In late 1999, Rayman 2: The Great Escape hit the PC and console markets, bringing clever design, varied gameplay, and some of the freshest ideas seen in a 3D platformer. The game was not only one of the best of its genre, but it was also one of the best of that year, and through its subsequent release on every console conceivable, it was one of the best of 2000 as well. A year, some change, and a new console mark the return of the faux-French limbless protagonist in Rayman 2 Revolution. It would seem reasonable to think that old software being rehashed, again, on a new system simply wouldn't be able to compete with the hottest new games coming out for the hottest new console--this would likely be the case, were it nearly any game but Rayman.
Rayman 2 Revolution could just as easily have been titled Rayman 2 Remix, as that just about sums up any disparity between Revolution and The Great Escape. The story is the same: The evil Admiral Razorbeard and his army of robotic brigands have taken over the planet, enslaving all of its inhabitants and leaving Rayman to scour the earth, collect the scattered pieces of the Primordial Core, summon the powerful Polokus, and rid the world of the dastardly robo-pirates. The levels are primarily the same, though their order is modified slightly, and a few new but less than noteworthy stages are thrown into the mix as well. The simple level-selection menu has been scrapped in favor of a handful of overworlds used to access the different levels. The introduction of the overworlds seems to be an attempt to create a more cohesive world for Rayman, though some may find them cumbersome and unnecessary, as they're only slightly more functional than the original selection method, and they may prove to be confusing and difficult to navigate. There are other, more negligible differences between the two, but at its core, Revolution is still Rayman 2.
One of the most admirable traits of Revolution is its simple, effective control scheme and the array of situations in which it is implemented. For the most part, the game is a 3D platformer, with plenty of lever pulling, simple puzzle solving, platform jumping, and item collecting, but it doesn't stop there. Just to keep you on your toes, you'll occasionally find yourself riding a two-legged rocket as if it were an untamed stallion, clutching onto a lit keg of gunpowder as it flies through the air, and waterskiing through a murky swamp behind a hyperkinetic snake. What's more impressive than these novel gameplay variations is the versatility of the controls. Using the analog stick, a lock-on trigger, an attack button, and a jump button, you can easily make Rayman strafe around enemies, shimmy up narrow spaces, use his ears/hair to fly, and more.
The Great Escape was lauded for its beautiful graphics, which were not the product of high-poly-count character models or ultrarealistic locations, but of the consistent level of style that the game oozes. The graphics in Revolution are no different. Each level has its own distinct style and personality, with levels varying wildly from Caribbean-flavored islands to polluted underground cemeteries, but the consistency of these highly stylized surroundings keeps them from seeming out of place. Of course, this is the PS2 we're talking about here, and Revolution takes advantage of that with sharper graphics, a smattering of colored lighting and improved particle effects, and enhanced textures. The game suffers from a nominal amount of slowdown, though oddly enough, the game gets choppy only when in the PS2-exclusive levels. Revolution still suffers from the bashful camera of The Great Escape, which works well most of the time but, like most 3D platformer cameras, can get a little sticky in tight spaces. Still, these minor flaws hardly put a dent in Revolution's graphical production.
The sound in Revolution is also top-notch. The score would be fitting for a Disney venture, albeit an extremely weird one. At its worst, the soundtrack is bearable, but at its best, it's down right catchy. The sound effects are crisp and layered, and they're complemented nicely by the soundtrack. All of the voice acting is competent, though some of it doesn't quite match the characters. For the full experience, however, Revolution includes Raymanian speech with English subtitles, where each character talks in his or her own sort of gibberish dialect. No actual words are spoken, but the characters are surprisingly expressive nonetheless, and the Raymanian speech really adds to the surreal fantasy feel of the game.
So there you have it--Rayman 2 Revolution has proven to be one of the most engaging, entertaining, and original games for the PS2. The fact that a game this long in the tooth can still outshine most of its next-generation competition begs this question: Is the console gaming scene suffering from a drought of ideas, or is Rayman 2 really that good? It's probably a bit of both.