This article was originally published at Another-Castle.com
Run Rayman, Run
Rayman Jungle Run
Even though it must have seemed crazy at the time, there is a good reason why Tetris was a pack-in with the original Gameboy. Tetris played to the Gameboy’s strengths (portable, easy to use) and worked within its limitations (small screen, LCD visuals). Despite the Gameboy’s relative inferiority to the competition, it came out on top and Nintendo has pretty much stayed there.\r\n\r\nThere is a simple lesson in the success of the Gameboy which at first few companies understood when the smart phone revolution began. There were many attempts to make games that emulated those on dedicated gaming systems, most of which ended up with convoluted and unwieldy controls that were just not fun to play. Then games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Infinity Blade came and demonstrated what could be done when you strike a balance between the strengths and limitations of touch-screen controls. Ubisoft has released plenty of the former and it now seems they’ve learned the lesson because Rayman Jungle Run is one of the finest games I’ve played on a smart phone.
Jungle Run contains no plot or story, the object of the game is to make it to the end of each stage while trying to collect as many lums (yellow collectables) as possible. The levels are divided into four types, the first focusing on jumping, the second Rayman’s helicopter ability, the third on wall running and the final on Rayman’s punch ability. You are not able to select all from the start which would seem more appropriate but in general, unlocking all the levels is the easiest part of the game.
The combat of the final series of levels is as complicated as the game gets. Running is automatic and jumping is done by touching anywhere on the screen. The helicopter ability is used by holding your finger on the screen and punching in the later levels is done with a quick tap of the icon in the right corner. What makes the game so distinct from so many others with touch-based controls is how intuitive they are. I honestly cannot think of a time when they let me down. When I failed a level, I failed a level. In contrast, although a fantastic game, I cannot say the same of Cut the Rope.
The game is clearly designed with both casual and advanced players in mind. Getting through each level is easy enough but getting through with all 100 lums in each is far more of a challenge. In some levels it is quite possible to get all 100 on a first run with quick reflexes but the majority will require memorization and timing. For reaching 100 you receive a demon’s tooth, five of which will unlock one of four super-hard levels. These four levels contain no lums but just getting through is significantly more difficult. But they are luckily not frustrating and there is a true sense of achievement to getting through after finally overcoming each obstacle and reaching the end. While the price of failing is restarting, none of the levels are so long as to feel like lost progress and you would be surprised what you can accomplish with just five minutes and also how quickly that five becomes thirty.
Rayman Jungle Run uses the same hand drawn art style as last year’s Rayman Origins and the style remains as beautiful even on the smaller screen. Despite being called Jungle Run, Rayman still moves through a multiple environments that cycle enough to keep things fresh through the games 40 levels. The jungle stages are definitely the most colourful and striking but the darker style of the more hazardous stages certainly provide a needed contrast. What is slightly disappointing are the small number of accompanying music tracks that while good, are merely cycled each time you begin a stage. Some matching music for each environment would have fitted much better.
With forty levels and only a few different environments the level design could easily be repetitive but it is instead surprisingly diverse. Each level usually does start from the left and and end on the right but what comes in between always feels fresh. Rayman will jump on bumpers, run up walls and on ceilings; slide down vines and is always avoiding spikes and enemies. Getting all the lums often means finding hidden paths or just being quick enough to get on the right platform to travel to a higher or lower part of the level. One stage even has Rayman going through a maze driven up and down by bumpers and it is only a shame that it occurs just once. There is also a surprising amount of times Rayman will be travelling vertically. The different focuses for each set of levels also ensures plenty of diversity.
It won’t take too long to see everything and there isn’t much incentive to replay levels once you have obtained all the lums in each. Getting certain amounts of lums does unlock artwork which can be downloaded and used as background images. The brief length of the game is not really an issue when you take both the price-point and aim in to account. Like any good portable game, it is designed to be played when you have a short amount of time and nothing to do. The levels load up quickly and a short enough to make getting through two or three in a five minute interval, easily doable.
There is very little I can criticise about Rayman Jungle Run that I wouldn’t preface with, “It would be nice if…” or “It could have had..”, In other words, my issues are merely the trivial afterthoughts on a game I thoroughly enjoyed but still have to cast a critical eye on. For what it is, Rayman Jungle Run is simply outstanding. You don’t need to have ever played a Rayman game or (dare I say) any game at all to enjoy this. And it makes an excellent companion to Rayman Origins which as of writing (I am sorry to admit), have yet to play further than the demo.