Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spyro the Dragon Review

As a kid, Spyro was one of the very few games I had on my only console, the Playstation 1. Nobody really talked about it at school at the time, it didn't seem particularly well known, but as time has gone on Spyro has gained more and more recognition from nostalgics like me, searching for the series online shows that there is still a vast amount of interest in the series and a thirst for more games similar to the first three. I was happy to find that one of my old favorites is now so recognized, so I decided to go back and experience it again for myself.

So, let's all take out or hankies and remember another classic video game series that has since went to hell.

The primary objective of the game is basically collecting things, this is a collecting game, but there isn't really much to collect. Collecting the dragons that you find encased in crystal are fun because they'll talk to you and give you advice or a funny antidote, I personally enjoy it in games when the things you are collecting feel more personal, so when I rescue a dragon I feel a little swelling of pride like "Yeah, I rescued you, you must really love me right now." Well, that's just me...

There's also dragon eggs, but those are scattered pretty erratically through the game, sometimes they'll be none for twenty levels and sometimes there will be three in one level. You'll have the hardest time collecting all the gems, they're basically the Spyro equivalent of Super Mario's coins, in that they're just scattered throughout the entire game, there's literally thousands, but since your dragonfly Sparx collects them for you when you get near enough to them you can collect a bunch at once pretty effortlessly.

Sparx also monitors your health, he will change from gold to blue to green as your health depeletes, once he vanishes you only have one hit left. To replenish your health you need to attack a critter, little harmless animals scattered through the game, and they will turn into a butterfly (because magic) that Sparx will eat. The critters are a very common sight, but they seem to be nowhere to be found as soon as you actually need them.

The levels themselves are extremely fun, and basically the essence of what makes Spyro so great. There are five hubs or 'worlds' that each have five levels in them, both the hubs and the levels are fun to explore, getting from one end to the other (as in, the end of the level) is straightforward and will almost never be a problem, but there are many secrets hidden around that you can easily miss. You'll have to keep your third eye open when playing this game, at least if you want to 100% it (which I did, of course). Gliding is very fun, it makes you think more platforming games should have it. It basically means you have to judge whether you can reach the next platformed by picturing yourself gliding (going forward and down through the sky) and sometimes you'll miscalculate and fall.

The enemies are extremely easy, they're basically just a distraction from the platforming. You have two attacks, flame breath and charge, you'll be using charge to get around the levels a lot too since it makes you go much faster. Usually either attack will take care of an enemy instantly, but sometimes an enemy will be too big to charge, or too armored to flame. Later on in the game the enemies get very interesting as magicians will transform them into different creatures as you're fighting them, but other than that the action is pretty much just going through the motions.

There are many great gameplay variations, things that are thrown in there just to spice things up now and again, thankfully none of them are annoying. The 'Flight' levels are particularly fantastic, in these levels Spyro gains the ability of full flight and must flame all marked objects on an island before the timer runs out, actually now that I've typed it out it sounds awful, but trust me it's a lot of fun, it almost feels like they could make another entire game out of that formula. There's also speed ramps, when Spyro runs down them they speed him up so that he becomes fast enough to break through walls and go flying through the sky.

(This is where I'd put the rest of the Spyro screenshots, but I don't have any more. So you know, whatever, the screenshots just stop halfway through the review... nobody even reads this far anyway, they just skip to the bottom to see the score I gave, or they came here accidentally by searching for pokemon furry porn. Goddamn nobody reads this blog, I could write anything. I had an affair with a forty year old professor from Durham, when I was twelve I poo'ed myself in detention, I just plain don't like spanish people. Wow that was all controversial, it doesn't matter though, nobody's reading this... hey speaking of reading, have you read that thing Game of Thrones? I keep trying but it's boring, I feel like I'm the type of person who should be able to enjoy it, but I can't follow what's going on, how come George Martin has so many readers but I don't? Doesn't make any sense... anyway I should probably just get back to this review.)

