Review: Rayman: Jungle Run (XBox Live)
Rayman never gets the credit he deserves. While Mario built up Nintendo to great heights, as Sonic the Hedgehog saves the Sega Genesis/Megadrive, Rayman has never been a saviour of anything in the real world. Like a disowned samurai warrior, he wanders from platform to platform, with a loyal following of players and publishers, but never quite breaking through to the big time. Will this Xbox Live title change that?
The latest Rayman title on Windows Phone, 'Jungle Run', is as close to classic I've seen in the world of WP platformers, but I suspect that once again, Rayman will move on to the next title, on the next platform, satisfied at a job (very) well done for Xbox Live. Be sure about that, Jungle Run is clearly a job well done.
Mobile games work best when they take account of the environment they are in. That could mean the environment of the person playing the game, their situation and needs in playing a mobile game, or the hardware constraints that the smartphone places on the game. 'Rayman: Jungle Run' tackles all of these issues, addresses them, and in the process shows just how a platform game should operate on mobile.
Mobile games are not home consoles or desk-bound computers. It's a point worth reiterating, because while some people will be able to play a 25 minute long level on their phone, it's something that's best suited to sitting in front of an HD TV, rather than a personal device that will chirp and interrupt you at every opportunity with a picture of a cat dressed as John Le Mesurier that's doing the rounds on Facebook. That's why I'm glad to find the levels on Rayman are relatively short and quick to play through, even though they have a huge amount of playability, and even with the limited controls on offer. More on the short levels in a moment...
On a portable console (such as the Sony PS Vita), you can have multiple control sticks, countless buttons, and have them all ergonomically available to the player. You simply don't have that on a touchscreen smartphone. All you have available is the touchscreen and, depending on the game, the accelerometer sensors in the handset.
Rayman takes the limited control options available and makes them into a virtue. As the game opens, the first batch of levels (cunningly called 'Jump') require you to do just one thing... jump. Rayman will automatically run as fast as he can to reach the exit, all you have to do is tap on the screen when you want him to take to the air.
This leads to a surprisingly complex set of levels where you are tasked with not only reaching the exit, but also to collect all the 'lums' that are visibly scattered across each level. This high level of design shouldn't be a surprise given the history of Rayman, but when you look at the very simple controls you have on offer, to keep that intricacy is a challenge.
Later levels do have the addition of some more control options, but they remain a very easy set, no matter what they do. For example the next levels after 'Jump' are the 'Fly' levels. You can't fully fly, but when you are in the air, you can hold down on the touchscreen for some helicopter blades to appear from your head and ease your descent, effectively lengthening your jumping distance. Later levels add in the ability to punch through obstacles and climb up walls.
At all times though, the developers know they are on a touchscreen mobile device that is going to be jarred and jostled about. They've managed to keep the skill of a platform game and merge it with a forgiving interface that doesn't destroy the experience.
The Rayman levels are also a lovely nod to the completist. Getting to the exit is easy, and collecting all the lums on each level, while not difficult, is within reach for most mortals. It requires a bit of memory work, and a few runs through the level, but I've achieved it on about half the levels of the game. And if you can get 100% on half of the levels in a set then you'll be given access to a bonus level 'of the dead'... and here the level design is unforgivingly hard and pixel perfect jumping will be required.
Good game design is everywhere. Which makes Rayman a very addictive title, with lots of 'one more go' moments for you to enjoy.
Although the graphics are constantly being shifted around the screen with a lot of speed, reacting to every bounce and jump as the background shifts to keep Rayman in the center of the screen, the title doesn't need a killer specification phone to run it. The gaming experience on the Lumia 620 is just as good as on the larger Windows Phone handsets (although with the smaller screen, making some of the precise jumps required for later levels is that little bit trickier).
Everything just feels fun, and that feeling is doubled when you listen to the in-game soundtrack - a lovely swirl of Mexican mariachi and folk guitar with a hint of John Barry 60's espionage mixed in to keep the adrenaline flowing.
And I think that sums up Rayman: Jungle Run. It's effortless and fun to play, and while I instinctively know that a lot of work has gone on in the background by the designers and developers, it's all wrapped up so well that Rayman, yet again, is a delightful addition to another platform's gaming library. It's a perfect example of taking a big franchise game and boiling it down to a mobile essence, and it's a title that any serious gamer should enjoy.
I just wish that Gameloft had been a little bit more relaxed with the idea of having a free trial version of the game. You're going to have to trust the reviewers (like me) on this one, or gamble the £2.29/$2.99 cost of the game. If you do the latter, I think it's a gamble you'll win.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at