The only Rayman game I have ever seen was that Rayman Arena game that came out on the Gamecube and PS2, but apparently he has been around for longer than that, having games on the PS1 and the Sega Saturn. If you have played the new Rayman games then you have a general idea of how this one on the GameBoy will play out, but compared to the other platformers that came out at the time, I feel this one stood out and is under recognized.
You start Rayman’s adventure with a few pictures and complimentary word text about how the tiny Fairies called Tings are going missing and a Mr. Dark has imprisoned the Toons, which give light to the lands. Enjoy what you get to read because there isn’t much more story building until the end unless a Gameboy pixel image is worth a thousand words to you, because they are few and far between after the intro. He stole their energy and it threw the world into chaos and monsters have started sprawling everywhere and they need a hero. They show a few pictures of Mr. Dark who looks eerily like Darkwing Duck, and Rayman, who has hands, feet, and a head, but no limbs, everything just floats. After our story setting intro Rayman is told to break open the cages to free his friends and bring light back to the land, and thus it begins.
So for most of the platformers I have played, I have felt a sense of speed and deadly precision, like in Super Mario and Donkey Kong Country. Rayman has a much more relaxed tone, he doesn’t run really fast, jump incredibly far, he just does what he has to at his own speed. His only form of combat is a punch that he can wind up to increase the distance. Apart from the standard platforming, there will be times where Rayman starts slipping and sliding and you have to go fast, but its only a small part of a few levels. These act as nice wake ups from Rayman’s slower pace and are pretty welcome whenever they appear. Controlling Rayman is simple and comfortable as he goes through different biomes like a jungle, ruins, a volcano, to gather and free his the Tings and Toons.
One of my favorite things about Rayman is the level designs. Its broken up into a Mario style level where you go to one of the Toons instead of Bowser’s castles, but it has the intricacy of a Metroid game where you go to certain paths or can go back once you have a new power. Each level isn’t long, maybe 2-5 minutes depending on how long you choose to explore or dedicate to finding cages. Each level varies pretty well from aesthetics but one thing I couldn’t stand was the soundtrack. I’m not sure if there was truly a difference between each stage or level because I felt it was the same or really close to the same track as the last level, even when I went to different environments. .
As you go through busting cages, you will notice your biggest obstacles are every damn moving piece of environment in the game. There will be swinging spiky fruit, bouncing berries to be bounced on, collapsing clouds, and that’s not even with the bad guys. The monsters don’t really vary, they are either a walking zombie guy or a colored orb that moves and jumps around, or a bat. Combat, while I stated earlier that all you can do is punch, is sometimes hard because you have to punch them just right. Some of the zombies have to be hit head on and if their back is turned, it won’t count. The small guys are especially difficult because you can’t hit them unless you can jump and make you punch follow your body in a strategic way that hits them, and then they end up staying and just being a separate mobile obstacle. Once you get to the final few levels you get a couple new challenges but since it’s tied to the story I won’t spoil those.
After you complete each of the levels you will see a completion percentage and a code like the old Megaman games to get back to the level. The percentage you get from each level is dependent on how many of the orbs you collect and the cages you bust. Each level will have so many orbs but the cages can be seen at the bottom of the screen every time you start a level and normally its 1-2, and they are hard as hell to find. But, from what I can tell there isn’t much more than bragging rights from getting all the orbs and 100% the game. You get to unlock the world map so you can go back and get them, but it may as well just be a way to put more time into the game. Although one revelation that will make it easier is to know that you won’t get 100% on the first try. You won’t have all your powers until you hit about ⅘ of the game, so replaying will be a thing if you are a completionist.
Side note, this is not the original Rayman game that came out! After further research, it came out on the Playstation and Atari Jaguar, and during its transition to handheld, lost a lot of content like more boss fights and characters. The more you know!
Overall, Rayman was a fun and original platformer. Going through the levels at a different pace really helped create a different tone from these other more fast paced platformers. I have played the Rayman Origins and now that I know it actually pretty well based off the original, I feel like I could appreciate it more!