I have a major problem with the graphics, but I still find it hard to truly fault the effort. In one way Spyro is graphically innovative for the PlayStation platform, the most amazing thing is the way it defeats the PS1's draw-distance problem in which only a small (by today's standards) amount of pixels can be on screen at one time, meaning that the distance of a level was just fog. In Spyro the game engine renders in seven different levels of detail, depending on how far away from the player an object is, this means that you can see from one end of the level to the other, which is very important as you'll often need to plan out your route to get to the more trickier hidden items.

But my problem with it is the textures, they're very flat and lifeless, most of the enviroment is just made out of chunks of solid color, for instance no grass texture, just a green floor, no stone texture, just a white-ish wall. After having just played the whole Tomb Raider series, it's hard to forgive this laziness in texturing, some Playstation 1 games have cracks in their walls, currents in their water, nostrils in their snouts, texture in their textures, but some don't, and this is one of those. Having said that, the game is very bright and it uses color well, so it's hardly an eye sore, it just could have looked so much better.

The soundtrack is great, it doesn't truly get phenomenal until the next two sequels, but it still does it's job exceptionally well. It doesn't really sound like anything else I've heard, not too bouncy and not too monotone, but it still gives the impression of a fun, eccentric world and an eager little dragon on an adventure. There's also great work done into the sounds of the enemies, they're very cartoon-like in look and movement, so they sound just the same, rather than just an "ooh!" from every enemy they'll all make their own funny different squeals. I don't know, it's little things like that which make you realize the developers actually had fun making the game.


As far as light action-adventure platforming games go, this is one of the best. Nothing about Spyro the Dragon is really phenomenal, the game is endearing and you always have something to do, but it's not like you'll always have a blast collecting gems and rescuing dragons. You'll breathe a sigh of relief when you see a gameplay variation, either a flying level or a supercharge or something, because the game can get very repetitive. It's a great formula that will keep you entertained, the gameplay is solid, but lacking enough variety to be anything special.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Tomb Raider: Underworld Review

Y'no what, this is my ninth Tomb Raider review (apart from some written in 2008 that we're not going to mention), and for once I'm not going to start it by writing up some summary of shit you already know. If you're reading this review chances are you already know the franchise, possibly having been introduced to it by the fantastic 2013 reboot, and you just want to know whether Underworld is worth your time.

It's funny because this game was made in an interesting part of the franchises history, after the 2006 reboot successfully revived the blood of the series it once again ran out of steam after Legend and Anniversary reused the same gameplay mechanics and people quickly got bored. Underworld was the last nail in the coffin, but like Tomb Raider Chronicles and Last Revelation, just because the world got bored of it doesn't mean it's actually bad.

So lets start somewhere positive, for the first time since Angel of Darkness the level design of this Tomb Raider is actually challenging to the player, it is far from a game that you can just run through without thinking, you'll constantly have to figure out how to traverse the environment and the solutions won't be silly, they'll make sense and you'll feel smart when you figure them out. This extends into puzzles, and I actually think Underworld has the best puzzles in the series, they're wide scale and use all the basic physicalities such as moveable blocks and switches, the puzzles are good and old fashioned, and ultimately very enjoyable.

Platforming is also better than ever, Lara is fun to play as she scales the environment, far from just having to watch her take her precious time shimmying around a ledge, in this game she is constantly leaping onto new climbables and hopping from place to place. So the platforming now only feels cool, it's actually really fun to play, the ledges don't feel structurally placed, they feel natural and you'll enjoy manipulating them to get around the level.

The levels themselves should probably still be described as linear, but they do try to be more open, there's sometimes different ways to get to the same place and there's almost always little side-paths you can take to get some treasures, but that's about it, at the end of the day no matter what you do the game will expect you to get from A to B.

Your main distraction from getting from A to B will be the secrets of the game, the secrets are called treasures, and there are many of them in each level. They can be up on a hard-to-reach ledge or simply hiding in a dark corner, but what is bizarre about the secrets in this game is that for some reason most of them are in vases. Yes, you read me correctly, the secrets are hidden in little vases. But it's not like every time you see a vase you'll know there's a secret there, the game is littered with these little vases, and about 5% of them have a treasure in them. If you're the kind of gamer who just can't help but want to get as many secrets as possible, you'll spend a lot of time kicking vases apart. I can only scratch my head as I wonder why Crystal Dynamics did this.

