Ubisoft’s limbless wonder has certainly had his fair share of game coverage over the past few generations of home consoles. Beginning life as a stylish and colourful 2D platformer on the PlayStation and SEGA Saturn, Rayman’s second outing (and definitely his most revisited when taking a glance at the DS and 3DS launch lists) broke into the realms of 3D with Rayman 2 on Nintendo 64, PlayStation and Dreamcast. Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc marked his third adventure on the next generation of consoles, and aside from a multiplayer party title not long after, Ubisoft left aside their most recognisable character to give some psychotic bunnies the spotlight with the Rabbids games on Wii and DS. Seeing the almost forgotten Game Boy Advance version of Rayman show up on the Nintendo 3DS eShop not long after the character’s return to 2D brilliance with Rayman Origins feels quite apt, with this title also providing a glimpse into the past platforming nature of the franchise. The question is: did this game deserve to be a lesser known title of Rayman’s legacy, or does the spotlight of the e-Shop highlight its true greatness?
Whilst the opening animation and similar plot premise at the beginning of the game may give players the impression that Ubisoft attempted a Donkey Kong Land with their PlayStation original and shrunk it down for a best-fit portable version, Rayman on Game Boy Color is entirely its own game, albeit with recognisable traits dotted about for franchise fans. The evil cloaked fiend Mr Dark is up to his old tricks again by capturing Rayman’s Electoon friends and trapping them in cages scattered about the world, and it’s up to our fearless hero to explore the levels and end Dark’s tyranny once and for all. The story is definitely more of an afterthought with static storyboard images between levels to let the players know what’s going on, but with games like this the platforming action takes centre-stage importance anyway.
Rayman takes conventional elements of the series and puts them to good use in this GBC version. The limbless one’s primary actions consist of jumping and shooting his fist forward, where a longer distance is reached when holding the button down, with controls being as basic and solid as one would expect. The gliding ability also makes a return, with Rayman doing his best Inspector Gadget impersonation through the Helicopter Hair ability. Like the yellow lums of later games in the series, the levels are dotted with Ting balls which bestow an extra life when 30 are collected, and these generally point the path you need to take through the stages. In other Rayman games, progression was usually rewarded with new abilities like a higher jump and a flying upgrade, but in this one they happen on a level by level basis for when they are needed; a good tactic from the developers in putting more variation between levels, though the offset is you don’t get that same sense of strength progression that other such platfomers may offer.
As one of the later Game Boy Color games and one that served to take full advantage of the extra ability the machine offered over the original Game Boy, Rayman remains quite the looker for the system, made in no way worse for being blown up to full size on the 3DS screen. The opening animation, though brief, is a nice touch, and the level design takes full advantage of the colour palette with foresty areas and musical instrument-constructed levels. Certain stages deviate from the normal straightforward platforming, such as those where players have to escape a rising pool of harmful liquid, or retreat from an evil doppelganger of the hero himself that mimics his actions a second after they are made. Rayman’s framerate isn’t quite as silky smooth as the original PlayStation title, but it is more than adequate.
With the submission of the game to the e-Shop roster comes positives and negatives. The biggest plus, besides digital convenience and a better viewing experience, is the workaround for the game’s primary method of saving which was the humble password screen. What in this day and age has become a highly awkward system is made almost obsolete with the save state feature the 3DS offers, and this also helps circumnavigate the harsh penalty of zero continues that the game is limited to. Ubisoft has taken out a feature of the game that made use of the infra-red sensor on the Game Boy Color called the Ubi Key, which, by transferring data between players, would unlock extra levels. There are certain points in the stages that open bonus rounds for extra lives, but these were standard in the original and thus Rayman on GBC looks to be missing content from its original cartridge version.
That isn’t to say that the game is too short, though a dedicated player making wise use of the save states could beat it in a sizable playthrough, but due to the game’s somewhat harsh difficulty -- at times demanding precise jumps and forward planning -- it isn’t an easy adventure. Plus for a full completion, finding all of the caged Electoons is certainly no walk in the park, though the game does help with audio hints along the way. Rayman is far from being the limbless wonder’s greatest outing, but for franchise and platformer fans in general this is definitely one to consider downloading.
Solid controls together with intelligent level design and strong use of traditional Rayman elements, slightly hindered by difficulty spikes at random times and limited usage of power ups for certain stages, which will either irritate or otherwise depending on your perspective.
Effective sprite work and animation showcasing the ability the Game Boy Color had over its two-tone predecessor. Level art varies considerably to keep things fresh, though ultimately there aren’t enough of them in general.
Familiar backing tracks rendered in the trademark Rayman chiptune style, and a smattering of voice clips here and there with wise usage, but nothing either obtrusive or memorable.
Not too lengthy a playthrough, the value lies in rescuing all of Rayman’s captured friends and finding all of the secret bonus levels. After that however, there is very little to coerce you back.
A decent platformer given another chance to find a fanbase on 3DS, albeit one that wears its limitations on its sleeve. Rayman on Game Boy Color provides a high quality visual and control experience together with staple elements of the series, but has little else beyond the core adventure. Definitely one to consider for Rayman fans and platformer gurus in general, but other gamers may want to look at the rest of the eShop offerings first.