Rayman DS, I tried so hard to love you...
I was late in purchasing this title, and did so against the advice of pretty much every professional game reviewer. I loved Rayman 2: The Great Escape so much, and wanted to be able to both actually finish the game -- which I never had the opportunity to do -- and have it for play on the go. Perhaps I should have heeded those reviews... The game is, however, not a total disaster, as some critics contend. But it is rife with flaws. Much of my disappointment stems from the fact that DC -- the folks who did the actual porting of the game -- didn't seem to put much consideration into the unique interface of the DS. What you end up with is an N64-like game that you're meant to play on the DS. In that I mean controlling Rayman (and the camera around him) are not compatible with the DS. The virtual analog stick is a valiant effort, as is the ability to use the D-pad in lieu of it. However, the D-pad responds so unnaturally that you're constantly forced to battle with the controls to get Rayman to perform the way you intend. I wouldn't mind the constant-run state that Rayman stays in when using the D-pad if his movements were more fluid like the characters in Animal Crossing: Wild World. However, Rayman's movements are spastic and floppy (all over the place).
That said, there's still a fair amount of fun to the game. The level designs still manage to conjure a smile from me each time I start a new area. What I loved about the original is still mostly here in Rayman DS. Rayman 2 was the one platformer that spoke to me in a way that allowed me to always have fun and never get frustrated. From a level-design aspect those qualities are still present. But the controls definitely hamper that experience.
If the controls hamper the experience, the camera frustrates it to the point of being disheartening. I haven't finished the game, and find myself only coming back to it when I'm pretty bored. At the halfway mark the gameplay becomes somewhat of a chore, and I personally can only tolerate it in small spurts. Most reviewers were sure to make mention of how the camera could jerk in undesired directions "at the most inopportune times." They were right. Many reader reviews try to refute this fact, but I can definitely attest to it. Believe me when I say, I wanted to prove reviewers wrong about Rayman DS. But the truth is, for the most part, they were right.
The "additional levels" are, so far, little more than the same racing level repeated 20 times over. I haven't unlocked them all, but there's really little incentive to so.
Graphics: The main disappointment here is not that Rayman DS doesn't look as good as it did perhaps in previous versions of Rayman 2, but that it doesn't look as good as it could on the DS. Some of the graphic elements are really quite beautiful, but the amount of blocky-looking textures definitely outweighs the good. In the absense of texture filtering, DC could have perhaps done more in the area of anti-aliasing -- a technique that should have helped to give a more smoothed-out look to most textures in the game.
The music is perhaps one of the game's strongest elements. Though there are some really sweet themes and cadences missing that were in the original Rayman 2, the DS version still offers a very lovely array of level themes, sounds and quirky voice jibberish.
Overall, Rayman DS is still a wealth of platforming genius. Unfortunately, poor controls and an even poorer camera system prevent you from getting at most of that gameplay treasure. Graphics are acceptable, but much of the beauty of the original is lost due to what I interpret as poor translating. And though there are no real unlockables to speak of or a multiplayer mode, the story mode is pretty sizeable.