The combat is awful, big surprise right?

Like all Tomb Raider's before it, the combat uses auto-aim, meaning you'll just have to press the trigger button to draw your guns and then tap the shoot button until the enemies are dead. Of course, the enemies will attack you too, you'll just have to use the dodge button to try and avoid it as much as you can, it isn't always easy to dodge especially in a pack-fight, but the whole thing is simple enough as long as you have enough healing items.

Near the end of the game you will start having to face massive amounts of enemies and you'll just roll your eyes, it's boring to fight in this game, it feels like a waste of time that you could be using to actually play the game and have fun solving puzzles and traversing the environment.

I started hyperventilating when I realized that both vehicles and heavy swimming areas are reintroduced in this game, I was less than impressed at Tomb Raider 2's handling of either, but to my massive surprise, I found that both were actually done well in this game. Lara's motorbike is found in two of the games levels and it's a fun gameplay variant, you can ride it throughout most of the level (annoyingly I found myself having to get off and check every vase I drove past) and it can even be used as part of puzzles.

The reason the swimming is so fun is that the series has finally said goodbye to logic and just given Lara an unlimited breath bar, or rather in the large swimming sections it is just presumed that Lara has some futuristic oxygen device that never runs out, this takes away the tense nature of the underwater sections but it means that you get to explore some massive deep sea locations! It's really, really fun to swim around and search for different things, the first level (which is mostly underwater) is one of the most memorable fun moments of the entire series for me.

The storyline leads on from Legend and Anniversary, you'd think that being the last of a trilogy would make it a pretty complex plot but it's actually as baseline as it gets. Basically you need to get an artifact to destroy the bad guy, then you get the artifact and guess fucking what, you kill the bad guy.

And lastly I will talk about the soundtrack. What I have to say about it is this... I don't remember the soundtrack, so it can't have been that good.


Tomb Raider: Underworld is a fun game, it has great platforming and puzzles that will keep you entertained. The plot and action are terrible, but luckily you'll barely notice them so it's not that much of a problem. The game does a great job of taking you to exciting locations and making you feel like a bad-ass explorer who has to use her wits, and that's really all it's trying to accomplish, so it's a good job it succeeds.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume - Must buy IOS app!

Okay, I've owned this blog for many years now, and all this time I've been trying not to mention an obsession of mine, but I can't hold it back any longer. I'm here to talk to you about japanese visual novels.

If you're not sure what that is, a visual novel is a kind of 'gaming' experience in which the player is told a story using pictures, text, and sounds. Usually this means there will be background art with interchanging character art depending on whose speaking, with the text in a box at the bottom of the screen.

You don't need to enjoy anime or even be much of a reader to enjoy visual novels, they create a happy medium in which you get plenty of visual stimulation but are still given the amount of in-depth narrative that a book can offer.

Planetarian is a VN which was recently put up on the App Store for a small price, it is fully translated into English and is created by one of the greatest storytelling teams of all time, Key, who is also responsible for such hits as Clannad, Air and Kanon (all of which have been adapted into very successful animes).

I can promise you this; it's only a matter of time before visual novels make their way into the mainstream media of the western world, so for now, get in early! Planetarian is a steal at £2.49, especially considering the rarity of english-translated visual novels.

It's one of the greatest novels I've ever read, and I just wish more people knew about it and about the entire genre. Buy it now, if you know what's good for you.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Tomb Raider: Anniversary Review

As anyone who follows this blog would know (and I believe that is a total of two whole people including myself) I love Tomb Raider. It's one of my biggest obsessions, and it always has been, when I was three I was introduced to gaming by sitting on my sisters knee whilst she played the original Tomb Raider on the Playstation 1, I would occasionally take the controller and try myself but the wolves would terrify me to no end and make me cry.

