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The Rayman series has a strange lifespan, but one of very consistent quality. The first game was a fun if simple 2D platformer and Rayman 2: The Great Escape is one of the most acclaimed 3D platformers of all time. It’s also one of the most ported games ever and available on everything from PS2 to IOS. A Switch version – given the game and system’s love of ports – wouldn’t be out of the question either. And recently the 2D reboots of Origins and Legends are sublime platforming. Taking the series back from the Rabbids who almost phased Rayman out of his own series. Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is often an overlooked selection of the series. Maybe it was overshadowed by the acclaim of the previous entry or just didn’t receive the attention it deserved, who knows? Regardless, it’s Rayman 3’s 15th anniversary and as someone with a fresh perspective after a recent first playthrough; let’s shine the spotlight on Hoodlum Havoc and see if it deserves some more attention or if it was left behind for a reason.
Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc deviates from Rayman 2 by having a heavier focus on combat opposed to platforming, to its benefit and detriment. Rayman 2 had its fair share of combat but it was pretty simple and mindless. Boiling down to mashing the attack button from a distance to have Rayman throw an energy ball. Rayman 3’s combat isn’t mind-blowing but is more involved. For starters Rayman uses his disembodied hands for battle, giving him a shorter reach and making enemy encounters much more up close and personal (and taking advantage of his design, Rayman 2’s use of energy balls always seemed weird and failing to utilise the character’s design). Enemies can be tackled in multiple ways, either straight on punches, curved fist throws to attack from the side, or with the use of power-ups.
Rayman 3 introduces five new power-ups to spice things up beyond what its predecessor introduced. These include a stronger punch to knock down doors, a tornado punch to lower platforms and enemies on stilts, a pair of bear trap like chains that can be used as a hook shot to swing on floating rings and allows you to give enemies THE CLAMPS by attaching to and electrocuting them, a rocket fist that controls similar to the remote control batarang in the Batman: Arkham series and a helicopter hat that allows Rayman to fly.
These power-ups are timed, with some lasting for a good bit like the clamps while the helicopter hat only lasts a few seconds. The power-ups are a fun addition, if a bit under-integrated. For starters, they don’t last long enough with the helicopter hat lasting a few seconds which makes it seem pointless. There’s no section where a simple bounce pad or something wouldn’t have done the job as effectively and probably faster. Most of the time they do enhance gameplay and are fun to use, but others seemed forced creating noticeable stop and go gameplay. This does tie in with Rayman 3’s biggest fault being the lack of pure platforming.
Rayman 3’s heavier focus on combat came at the expense of pure and platforming based segments. It’s about a 60-40 split and the platforming taking second seat is an issue given that this is a platformer. That said, when the platforming is around it’s great. It’s reminiscent of Rayman 2 with large jumps incorporating hook shots and gliding, climbing on walls to reach new areas, taking care of enemies and obstacles while at the risk of falling is as much fun as it has ever been. It’s not that there isn’t enough of it, just even more of it would have been appreciated. The control feels so smooth that traversing more intense challenges would’ve been very fun. It’s a shame to see the downhill sliding stages from Rayman 2 gone, but on the plus side the rocket rider stages and their awful controls are gone. And this isn’t to say the combat is bad, its well-executed for the most part, only suffering when battles are one on one because spamming can work in those instances, but overall; it’s simple fun.
Presentation wise the game holds up very well. Graphics are beautifully varied, breathing a sense of vibrancy into Rayman’s fairy tale dream world. Dark shadows cover the world in its troubled time, being brightened by distant glows. Character designed were slicked up, with Rayman’s now trademark attitude and cool demeanor originating here. On the topic of characters, the lack of familiar faces is strange, with only Rayman, Globlox and the Teensies returning. None of the signature fairies, other side characters or minor villains are present. Granted the new enemies in the Hoodlums are great stand ins but this does further the theory that every Rayman game is standalone with no flowing continuity.
The main villain Andre isn’t a viably well portrayed threat and his memorability is non-existent. Definitely doesn’t stand with Rayman 2’s robot pirate RazorBeard. Cutscenes and character interactions are entertaining enough but nothing too amazing. Globox was recast and recharacterised, going from a soft spoken, caring and dumb companion, to a grating annoyance, every line out of his mouth makes him ever more punchable. He was voiced by John Leguizamo (Luigi from the Super Mario Bros movie) which forever proves that just because a comedian does the voice, doesn’t make the writing any funnier. The story is fine, nothing outstanding but it’ll do. Musically all that can be said is this soundtrack is funk-a-licious. Every beat makes you want to tap your foot and it’s great stuff from the opening to the credits.
Overall, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is dated in some areas but still holds up rather well. The controls are smooth as butter, outside of certain minigames, the setting of the Glade of Dreams is gorgeous all these years later and environmental and character designs look downright awesome. And most importantly the gameplay is still fun, even for newcomers. Taking what Rayman 2 did and improving on a decent portion of it. Rayman 3 does enough different to stand out from its acclaimed predecessor, so much so that another 3D Rayman with their more slowed down and relaxed pace would fit in nicely with the 3D platformer resurgence of lately. Though it would probably clash with Origins and Legends faster pace, but there is definitely a place for both. Rayman 4 may happen one day but until then Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is a good one to go back to.