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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: December 21, 1999
When a game becomes popular and turns into a franchise with numerous sequels, one of several things can happen. The series can remain consistent from title to title, with everything pretty much kept the same so as not to discourage loyal followers; it can gradually improve over time, injecting incremental enhancements with each new installment; or, finally, it can reach a point where a quantum leap forward is made, leaving all preceding releases in the dust. I think it is fair to say most series of PC games follow one of the first two patterns, while the third is the one consumers would like to see most.
The French powerhouse Ubi Soft, in its release of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, clearly breaks out from the pack and follows the third pattern. Rayman 2 takes the previously two-dimensional side-scrolling action of the original Rayman into a fully rendered three-dimensional world, but this is the least of its innovations. The amount of gameplay, graphics and audio creativity packed into this offering compared to its predecessors is absolutely amazing. Even the archenemy changes in this new release, as you no longer need to worry about Mr. Dark, but instead must vanquish a new, colorful swashbuckling opponent. Combining the story elements of an immersive adventure with the constant movement of a platform game, Rayman 2 is an absolutely unforgettable experience from beginning to end.
The plot is quite vivid, even though it is the most unoriginal element of Rayman 2. Intergalactic robo-pirates led by the evil Admiral Razorbeard have imprisoned Rayman and most of his friends, and have broken the primordial energy of Rayman’s world into a thousand magical fragments (the manual inconsistently calls them both “lums” and “lumz”). He manages to escape his captors, but needs to recover the lums in order to regain his powers and health. Ly The Fairy is the only one who can help him, and to free her, Rayman must disable the machine immobilizing her. Finally, he must acquire four magical masks that allow him to wake Polokus, the spirit of the world capable of getting rid of the sinister Admiral and his cronies. The storyline plays a central role in the gameplay rather than just being a background excuse for mindless jumping from level to level.
Rayman 2 contains 48 levels within 17 huge worlds and several hidden bonus play areas. The scenery is quite diverse, encompassing swamps, jungles, forests, coastlines, oceans, caves, volcanoes, and, of course, the pirate ship itself. Each world is beautifully designed, with background elements, such as waterfalls and butterflies, that bring them to life. Each world involves a different kind of gameplay requiring slightly different arcade skills, with some requiring tight movement around ledges and others requiring leaps across chasms, for example. It has been ages since I have seen an action release with worlds so consistently enthralling. Like most platform titles, however, there is no option for multiplayer action.
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