating up Robo-Pirates and whatnot, has many uses, such as flipping switches to open doors and smashing cages open to free prisoners. There’s also the ability to swim, though you have a limited oxygen supply and must rely on air bubbles if you’re swimming for too long. These abilities, along with the ability to perform a rain dance on certain designated objects, lend a sort of puzzle aspect to some levels, which also help to create level variety. Sometimes you may have to ride a Walking or Flying Shell in order to get through a particular section of the game.

Hilariously, it whinnies like a horse once you get on.
Key to this game are several different types of Lums, which are a sort of bug-like species, which each have their own gameplay properties. As mentioned above, Yellow Lums are scattered collectibles which, when all 1,000 are collected, restore the Heart of the World as destroyed by Razorbeard and his crew. The aforementioned Silver Lums, given to Rayman by Ly (sometimes via Globox), restore Rayman’s powers and give him whatever he needs to fight against Razorbeard’s forces. Red Lums, like Yellow Lums, are also scattered across levels, or sometimes dropped by enemies in this case, but instead give you a small health refill, which can be very handy when you’re running low. Green Lums act as a sort of checkpoint system, allowing you to restart when you die at the last point you grabbed one, though if you die too many times you have to do the level over again (sometimes a big enough level will grant you mercy and start you at a Green Lum instead). Finally, Purple Lums are shaped like rings, and shooting at them allows you to swing up to a higher elevation with relative ease; some are even hidden inside of cages, so be sure to look out for them. Knowing the different types of Lums can help you out a lot on your journey, and can even save your life (in-game).

Admiral Razorbeard, the main villain of the game.
To go from level to level, you often have to navigate through a handful of interconnected hub worlds, each having a set of gateways maintained by a group of Teensies, an odd sort of group who know magic, but can’t seem to decide on who exactly their King is. Fortunately, talking to the King Teensie will give you a clue on where to go next, though the names of each level are sometimes a little inconsistent (for instance, is it Skull Cave or Skull’s Cave?). Regardless, each hub world is laid out fairly well, each one providing a rather unique look and design to them to boot. A few notable locations are the Magic Well, where you can spend Yellow Lums you have collected to gain further powers for Rayman (visit often!), and several places where Ly might show up, which, after you free enough Familiar Spirits from their cages, opens up challenges that can increase your maximum health once conditions are met. If you’re a completionist, you may also want to take the opportunity to use the Teensies’ portals whenever you can so you can comb through a previous level for any missed Lums or Familiar Spirits; doing so also grants access to further mini-games for a potential bonus.

One thing I can praise about the game is the variety present with each enemy and level. Every type of enemy looks very distinct, with repetition when needed, such as re-coloring the clothing of each Robo-Pirate minion to display what their durability and move set is. There is not only good variety in the design of each level, but also its size, which lends each one a unique experience to help keep the game fresh, even during their more difficult moments. There also appears to be a nice difficulty curve, where the game ups the difficulty gradually to create a genuine sense of accomplishment whenever you conquer a level. The bosses in some levels (including ones exclusive to this version), mainly the guardians of each of the four masks and the final fight with Admiral Razorbeard, also have a good amount of difficulty to them (when the difficulty is there), some forcing you to think on your feet as you figure out their pattern before you finally take them down. The graphics are also pretty good for a PS2 game, namely one that came out in the early 2000's, and they present a nice visual style and color palette that makes everything easy to look at, even the times when the game gets a little more (genuinely) terrifying.

I also give praise to the variety in the music, each song creating the right atmosphere for each level or situation, such as the use of scare chords when outrunning giant spiders or a nice ambiance in a calm grassy field. Some of these tunes are memorable for at least a little while after you last hear them, but are nevertheless quite catchy at times. One thing I can’t praise, however, is the overall quality of the English voice acting. Mind you, I willingly played with this option since this game is one of the few Rayman 2 ports that actually has an English dialogue track selection, but I can’t tell you that it’s that great overall. It mainly has to do with the choice of actors (I can’t really name anyone since it’s difficult to track down any sort of list) combined with how unnaturally quick some of the dialogue goes by, but for the most part you may as well just go with the Raymanian (nonsense) option, though you are entirely free to pick your choice of language (including the original French voice track among others). While it is actually balanced 90% of the time, sometimes the sound mixing can be a little off, causing some voices to be rendered a bit inaudible or sound almost like a different voice (ex. Murfy, a flying guide that gives you tips along the way, sometimes sounded to me (retroactively) like the character Flip Turner in the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL whenever the mixing was off in just the right way).

This guy, for the uninitiated.
I also encountered a rather annoying audio glitch at a few points where the sound from the helicopter power would loop indefinitely, drowning out nearly every other sound. The only solution, I found, was to restart the system and then load my previous save, though I made sure to do this after finishing a level so as to not lose my progress. Again it’s rare, but it’s rather annoying whenever it happens.

Though this is the only version of the game I have played, Rayman 2: Revolution is a rather well-made port of a great game. Despite its faults in the audio department, the game has some great visual and story quality, with some amazing variety in the gameplay and level design. This is a version of the game I can safely recommend to new or existing fans of the Rayman series, even ones who started playing from the recently released Rayman Origins. The experience is memorable and will not leave you disappointed.

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