These days Tomb Raider still makes me cry, but more in an emotional fanboy kind of way. The point is that this series, and especially the original game, have meant a lot to me for as long as I can remember, the sound of the classic soundtrack from the original can bring me to tears, so as Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a remake of the first game, I am bound to have strong opinions on it.

Although the game is a remake of Tomb Raider 1, it often feels a lot more like a remake of Tomb Raider: Legend, the previous game in the series. I say this because the gameplay has barely changed since Legend, and that's being generous. I mean, there aren't even any new moves, it's just copy-and-pasted gameplay with a less annoying weapon system.

Having said that the gameplay of Legend and Anniversary (and they can be counted as the same thing) is fun and enjoyable, as Lara Croft you get to jump, flip, crawl and swing across large environments all the while solving puzzles and shooting bad guys, it's a tried and true formula that the game engine captures very well.

The large environments are very impressive, you'll feel like a bad-ass scaling a gigantic sphinx and shooting bad guys along the way, and the puzzles will make you feel smart, come to think of it maybe the reason I like Tomb Raider is because it helps me feel more secure. That's not important, the point is that the level design is actually fantastic, although the levels are based on the original this is only on an aesthetic basis, everything plays completely different.

There's always lots of secrets to be found, lots of other hidden items and lots of hidden traps to keep your occupied as you make your way through the massive levels. You'll often be required to think (boundary-pushing right?) which means it's not a game you can just blindly shoot and jump through.

The combat system is unfortunately as vapid as ever, Lara auto-aims all her shots and all you must do is tap the shoot button to take down the enemies. It's not particularly hard, but it's not particularly easy, you just have to keep dodging out of the way of the enemies and shooting them all the while thinking "Jesus Christ is it almost dead yet?" Combat is a vague distraction that you probably won't have any strong opinions on, and boss battles are all the same only they take longer.

To be completely honest I found the soundtrack of this game to be rather weak, especially in comparison to the rest of the series, it's a shame because they 'remastered' the soundtrack of the original game by Nathan McCree who is a fantastic artists whose music brings me to tears, the remastered versions though just sound somehow flat and noisy at the same time, they leave no impression at all.

Luckily the game manages to rise above it's soundtrack and still create an atmosphere that suits the genre, in many parts of Tomb Raider Anniversary there will be no music, just the silence and the sound of Lara making sex noises when she bumps into a wall, this is a good thing as it helps create a sense of isolation. The graphics in general are fantastic for its time (I can't believe this game is so old now that I have to say "For its time" ugh) especially on the 360 version. The environments look down right beautiful, and so does Lara herself.

As for the storyline it's a little, well, camp. I think I might be the first reviewer to make that observation about Legend/Anniversary but I do think it's true. Of course the storyline is based heavily on the storyline of the original Tomb Raider, which isn't camp at all, but it is the presentation of the remake that is camp. All grittiness is gone and replaced with hollywood nonsense, Lara never has a convincing tone of danger in her voice, and the way she beats up the guys in the cutscenes looks like something out of a bad superhero movie, you can almost see starts circling around the bad guys head when she elbows them in the ribs. To put it simply, in this game she seems more like Robin than like Batman.


It's a fun game, but it doesn't really leave any impression on you and it isn't progressive for the genre in any way. Anniversary is meant to be a very classic style action adventure game that doesn't take itself too seriously, and that's exactly what it is, unfortunately all that means is that there are many better options for players out there.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Mass Effect: Revelation (novel) Review

In my opinion the Mass Effect video game series is one of the most well-written, intelligent and thought provoking storylines in the industry, thorough to a tolkein-like level, Bioware has created a franchise that is perfect to lead the debate on where video games can be considered art. With that said, the novel has a lot to live up to, and since the original Mass Effect stands on it's own two feet rather well, why would we need a novel? It's a silly question, we don't need this novel as much as I didn't need mcdonalds for dinner this afternoon, life isn't about necessity, and in fact art is the exact opposite of necessity.

