This weekly column looks at classic video games both in how they looked back in the day and how they stand up today. Though scores will be assigned, our tough review standards will be relaxed a bit for these games to give a general overview instead.
All retro games come courtesy of Retro Games Plus, located at 1761 Post Road East in Westport, CT. If you’re in the northeastern part of the United States, please give them a look.
Back in the mid-90s, mascot platformers were a dime a dozen. Mario led to Sonic, who seemed to spawn every other mascot we saw near the end of the 16-bit era. Bubsy, Awesome Possum, and their ilk—many of whom I simply can’t be bothered to remember—all saw their release when I was in my mid-teens. The mascot craze continued over to the PlayStation and Saturn with Crash Bandicoot and Gex before dying out with only Sonic, and Crash to a lesser extent, surviving.
Rayman was just another mascot game at the time, but at the very least was a 2D action platformer on a system that could make a 2D game sing. With Rayman Origins drawing high critical praise since its release, how well does the original deal stand up?
HOW WAS IT THEN: If you’re going to have a naff mascot platformer, at least make it pretty—and Rayman sure was pretty. The Super Nintendo and Genesis didn’t have the processing power of the PlayStation. While Sony was insistent on pushing 3D gameplay, it was a gorgeous system for 2D sprites, and Rayman was gorgeous for its time.
As far as gameplay was concerned, Rayman was a good platformer in an era where all of the platformers tended to blend together. Controls were tight for their time, the game was beautiful, and the length was just right. To be fair, while Rayman was a good game, it blended in with the other platformers of its time, helped a bit by the fact that it was a launch-era title for the PlayStation in the U.S. and Europe. Especially in Europe. Rayman was huge in Europe. Like, “Best selling PlayStation game of all time” huge, though UbiSoft being a French company probably helped that.
Rayman was a pretty good platformer in an era of pretty good platformers.
HOW IS IT NOW: Going back and playing Rayman in 2012 is like a portal through time to my youth. Unfortunately, I didn’t like smartaleck mascots in 1995, and I cringe at them all in 2012. Even though I was playing a solid platformer with better loading times than a first-generation PS1 title had any right to have, I found myself repeatedly cringing at the so-called “snazzy” animations of Rayman every time he finished a stage.
However, the decision to make this a 2D platformer has served this title well over the years. It was a solid game back in the 90s, and even with the graphics having pixels, it stands up as a beautiful game to behold in 2012. Even if the gameplay’s a little dated, the difficulty curve is nice, controls are tight, and boss battles are fun—i.e. everything a solid platformer should do.
This was one of the first games to utilize memory cards, and it shows by giving both a password and a memory card option. Loading times for all of this are bad, but not as bad as other games of the era were, so it performs reasonably well all this time later.
If Rayman were to come out for the PSN for $5.99, I’d recommend a purchase for platformer fans. For those running a Windows PC, the enhanced Rayman Forever is a solid purchase for the same price. While it will never be my favourite game of all time, it’s still a solid title and serves as a nice bookend, alongside the sublime Rayman Origins, to the otherwise spotty Rayman lineage.