When you think of Rayman, you usually think of a Mario-esque platformer,
not this time. In Rayman Arena, you race and battle against other characters
in the Rayman universe, much like a Mario Party, so in a sense, you could
call this Rayman Party.
There are two main modes of play in Rayman Arena; race and battle. The Race
broken down into 2 more modes; Obstacle Race and Time Attack. Obstacle
racing is a three lap race around dangerous courses. Time Attack is
essentially the same thing as Obstacle Race, except you and have the option
to freeze your opponents, and as soon as you get 6 seconds ahead of them in
the laps, you win. Pretty cool, considering some races can take forever.
Battle mode is broken down into 2 parts as well, total fight and freeze
fight. I found Freeze fight the most fun of the two modes. Freeze fight
finds you going around the course trying to collect more lums (Rayman's
equivalent of coins or rings, which look like sparkling gems) than your
opponents in a three minute time-span. They appear at random, so you never
know where they will show up, adding to the frenzy. Collecting the lums
gives you the ability to shoot freeze bullets, which are your only offensive
in this mode, freezing an opponent for a few seconds.
The foot-racing mode, though, I found much better then the battle mode. If
played Mad Dash Racing, the race mode is very similar to what you would find
in that. The unique and detailed level design of Rayman Arena further adds
to the fun factor. The controls are idiot-proof, if you can press up to run,
and ‘A’ to jump, that's basically all you need to know to pull of most of
the tricks in the game. You can also throw things with the ‘X’ button to hit
targets that unlock various doors, barriers, etc, and you can swing from
pink rings in the air like ala Tarzan to get ahead of your opponents, but
that's basically all there is to it.
Every three races or so in single player mode also unlocks something, which
adds some incentive to keep playing, though the majority of unlockables
consist of just new skins for the characters. There is some variety in what
you'll find yourself doing though, for instance, jumping over walls,
climbing up nets, sliding on ice, and flying off of jumps. The camera angle
in single player mode is flawless, but in multiplayer you may expierence
slight problems if you are unfamiliar with a particular level. Most of the
time it's not a problem in race mode, considering you are generaly running
down straight-aways with just a few slight left and right turns, but be
aware, there are snags in the camera. Sometimes your character has to run
totally in an opposite direction to get the camera to focus where you want
it to, and it works practically the same during Battle mode.
RA features play up to 4 players in multiplayer (I mean it IS a party game).
The multiplayer mode is actually very fun, and is really what makes this
game worthwile. Without it,
this game would be nearly worthless, so if you don't plan on inviting
friends over, you may want to reconsider RA. The single player in RA, while
not terrible, is basically just a primer for the real multi-player that the
game excells at. If you do, on the other hand, have friends that can play
with you, RA is a very worthy purchase.
The graphics look, well, like a Rayman game. What I mean by that is,
everything runs very smooth, and the character animations are great. No slow
down in the framerate, but for an Xbox game they could have made the
graphics a little more crisp. I’m not going to complain though, since the
graphics do fit the game very well. The levels are filled with bright colors
pallets, and flow with the atmosphere nicely. There are also some really
nice lighting effects going on, and RA also features a nice raindrop effect
that has been seen in many games lately, splashing very realistic raindrops
on the screen to great effect.
The sound is exactly what you would expect from a game like Rayman Arena.
Party music. The game doesn't take advantage of the custom soundtrack
feature either, which is a let down. An interesting addition, which fits
very well considering the genre, is RA's dynamic background music, which
changes sporadically depending on who's in the lead, giving a little to the
competitive nature of the game. And, as usual of a Rayman title, the sound
effects and voice samples are well done.
Rayman Arena is a very simple game. There's not much complexity to it, like
most party games, but if you are looking for fast-action, arcade-style
gameplay to play with your friends, then Rayman Arena is certainly a worthy
choice. If you are looking for a good single-player game however, it may be
a good idea to wait for the next Rayman to come out.