All the content of the book leads up to an ending which explains a primary part of the original game, but there are connections throughout, you'll recognize many of the characters and if you've played the game everything will be very familiar. It isn't the bad, boring kind of familiar, it's the good, comfortable kind. You'll feel like you just slipped very easily back into the world of the games, and the way that the narrative is written you'll develop new insights into the galaxy, characters will describe some things that games just can't emulate, such as the feeling of the artificial sun on the Presidium or the roar of the mass relay that works it's way into your skull.

The truth is that the main character Captain Anderson isn't the greatest to cast as a lead of anything, he's certainly very likable, and you feel like he fights for the right reasons which is always good for a lead character of a narrative, but he just isn't very flexible, he doesn't exactly have a broad range of emotions. For all the complaining I do about angry muscular white guys leading video games and having absolutely no personality, I can't help but notice this multiracial probably-doesn't-have-abs guy isn't much different when it comes down to it.

The great thing about it is that it's truly a no-bullshit book for fans, it isn't some spin-off they decided to do for the sake of it, it feels like it is a story that should be told in the context of the games, and it was written by the lead writer of the games too, so everything feels genuine, it feels like the exact same universe, just expressed in a different mode.


As a Mass Effect superfan I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written novel, it did a great job expanding on the backstory of the original and offering a new and enjoyable perspective on the galaxy. However, the story simply doesn't stand on its own two feet. It is very much just for those who love the story of the games and want to find out more. Still, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"This is what it means to be a Spectre,” Saren whispered, still atop him. He had leaned in so close that Anderson felt his hot breath in his ear and on the back of his neck. “Sacrificing one life for the sake of millions. Qian’s research is a threat to every species in Citadel space. I saw a chance to stop him at the cost of a few dozen lives. The math is simple, human…but few people are able to do it right"

Friday, 24 January 2014

Tomb Raider: Legend Review

In 2005 the developers of the long running and very popular Tomb Raider series, Core Design, were fired by their publisher Eidos. This was due to the critical failure of their previous game 'Tomb Raider: the Angel of Darkness', which Core claims was rushed due to pressure from their publisher to release in time for the second Angelina Jolie movie.

I'm not particularly resentful towards Eidos for treating the Core company like this, but however you look at it, the rights to the series were given to an American developer Crystal Dynamics.

Okay, so maybe I'm a little infuriated at Eidos, and maybe that's something I'm never going to get over. Especially since... no, you know what, I'm not going to get into it, if you want to you can read about it in my Angel of Darkness Review, I shall move on!

Whatever I think about the publishing companies decisions, I can't hold a grudge against Crystal Dynamics, it's not their fault that Core Design was so royally fu-, no no, I'll calm down. What I'm trying to say is, regardless of the context, I believe that you should always approach a video game objectively and not judge it by the way you regard it's predecessors or how you define it's genre.

So let's play!

The first thing you need to know when starting the game is that it really doesn't matter whether you've played any of the previous or following Tomb Raiders or not, Legend is a self contained story (until it leads into Underworld) and it's controls are utterly different from any of the games before it. Lara is now more agile than ever, for the first time in the series history she actually moves like a human being and not like a shopping trolley, she will run off in whatever direction you tell her too without delay and there is never any need to turn her around manually. After just finishing Angel of Darkness, this was a massive relief.

Although Lara retains the basics of her skillset, swimming, climbing, swinging and such, everything's been completely revamped, the ability to climb across ledges that are running along the middle of the wall (as seen above) is interesting because on the one hand it creates an entire skill you'll have to develop that includes judging whether or not you'll be able to backflip off a certain point and still make it in one piece, but on the other hand the ledges seem at times far too in-your-face. They're everywhere, and sometimes they make no sense in the environment, but it's still fun gameplay, you'll spend a lot of time in Legend traversing these ledges.

