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Rayman 2: The Great Escape
Platform:  Dreamcast
# of Players:  1-4
Developer:  Ubi Soft
Publisher:  Ubi Soft
Features:  VMU, Jump Pack
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
This game is simply delightful. Delivering on all the promise of Super Mario 64, and taking full advantage of the polygon-pushing power of Sega's new machine, Rayman 2 is everything a 3-D platformer is supposed to be, and perhaps more than you remembered one cou

I'll fill you in on the story, in case you missed this game (like me) in its first appearance on Nintendo 64. I imagine it was somewhat overshadowed by that monkey game Nintendo was making movie trailers for, but it didn't deserve it. Rayman 2 does have some strong surface similarities to Rare efforts (most notably Banjo-Kazooie), but I found it much more innovative and addicting (I'll admit to getting bored with BK and abandoning it). It's hard to over-intellectualize Rayman 2, but I can break it down into two basic categories. First, it's very, very fun. Second, it's devastatingly gorgeous. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Some nasty robotic pirates have taken the energy field that holds Rayman's land together and vivisected it into a thousand pieces, each now a colored ball of light with wings called Lums. It's your mission as Rayman to find and/or rescue these Lums so that the energy field can be reconstituted and peace can be restored to the land. It's kind of like Mario collecting stars, only less arbitrary. As you collect these Lums, you also find yourself slowly regaining your powers, which, as a result of the pirate's actions, are completely absent in the beginning of the game. It's a clever story point that justifies power-ups and naturally increases the level of action as you progress through the game. To help you on your way, there is a colorful cast of truly bizarre characters which speak in differing tones of gibberish (similar to the characters from Banjo-Kazooie). My favorites are the Teenies, little hat wearing midgets whose noses comprise the entirety of their faces. They do a little dance and open up portals for you. Who knew?

The hallmark of the game is the ingenuity employed in creating intesting physical problems for Rayman. There's one instance in which you must carry powder kegs a distance in order to blow up a machine of the enemy. As you carry it towards the destination, explosive projectiles are launched from the machine to stop you. You must then throw the powder keg into the air, handle the projectiles with your ray-shooting fist, and then catch the powder keg so that you might continue. It's cute, it's clever, it's what gaming should be about. There's also an enormous room (with no pop-up) where you ride staggered air currents to a distant opening near the roof. Kinda like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know, the kind of stuff that inspires wonder, and invites you to make some physical association with the character. Trust me, by the time you're water-skiing with the help of a lonely swamp snake, you'll be hooked and ready for anything.

As I mentioned earlier, the graphics are a wonder. Having a platformer with expansive environments run at 60 frames-per-second and high resolution is almost more than one could hope for. It's gorgeous. The textures are very impressive, and remain so, even when you get close to them (look, ma... no chunks!). The character animation, the water and lighting effects, the details (mushrooms that bounce and stack up on one another just for fun), it's an awesome package. Before I gush myself into incredulity, let me just say that I'm reminded of a quote from Miyamoto, about how he was trying to make cartoons come to life in his games (or something like that... I'm paraphrasing). I think they've done a good job of that here, creating a world that will envelop you, the result of the right intentions, game design, and hardware coming together at the right time.

If you like platformers at all (and maybe even if you don't), I wholeheartedly recommend this game. It'll give you a bit of the feeling you had when you (I'm assuming shared experience here) first fired up Super Mario 64, and realized that everything you'd known about videogames had just changed. Rayman 2 isn't going to revolutionize gaming necessarily (though I'd love for it to serve as a wake up call), but it makes good on the promise SM64

made. Viva la platform!
Oh, and did I mention that the French made this game? One reason to hate them a little less. Perhaps.

Seth Berkowitz

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