Review: Rayman 2: The Great Escape (~10 hours, Dreamcast version)

My memory tells me that this is one of the best post-Super Mario 64 platformers, preceding Jak and Daxter, and PlayStation 2’s big push for 3D platformers. And it’s true. Rayman 2 was also developed by Ubisoft before they became the mega-corporation they are today. The Dreamcast version was the best, although it looks like it’s been ported to Windows and 3DS, so who knows anymore?  Though the mechanics are very simple, there is a lot of joy and and whimsical playfulness to Rayman 2: The Great Escape.

Rayman is a pretty simple guy. He can walk, run, jump, swim, float downward by turning his ears into propellers, and throw balls of light at enemies. That sums up the move set, and though there are enemies, much of the game is spent exploring. While Mario 64 had 120 stars, Rayman 2 asks that you free your caged friends, and collect all the yellow lums (fairy-like creatures) in a level. Do both of these things in every level, and your save file will have a “100%” next to it.

There’s comedy here. There is a mosquito who teaches you how to play the game, and he does so whispering. There are no enemies around. There isn’t much more than plant life. And yet, he constantly whispers. At the end of a level, you do a Russian folk dance with an ally to return to the overworld. Though I dislike the name, the “teensies” fight over who the real king is among the four of them by fighting over a crown. It’s cute stuff, but I really did laugh.

Once again, I’ll argue the Dreamcast version is best among Nintendo 64 and PlayStation counterparts. The polygons are simple. There’s not much beside lighting and underwater effects. The Dreamcast was a half-step between N64 and GameCube, PlayStation 1 and Playstation 2. It was almost the PC of consoles for a time, because the ports were the best. The Dreamcast even offered VGA out for better picture quality. It’s clear that no compromises were made while looking at Rayman 2‘s graphics on the Sega Dreamcast.

At the time of this writing, the first three Crash Bandicoot games have been remade in stunning UHD 4K (the latest resolution for televisions). The first three Spyro the Dragon games have received the same treatment. I would love to see a remake of Rayman, but it seems unlikely given Ubisoft’s obsessive copy-pasta (copy and paste) behavior to keep churning out Assassin’s Creed games and little more. However, if you get the Dreamcast version of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, remember this is one of the best games of its year, even if somewhat simplistic.



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