Rayman Jungle Run Review: More than just a pretty Windows Phone 8 platformer
Despite his games’ typically high quality, limbless hero Rayman is generally lesser known than his contemporaries like Sonic and Mario. Starting out on the Atari Jaguar, Playstation One, and similar platforms in 1995, the original Rayman stood out thanks to its beautiful 2D graphics, unique atmosphere, and excellent soundtrack. Two strong 3D sequels followed – you can even get 2003’s Rayman 3 on XBLA, in fact.
Rayman kept a low profile after that, only showing up in the spin-off Rayman: Raving Rabbids minigame collections. Soon the Rabbids games left Rayman behind to become their own series, most recently with Rabbids Go Phone for Windows Phone 7. It seemed like Rayman had forced into retirement, doomed to live on only in the minds of nostalgic gamers.
Luckily for platform gaming fans, Rayman came back from obscurity with 2011’s sleeper console hit Rayman Origins. The fourth mainline Rayman game returned to 2D graphics, and how! Origins boasts one of the most striking visual styles in all of gaming, not to mention pretty much everything you could want in a platformer. And now Rayman Jungle Run from Pastagames and Ubisoft brings that same 2D goodness to Windows Phone 8 in a truly killer mobile adaptation.
Big hero, small package
Mobile versions of console platformers often use virtual sticks and buttons in order to translate the game design faithfully to touch screens – look at Sonic CD or Little Acorns for two of the best examples. But some gamers just can’t get their heads around virtual sticks, sad to say.
Thus Pastagames made the wise decision to change Origins’ design ever so slightly when creating Jungle Run. They took away the stick and made Rayman run forward automatically. Here players can mainly focus on the hero’s jumps and other moves instead of having to adjust to adjust to the learning curve of virtual controls. Just tap anywhere on-screen and he leaps in the air, simple as that.
Moves like Jagger
Rayman can only perform normal jumps and jump off of walls in the first of Jungle Run’s five sets of levels, but that’s just so the game can ease you into more advanced moves. In the second world he gains the ability to hover during jumps by pressing and holding the screen. Some of the game’s trickiest sections involve hovering between walls of thorns as air currents push you along. Starting in the third world, Rayman can run up walls and along ceilings – not unlike Sonic the Hedgehog.
Rayman’s final move comes along in the fourth world: punching. He can punch to break down wooden barriers, trigger switches that toggle platforms or spiked balls, and kill enemies. A virtual punch button shows up at the bottom-right corner of the screen once Rayman learns punching. This throws the convenience of the controls off a bit because up until then many players will probably tap the right corner to jump. Once the fourth world comes along, you’re forced to start using the left side. Pastagames should have implemented an option to choose the punch button’s location.
Lum’s the word
Even though Rayman runs on autopilot in this adventure, it still feels very much like Origins, but faster. Jungle Run’s stages feature lots of twists, turns, and hidden areas for players to discover as they hunt for Lums. Each level holds 100 of the floating yellow collectibles to grab. We’ll talk about the reward for doing so in a moment.
Besides collecting individual Lums, Rayman will also need to keep an eye out for Skull Coins. Each one is worth 20 Lums (as opposed to 25 in Origins). The developers sometimes place Skull Coins quite deviously so that you’ll end up exactly 20 Lums short by level’s end because you didn’t discover a particular cranny along the way. But for the most part, I managed to score the full 100 after only a few retries and without seeking help online.
Your reward for collecting all 100 of a stage’s Lums is a single Tooth of the Dead. Each of the five worlds has one Land of the Livid Dead level that costs five teeth to unlock. The Livid Dead levels prove the game’s greatest challenge, as each one requires precise timing and memorization in order to survive. Experienced platforming game players will probably master them with practice, but other players might not be able to handle them. Incidentally, the game’s Friends Leaderboards only keep track of Livid Dead completion times.
As the Livid Dead levels will remind you, Rayman can lose his life in a few different ways. Falling into bottomless pit does him in, of course. But Rayman dies from a single hit by default, so thorns, spikes, and enemies can all knock him off in the blink of an eye as well. The more perilous levels tend to have at least one heart item which will give Rayman an extra hit when collected. Surviving normal levels won’t usually prove very difficult though. The levels are short enough that you can return to what killed you and try again in short order anyway.
Much like Rayman Origins, the difficulty of Jungle Run’s Achievements runs largely at odds with the game’s inviting aesthetic and casual-friendly gameplay. Sure, collecting 3600 unique Lums over the course of the game and even scoring all fifty Teeth of the Dead won’t prove too much for platforming veterans.
No, the stuff Ubisoft asks us to do in one run is where it gets tricky. Jungle Run has Achievements for collecting 500, 1000, 2000, and 3600 Lums in a single playthrough, all without dying or restarting a level. The first two will come with practice, but getting 3600 Lums in one life for ‘Lums Survival’ takes some doing. You’d have to survive until stage 4-9 at the earliest. Realistically, anyone who gets the Achievement will do so in the fifth world. At least the game has 4500 total Lums, so you can miss a few and still unlock it.
If you dare to attempt ‘Lums Survival,’ I have two pieces of advice. First, get every single Tooth of Death in order to practice and learn the basic levels. Then head to YouTube! It’s filled with multiple perfect runs of each level. Watch a perfect run before you play a level, play it, and then watch the next level, and so on. In this way, you’ll always be prepared for whatever a level has in store.
Rayman Jungle Run is one of the best Xbox Windows Phone games available, whether we’re talking about Windows Phone 7 or 8. On the surface, it has the Origins-style visuals that ooze with color, depth, and charm going for it. The several catchy tunes that cycle as you play and catchy sound effects don’t hurt either.
Most importantly, Jungle Run is simply a joy to play. Simple and nearly perfect controls will get players into the swing of things in a hurry. After that, the excellent level design and pursuit of Teeth of the Dead adds staying power. You COULD just run through the game in an hour or two. But unlike most games with collectibles, you’d be missing out on half the fun if you didn’t track down each and every Lum.
Rayman Jungle Run – Windows Phone 8 – 49 MB – $2.99 – Store Link
By Paul Acevedo