Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc (PS2)

While I would consider myself somewhat of a Rayman fan, I’m not normally one to look forward to the next game in the series (at least not as much as my brother, who is a bigger fan than I). However, I do enjoy multiplayer sessions of Rayman Origins and will gladly do so when Legends comes out. As for the previous titles (before the Rabbids took over for a while, anyway), while they have been part of my childhood in some capacity, I didn’t actually have that much experience with them. About a year ago, however, as I mentioned in my review of Rayman 2: Revolution, I decided to play the PS2 port of Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc in a fit of boredom, wanting to experience the game for myself and getting to the end boss within a few days. I may be going somewhat by memory, but from what I recall of my experience, I actually had a good time with it, even if I didn't entirely finish it.

While the world is at peace, a Black Lum named Andre begins corrupting Red Lums by touching them, turning them into Black Lums. After Andre creates a swarm of Black Lums, they come together to create a Hoodlum, with Andre at the lead. Meanwhile, as Rayman and Globox are sleeping in the forest, Globox wakes up and sees Andre attacking and attempts to run away with Rayman, running off with his hands instead. When Rayman awakes to find Andre, Murfy appears and carries him to the Fairy Council, where Rayman reunites with Globox and gets his hands back. After his Hoodlum form is defeated, Andre flies off, but ends up being swallowed by Globox, leading Rayman to have to find a Teensie Doctor in order to safely remove the Black Lum Lord.

Rayman as he appears in Rayman 3.

While the story may not be as deep as Rayman 2, it does keep itself going by way of increased humor. Murfy, for instance, spends the beginning of the game berating the developers for the plot and the explanation of controls, in addition to reading Rayman the plot setup from the game’s manual and providing useful hints, before disappearing until Rayman 4 (which may or may not have actually happened, depending on who you ask). Overall the game has a more light-hearted tone and doesn’t seem to take itself very seriously, but this is a difference that I was okay with, since it helps the game stand out from its immediate predecessor.

Andre, the Black Lum Lord and main antagonist.

Like Rayman 2, Rayman 3 presents its own amount of variety, but in a different sort of way. While Rayman retains basic actions such as firing with his fists or flying with his hair like a helicopter, he can also gain new powers temporarily by coming into contact with a variety of floating cans, usually dropped by defeated Hoodlums with a “$” over their head, each power marked by the color of the can. The duration of each power also varies between them, but they last just long enough for you to use them to advance. Green cans give you the Vortex, which is used for twisting down spiraled mushrooms for use as platforms, but can also be used to spin enemies around. Red cans give you the Heavy Metal Fist, used for breaking down tough barricades or taking down foes a little faster. Blue cans grant the LockJaw, the power which lasts the longest, which is primarily used to swing on floating rings (replacing the Purple Lums in Rayman 2), but also has combat application by way of delivering an electric shock to your foe. Orange cans give you the Shock Rocket, one of, if not the, shortest lasting powers, which works by controlling a rocket fist through a first-person view to reach a target; this one usually requires having to stand where the can is for continuous use until it has served its purpose. Finally, Yellow cans equip you with the Throttle Copter, granting temporary full flight, but lasting just long enough for you to reach a distant platform.

The Throttle Copter in action.
Enemy and level design also provide some form of variety to keep things fresh. Hoodlums make up the generic enemies of the game, but rather than just a simple palette swap like with the Robo-Pirates in Rayman 2, each Hoodlum has a distinct look to them, telling you not only what type they are, but also what you must do in order to defeat them. Some are as simple as firing on them multiple times, but some require a little more strategy, such as having to heavily strafe in order to take down shielded Hoodlums. One particular form of enemy that takes a little more thinking to get around is the Knaaren, who are invincible, save for their champion Reflux, and must be bypassed by ringing a gong with the Shock Rocket power. Bosses also have a rather unique feel to them, in fact more so than the bosses of Rayman 2, providing their own ways of beating them to make them stand out from each other and become more memorable. As with Rayman 2, each and every level looks distinct, each one also varying in size, which really helps to allow the game to mix things up whenever it can.

