Rayman is a 2D side scrolling platformer developed and published by Ubisoft for the Playstation in 1995. The game was originally developed for the Atari Jaguar and was released in late 1995. After this version was complete, Ubisoft then ported the game to many other consoles in the following 12 months with the Playstation version being released a couple of weeks after the Atari Jaguar version. The game was then ported in late 1995 to the Sega Saturn with the PC version being released in 1996. There was also a prototype version of the SNES version that was found quite recently and was found working by the lead designer of Rayman Michel Ansel. The SNES version is believed to be from the initial development cycle of the game, which was around 1992 but was cancelled due to the focus at the time from 3rd party developed being somewhat shifted towards CD consoles.
This original version of Rayman had an interesting story, which is completely different compared to the story that was used in all of the ports of the finished game. The original story was about an 11 year old boy called Jimmy who used the power of his computer to create fantasy worlds, however there is little to no other information regarding the SNES version’s story. It was quite interesting how different Rayman could have been if this SNES version’s story was complete and the game was completed for the SNES.
Throughout Rayman’s world there is an item with a special power called The Great Protoon, which maintains balance and harmony. The way that the Great Protoon maintains this balance is by the Electoons who gravitate towards it and help to protect it from harm. However, one day the evil Mr Dark steals the Great Protoon away and locks up all the Electoons who were protecting it in cages throughout the 6 areas of Rayman’s world. Mr Dark also defeated Betilla the Fairy, who was alongside the Electoons protecting the Great Protoon. It is now up to Rayman’s to get the Great Protoon back and rescue all the Electoons along his way.
The story of this game is somewhat simple, however it is effective to enough to draw players into it. The exposition shown in the beginning of the game gives the player enough information, so that the player is well informed about what their task is. However, I do have a couple of problems with the amount of depth in the story. For example, why did Mr Dark decides to steal the Great Protoon for? The game doesn’t explain what Mr Dark’s motives are and it never does throughout the game. The second problem is there is no explanation as to why doesn’t hear any information about the Great Protoon being stolen earlier. In the introduction cutscenes, only after the Great Protoon was stolen does Betilla the Fairy ask Rayman for his help. Also, if the Great Protoon maintains this balance, why does Rayman not notice in shift in harmonic balance in his world? If something so vital was stolen which helps maintain the balance, then Rayman would have heard about it earlier. Whilst the story in theory works for the world of the game, there are definitely some flaws and some parts of the story that are not explained or don’t make 100% sense. Then again, the target demographic for the game was aimed more for children and younger players, so a lot of exposition and depth in the story might have made the story feel confusing to the target audience.
Rayman is a 2d side scrolling platformer where you control Rayman, however when the player starts the game, the character has no powerups whatsoever. All that the player can do is stick their tongue out at enemies to scare them and jump. This is a major issue in the beginning of the game because the game feels like it the character that the player begins with is useless. The issue is that the game starts Rayman out with no abilities to begin with, meaning that Rayman can not even defeat enemies or break cages with his fist, as it is an ability that needs to be unlocked. It feels like that the game would put restrictions on the player for the pure sake of having unlockable abilities. The problem is that these unlocks are required to complete the game.
The next problem with the gameplay is to finish the game the player has to free every electoon from it’s cage or the final level will not unlock. That means if the player has missed on electoon from one stage, the player will have to beat the entire stage again and search for the electoon. There are 6 electoon cages throughout each level and the progress is shown by a circle with 6 circles within it, each indicating a cage within the level. The problem with this is that the game does not show how many cages are on each screen and this is a problem, because there are multiple screens for each level. What this can cause is a lot of confusion for the player because the game requires the player to search everywhere for the cages and it can feel like a chore as the player could be searching everywhere.
The next problem with the gameplay is that there arbitrary locations where the player jumps and something can spawn out of nowhere and sometimes this can happen when the player has had to make a difficult jump. Most of the time this things that appear are essential to complete the level because it can platform that lead the player to the end of the screen. The things that spawn out of nowhere can also spawn right at the end of the screen, meaning that the player could easily miss a moving platform that would lead the player to a cage which is needed. The issue with this items and platforms that spawn out of nowhere is that there is no indication to the player that there is a spot where something will spawn until after the platform or item has spawned, meaning that the player will most likely miss it entirely.
The final problem with the gameplay is the way that Rayman controls because whenever Rayman jumps, his jumping arc doesn’t make much sense and can make some difficult jumps hard to make. In Band Land for example, there is a jump that the designers made which would normally require the running boots, however at the time the player goes to the level they don’t have the running boots as it isn’t unlocked until after the next world Blue Mountains. The jump is really difficult to make and the floaty nature of Rayman’s controls make this jump based more on luck than anything else. The game also has a knockback system where if the player gets hit by a enemy, they Rayman will fall backwards and there is very little chance of recovering from this, especially if there is a pit near the player, which there most likely will be.
The sprites in Rayman in contrary to the gameplay look fantastic. Every world within the game has it’s own unique theme whether it be Dream Forest being a deep forestry area or Band Land being themed around musical instruments. The worlds aren’t just themes, the levels are designed with these core themes in mind because the platforms that the player jumps on in Band Land for example are in fact musical instruments or musical staves and the enemies are a mixture of musical instruments and symbols used in music notation. These small details make each world feel unique and not at all throwaway from the previous world.
The backgrounds in each world look absolutely stunning and are timeless because of the way that they were designed. The core theme with the background design to have the foreground being the platforms and enemies whilst the background looks to have some amazing depth. As the screen scrolls and the player progresses through the level, there will be small details that can only be seen from specific heights and locations through the level, which makes every single visit to the same level feel special because there will always be something that the player hasn’t noticed before.
The music in Rayman is what really saves the game from being a overly difficult platformer because the music is sensational. Each world has it’s own set of leitmotifs that really adds another layer of detail to the backgrounds and also what the player should be experiencing. The score is also fully orchestral, which for 1995 was quite uncommon for home console games to be fully orchestrated with a live orchestra. What this means is that the score hasn’t aged at all and can still be listened to within the game without any problem. Even more impressive, I can listen to the soundtrack away from the game and it would still give me the same feelings as when I would play the game and there are not many soundtrack that can achieve that.
The other impressive thing is how much detail went into small things within the score. For example, in the 4th world, Picture City which is based around art and paintings, there is an entire theme created using nothing but the sounds that would be heard from an art class. Everything from rubbers, to the scratching of the pencils, this theme really stood out because the theme is pure sound design yet it is so well crafted that these non-musical instruments sound musical.
Overall, Rayman is a very difficult and unforgiving game that puts a lot of restrictions on the player meaning that few players would have the patience to complete the game. The fact that the player has to complete the game 100% to finish the game normally and there are no other endings for achieving this makes the game feel overly difficult for the sake of it. The sad thing is that the game was aimed at younger children and the game simply is too difficult for me today and I am an adult. However, the music and the backgrounds still give me fond nostalgia, even if the gameplay is really unforgiving.
Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use