The gunplay in the game is very simple, Lara auto-aims all her shots and you simply have to tap the shoot button whilst trying not to get hit. This means that in combat you'll be flinging yourself around a lot, using the dodge button to roll across the floor, there's even a few special moves that are easy to perform such as Lara bouncing off her enemies and shooting them in slow motion in the air. There's an average selection of weapons to find, shotguns, assault rifles, the usual, but you can only carry one type of weapon at once other than the mandatory twin pistols and the ammo maxes out very quickly. Combat is easy, very easy, and will never ever challenge you except possibly in boss battles. However running out of health can often be a serious worry as the game only allows you to have three medipacks at one time, so the difficulty in the combat is often just trying to find another medipack before it's too late.

Lara has a few new gadgets to help her out on this adventure, the grapple is a device which she can throw at magnetic objects and swing herself from, it's a good addition as it makes the gameplay more dynamic and can actually be used in some pretty interesting ways. She carries a PDA with her at all times which simply records her progress through the level, but it's a good way to give the player access to mission briefs and weapon bios so they can understand what they're doing if they need help. There's also binoculars and a personal light source, both very useful, but not entirely necessary.

Traps and puzzles are usually combined this time, instead of simply plonking a falling sword on you every now and again the traps are almost always things that can be easily predicted and avoided by applying logic and manipulating the environment to your own gain. These are well executed, even replaying the game for the millionth time there were a few parts where I really had to scratch my head because I wasn't sure how the game expected me to get over a long path of fiery coals. Although the combat is very easy and the platforming isn't particularly difficult either the traps and puzzles mean that this isn't a game which you can just blast through without thinking, you'll constantly have to stop and asses the situation to progress, and that's where most of the fun comes from.

The truly upsetting thing about this game is the length of it, on average a level will take you about thirty or forty minutes on the first run, and since there is only eight levels that's about four and a half hours which is truly shocking. Luckily the game has plenty of replay value, so if you're like me you'll want to replay the levels on time trial mode, and there are plenty of secrets to find within the levels that will keep gamers that like to 100% things very busy. These secrets and challenges unlock a good variety of extras, notably many different outfits for Lara which make it more fun to replay, but also pistol upgrades and biographies. I had a lot of fun 100%-ing this game.

Vehicles make a cameo as two short sequences where you accelerate a motorbike-riding Lara through a dirt road whilst shooting at the baddies, I actually found the motorbike sequences pretty fun, but it's hardly groundbreaking gameplay.

Although the game is short, it covers a variety of terrain: jungle ruins, urban skyscrapers, an abandoned military research lab and the icy slopes of the Himalayas, just to name a few. The storyline manages to tie them all together in a believable way.

For once, storyline actually takes a front seat in a Tomb Raider experience, there's plenty of plot to dig your teeth into here, and it is intertwined cleverly with Lara's new backstory. If you're a fan of the old Tomb Raider, you might have some resentment to all of this as it does erase Core Design's canon, but to view it objectively, the plot is gripping, enthralling, and does a good job of hopping Lara around the world whilst keeping the player wondering what's going to unfold next.

The soundtrack is phenomenal, believe me! I have no idea where Crystal Dynamics even got this music from, but wherever it is I want to visit someday. It all sounds very tribal yet sophisticated, perfectly grasps the feel of adventure. There's a lot of music in the game, very rarely are you left with just ambiance, if this game had a lesser soundtrack that would be a bad thing, but luckily you'll really like what you hear.


Legend is a very short game that only has so much to do, because of this it falls short of achieving it's goals, everything is over far too soon and it feels like the game is inventing itself as you play, it never gives you time to enjoy a good amount of levels and say "Wow, this Tomb Raider is really fun!" because it's just a rush of new gameplay installments. Despite this, and the mundane nature of many of its features such as combat and weapons, Legend will ultimately entertain you and it's a gripping, enjoyable adventure with great gameplay and an enchanting story. Was it an improvement from Angel of Darkness? Not really, but it's not any worse either, it's just a very different thing.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Rayman Review

Gaming in the mid 90's was an era full of cartoons, video games were still culturally seen as "for kids", and so they were marketed by cartoon characters, purple dragons, anthropomorphic bandicoots, green dinosaurs. Rayman was Ubisoft's contribution to the trend, and he is probably the most bizarre looking of all strange creatures to come out of 90's gaming.