One aspect of the level design is that there are some unique challenges present in some levels, such as shrinking down upon touching a false can and having to race around in your foot in order to stop the other one to get a reward. A particularly memorable one, which shows up after every major level, is a Funky-Boarding stage that has you flying across platforms until you reach the end; these stages can get a little difficult at times and you lose some points every time you fall down, but they are rewarding once you finally get to the end.

Funky-Boarding in action.
And of course, the game has its own sets of collectibles, primarily gems scattered across each level and cages containing Teensie prisoners. Each of the gems gives you points as part of a scoring system, the amount of points depending on the type of gem. Grabbing at least two in close proximity activates Combo Mode, which grants you extra points for each new gem collected; this mode lasts until you stop gaining points for a long enough time period. You can also gain points by looking around for hidden creatures in the environments which make a sound; one of the two types of these creatures requires you to zoom in with the camera at just the right angle to gain points, while the other requires you to approach slowly and carefully or else it will disappear without granting you points. A score multiplier also comes up while using the powers from the cans placed in each level, encouraging you to scour the level for gems while in your powered-up state. It is also a good thing to rescue trapped Teensies (usually they are held captive in cages suspended from balloons), since rescuing enough of them can give you a health boost, while sometimes they place down the can you need to come in contact with to advance in the level; often when they are rescued, the trapped Teensie will give some sort of (oftentimes ridiculous) reason for having to go away (such as being late for a drum solo or having to finish inventing chocolate toothpaste).

Due to this game coming out a few years later, the graphics are an improvement over Rayman 2, with character models appearing less polygonal and smoother, making the game seem (fittingly) more cartoonish to fit its art style. Despite this, that doesn’t mean the enemy design can’t get any twisted at all, as found in the designs of the Hoodlums and the general look of the Knaaren. The pre-rendered cut scenes also show some improvement over the previous game, with advanced lighting techniques to help the world seem more alive while still presenting a widely varied color palette. The English voice acting of this game is a great improvement over the English voice track in the PS2 version of Rayman 2, with the voice actors showing more range and characters like Murfy having more fitting voices. One particular voice actor of note, since the game box makes a big deal of it, is John Leguizamo (who you may recognize as Luigi from the Super Mario Bros. movie) as the voice of Globox; to me, he actually suited Globox rather nicely and brought more personality to the character than what was already there. The music of Rayman 3, like Rayman 2, is also very fitting and has its own share of memorable tunes. There is some good range here as well, from the calmness in the initial stages of the Fairy Council to the epic tones heard during boss fights.

Razoff, one of several bosses in the game.
This game also has some extra features which can be unlocked during play. Of particular note among them is a series of instructional Hoodlum videos on how to defeat Rayman, each one showing a different tactic from a Hoodlum practiced on a creature dressed to look like Rayman. Personally I enjoyed watching these videos whenever I unlocked them, especially whenever what was being shown backfired on the Hoodlum in question. There are also a variety of mini games you can unlock, ranging from playing ping pong with Hoodlum shields to playing as Rayman 3 Rayman in a 2.5D Rayman 1-like setting while fighting Hoodlums. If the game itself doesn’t provide enough entertainment for you, the unlockable bonus features are a surefire way to get more bang for your buck.

Before I finish this review, I would like to mention that, while I enjoyed this game, I haven’t exactly finished it all the way through. I mean this in the way that I got to the final boss like in Secret Agent Clank, except whereas Secret Agent Clank had a final boss that was too hard, this game had a final boss where I simply could not figure out what to do next. After getting past the first phase of the fight, my brother and I had a hard time figuring out what my next move was supposed to be and I stopped trying after several attempts. Now I do remember hearing what supposedly happens upon completing the game, but I still wanted to see it for myself in action; at least I can say I tried.

It may have been a while since I played it, but I remember enjoying my time with Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. It’s funny, has some interesting game mechanics, and overall is a satisfying experience. I can’t think of any particular flaws due to how long it’s been since I played it, but there shouldn’t be any major problems with it. I would recommend this game to Rayman fans who have not yet had a chance to play it, but mainly to those who are fine with it being more on the silly side than previous Rayman games. Even if you’re not satisfied with the humor of the game, the interesting changes made to the gameplay should be enough to make any Rayman player curious about checking it out.

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