It’s hard to believe, but the little limbless platforming hero Rayman is twenty years old this year. It seems like only yesterday I was firing up the original Rayman on my PlayStation, and in the twenty years since the series has blown up into one of the biggest franchises ever full of sequels and spinoffs. On the mobile side of things, Rayman has had a strong showing over the years.
Gameloft ported Rayman 2: The Great Escape, the character’s first foray into the world of 3D, to iOS way back in 2010. It was a bit of a mixed bag due both to the game itself not aging terribly well (as most early 3D platformers don’t) and a finicky virtual button control scheme. Sadly, Rayman 2 is no longer on the App Store. The much brighter points in Rayman’s mobile history are Ubisoft’s original spinoffs starting with Rayman Jungle Run ($2.99) in 2012. After a well-received return to side-scrolling platforming on consoles with Rayman Origins in 2011, Ubisoft utilized those same gorgeous assets and compiled them into an original game that was built from the ground up for mobile.
To make a game that worked well on touchscreen, Rayman Jungle Run was an auto-running platformer. That sounds kind of blah on paper, but in reality it was an incredibly smart move. It meant that the entirety of the game could be controlled with just a couple of taps, and thanks to genuinely brilliant level design it still completely felt like a Rayman game. There were tons of branching paths and hidden areas to discover, and I really can’t overstate how wonderful the art and sound design was, thanks to it being lifted from Rayman Origins.
Rayman Jungle Run became a huge hit on iOS and even scored a coveted “Game of the Year 2012" nod from Apple themselves. Ubisoft followed up all this success with a sequel in the fall of 2013 called Rayman Fiesta Run ($2.99). For the most part, Rayman Fiesta Run was more of the same, but that wasn’t a bad thing as the original was so good. With tons more levels to beat and items to collect Rayman Fiesta Run saw a similar success as its predecessor did.
For their third mobile act, Ubisoft announced Rayman Adventures this past July, and unlike previous games they actually soft-launched this one just a few days later, meaning lots of people were able to get an early glimpse before its planned worldwide release. Rayman Adventures featured a couple of huge departures from the previous two mobile Rayman games. First off, you are now able to change direction at will, making it more of a traditional platformer while still retaining the convenience of auto-running. How you feel about this change is probably just down to personal opinion, but it definitely adds a layer of complexity to the formula.
The far bigger change in Rayman Adventures is a move to a free to play business model. The game features dozens and dozens of “creatures" that you can unlock, each offering a special ability for you to utilize during play. These creatures must be hatched from an egg initially, which as you might be able to guess has a timer associated with it. After hatching, the creatures also need to rest after you’ve used them, and yep, that means another timer. Of course both periods of waiting can be sped up using the in-game currency. These free to play elements wouldn’t be a burden at all except that some levels require you to use a certain creature, and if that creature is on a cooldown timer you’re pretty much prevented from playing, which is stupid.
Free to play stuff aside, Rayman Adventures both looks and sounds even better than the previous two games, which I would have thought was impossible. It’s easily one of the best looking mobile games I’ve ever played. Levels are also much more complex than previous games, with tons of areas to explore and hidden stuff to discover. It really feels more like the traditional Rayman side-scrolling platformers this time around, but without losing that streamlined touchscreen control scheme.
It’ll be interesting to see if any of the free to play stuff gets tweaked prior to the worldwide release of Rayman Adventures, which is set for December 3rd. I only very briefly played the initial soft-launch version back in July, so it’s possible some things have been tweaked already. Even if there are constricting factors though, Rayman Adventures is a damn fun game. It’s already been availalbe on the Apple TV as a launch title, but I’m more looking forward to having it on my iOS device where it feels at home. Look for Rayman Adventures on December 3rd, and here’s to another twenty years of Rayman.