Released in 1995, this game is exactly the same age I am, it was around this time that 3D action adventures were becoming hugely popular, Tomb Raider, Crash, Spyro, which is why it's notable that Rayman chose to remain a two dimensional platformer. Released as a classic side-scroller at a time when gaming was progressing to 3d was an odd decision, but still Rayman received a huge amount of attention, let's see why.

The first thing you'll notice about the game is how magnificent the whole thing looks, the graphics were all drawn by animators that normally work on cartoon tv shows, then they were pixelated to fit on the playstation. Obviously as a modern gamer you want to be able to see the animation run in HD, but even as pit had to be pixelated, it still looks fantastic, I think this even tops Super Mario World 2 as the best looking side-scroller ever.

Luckily the tone of the game matches the quirky and colorful nature of the animation, the characters you run into are simple archetypes that will do silly things and make you smile, the cutscenes will always amuse you, after beating a boss they often fall into pieces and collect themselves up again before they start dancing with Rayman. It's playful, it's not a game that takes itself seriously.The premise of the game is a very simple idea based on a bad enigmatic figure 'Mr. Dark' attacking the heart of the world, and the storyline is simply Raymans journey to go defeat him, it's cliche and it works.

In fact the storylines is very reflective of the gameplay, both are simple but extremely effective. When you start the game Rayman can't do much more than walk, punch enemies and jump, but the cleverly designed levels have you dodging swinging obstacles, precision jumping over water, manipulating the enviroment to your advantage all the while looking out for hidden collectibles, so you'll never be bored. As the game continues on, you unlock more abilities, such as the helicopter hair, this gives you a real sense of progression and it's very exciting every time you unlock a new ability.

However just because the gameplay is simple platforming doesn't mean it's repetitive, and it certainly doesn't mean it's easy. This is one of the most difficult games on the playstation, it won't start off that way, but it's difficult curve is pretty steep, Rayman doesn't take a whole lot of hits but as you're walking through the levels there will be a multitude of things swinging or jumping at you, not to mention a ton of traps and a ton of places where you can fall to your doom. Health refills are very sparse, and even more sparse are extra lives. You'll be really glad to see an extra life though, once you run out you'll have to just revert to the last save, it's incredibly brutal, your main focus will just be not running out of lives.

Other than your main focus of just staying alive and progressing through the game, your other focus will be looking out for the teensies cages throughout the levels. Each level has six teensie cages that you can break, you don't get told until the end that you need to find all teensie cages in the game in order to get to the last level. This was shocking to me, as a modern gamer, as these cages can be extremely hard to find, but luckily the levels of Rayman have great replayability value, although they are linear, as you'll have to get from the beginning to the sign at the end signifying completion, there are multiple hidden paths leading to teensie cages and power-ups, most of which you'll miss the first time around.

So the intense difficulty of the game is two-fold, it's not just hard because everythings constantly trying to kill you and simply trying to survive with enough lives is a challenge, it's also hard because of how cleverly designed the levels are, you'll have to really use your brain to figure out where all the cages are, this is a game that doesn't treat you like a casual gamer, and that's why it's so fun.

The core gameplay of exploring and beating up enemies is really fun, but by far the greatest thing about this game is that it finds ways for every single level to be utterly different, it always keeps you on your toes. Although the basic controls never change, the level design will change constantly and you'll be given a whole other experience, whether there's a level where you can only be helicopter-rayman or a level that a monster chases you through the entire time, or flying through levels on a giant mosquito.


I was extremely impressed by this game, as far as I'm concerned it is a must play. Although it is a classic 2d side scroller and embraces it's genre very much, it feels unique and joyful in every way. I commend the game for its extreme difficulty and the way it treats the player as someone who really wants a challenge. You'll never be bored playing Rayman, it's one of those truly rare games where you can honestly feel the passion and the fun of the developers working on it.