Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: November 14, 2002
Rayman has an easy time laying claim to his title of everybody’s favorite limbless hero, since he’s the only one in the business. A composite body without all the unnecessary connecting bits, Rayman has appeared in 2D and 3D platformers, generally receiving accolades for smart level design and lush visuals. Now, the franchise expands with the addition of Rayman Arena, a party game featuring the majority of the cast from the previous titles, all competing in, essentially, two different competitions. Racing and combat options are readily available, and native four-player support should be enough to grab the interest of Xbox owners, but with competition from the online enabled Whacked! out there, does our hero have a leg to stand on?
Whether you tackle Rayman Arena in single or multiplayer mode, there are two basic styles of gameplay at hand. The first of these is simply referred to as Race mode, and pits you in a straightforward competition to cross the finish line first after three laps. While other variants are unlocked gradually, the only version that’s immediately available is a Time Attack mode, which removes the lap counter entirely. Instead, players will have to cross the various checkpoints in each course within six seconds of the leader. Anyone who drops behind this time limit is eliminated, and the last man racing wins the day.
You’ll find that the tracks are reminiscent of the 3D gameplay from Rayman 2. You can jump normally, and then helicopter your way down for a longer glide time; you can also fire a weak projectile that can stun your opponent, but also trigger certain events on the track. In many cases you’ll see large buttons on the course, and the projectile will automatically target these to open gateways, switch states of the track and sometimes even close gates behind you, usually making things significantly more difficult for those in your wake.
While running you’ll find that you often have to pause to slide down water-covered paths, climb chain link walls and even drop down large pits to avoid landing on the rotating platforms that would slow your lap time. There are plenty of boosts and special events scattered throughout the levels as well, and many areas have hard-to-reach shortcuts. Another tactic for reducing lap time can be found in the Y button, which “optimizes” your character. If you’re on a booster rush, the optimize control will sprint even faster; when on the starting line, you can blast out of the blocks if you time it right, and tapping it every time you land will give you a tiny sprint to make up for time lost while arcing through the air.
Where the race levels are linear and objective-based, free roaming combat can be found in the appropriately named Battle mode. Again, starting with two sub-games and a few more unlockable as you play, Battle challenges you to rack up kills rather than racing against the clock. Variety one is Deathmatch, where points are awarded as you wipe out your opponent’s health. A set amount of time passes in this mode, and whoever has scored the most kills while avoiding their own discorporation as much as possible will walk away the victor.