Considering the immense critical and popular acclaim that Ubi Soft's Rayman series has received, it's surprising that the company hasn't really exploited the franchise for quick, easy money. That is, until now. The latest addition to the series, Rayman Rush, is a cut-and-dried case of a cash-in, and the presence of the limbless protagonist is really the most worthwhile quality of this otherwise pedestrian racing game.
Rayman Rush is, essentially, a kart racing game without the karts. Players are given a choice of several characters from the Rayman universe to play as, including the robotic pirate Razor Beard and his mechanical crony the Henchman 800, Rayman's oafish friend Globox, and, of course, Rayman himself. Once a character is selected, you're given a choice of five different race types. The training mode lets you get a feel for a level without any opponents or objectives. The championship mode pits you against a single computer-controlled opponent in an out-and-out race. The AI in the championship mode is a bit random, as if a dice roll decided its aggressiveness and ability to seek out shortcuts from race to race. The time attack mode pits you against the clock, the target mode charges you with shooting butterflies scattered throughout each level, and the lums mode has you collect as many of the small pixie-like lums as you can.
There are a total of 12 tracks spread across four distinctly themed areas, each reminiscent of levels found in previous Rayman games. Most of the tracks and several of the characters and race modes are inaccessible from the beginning, and they must be unlocked by successfully completing the available challenges. Though the game features a two-player mode, the tracks feel as though they were designed with up to four players in mind, and the game definitely could have benefited from such a feature. The title Rayman Rush suggests that you'll engage in a fast and furious foot race, but this simply is not the case. It's undeniably a foot race, but the sensation of speed is usually pretty underwhelming and feels as though you're trying to traverse a simple platforming level as quickly as you can.
While the shine wore off the PlayStation a long, long time ago, Rayman Rush makes fair use of the hardware and is able to maintain the same look and feel of Rayman 2 on the PlayStation. In fact, most, if not all, of the environmental textures, character models, and character animations have been lifted directly from Rayman 2, giving the game an instant familiarity to fans of the series. Thanks to the multitiered nature of each track, the camera will occasionally have trouble negotiating sharp turns and steep inclines and will have to quickly catch up to your character, which can have a rather dizzying effect. Also, the draw-in distance is rather noticeable, though it never interferes with the race itself. These few shortcomings aside, the graphics in Rayman Rush do a capable job of instilling this otherwise generic racing game with that distinct Rayman style.
Previous Rayman games have always sported top-notch sound design, but the music and sound effects in Rayman Rush feel, well, rushed. The music seems to consist of one or two uninspired Rayman-esque songs, each character has one exclamation, and there are only a handful of sound effects for any in-game action.
Rayman Rush certainly doesn't maintain the same level of quality as the main games in the Rayman series, but it can prove to be a decent diversion for a short period of time. The inclusion of a four-player mode definitely would have made this simple racer much more attractive, though Ubi Soft's decision to make Rayman Rush a value title definitely helps the game's case.