Rayman DS isn't a new game, but it's new to the Nintendo DS. Gamers may recognise the big-nosed hero from the N64 release Rayman 2: The Great Escape, which has been recreated for the handheld console.
In this ethereal environment, Rayman's aim is to recover four magic masks which will allow him to awaken Polukuk, the spirit of the world. Along the way, he must rescue his friends from the pirate terror who has imprisoned them in cages, and collect energy spheres called "lums".
Different coloured lums have different effects, and all play an important part on Rayman's journey. Yellow Lums must be gathered in order to negotiate entry into new worlds, and also contain knowledge about the worlds. Blue lums are useful for restoring your air gauge while swimming underwater, the silver spheres give you new powers, and the green ones will take you back to the point you picked it up from should you die. Watch out for "super" yellow lums which are five times more powerful than the regular yellow.
Controlling Rayman as he interacts with his surroundings, allies and enemies is fairly simple, and there are many obstacles to keep you entertained. You can run, jump, swim (keep an eye on your air gauge), and fly in a fashion similar to that of a helicopter. You can also grab onto surfaces and pull yourself up just by jumping up and moving towards the ledge you want to climb.
Rayman can fight off the bad guys by shooting bursts of energy from his fists. By collecting "Power Fists", you can increase the strength of these bursts. There are also several other magical items you'll come across including magic doors and "Stones of Thought" which give you hints to help progress in the game. These are particularly useful as it can be easy to get stuck in a level, and you can only save at the end of a world.
Having never played the game on its original platform, it's difficult to make a comparison of the two, but it's obvious the DS version lacks customisation. Control is poor -- movements are somewhat jerky, camera angles often awkward, and use of the touch screen almost non-existent. Using the stylus, you can position Rayman on the screen or control how fast he moves by dragging it away from the centered position, but it doesn't add much to the game at all.
While not utilising all the features of the console shouldn't automatically go against the game, it does make you think how game play could be improved with more of these options.
The ambient soundtrack and pleasing graphics create a good atmosphere which works well with the theme of the game. Again, as you change camera angles the graphics can get blurry which make it difficult to navigate, but this isn't an issue unique to Rayman.
Despite its quirks, Rayman DS offers in depth game play with 45 different environments throughout 19 levels, as well as 19 bonus levels and 3 minigames. Fans of the Nintendo 64 version should probably stick with the original, but diehard Rayman-ers and DS freaks will enjoy it.
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