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March 7, 2014

Rayman: Hoodlum's Revenge (Part 1)

Not this game! Not this darned game!

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I love the Rayman series. There's always been this sense of weirdness around it. The pre-Rabbid years had really great games, good ideas, nice plots and stories; it also had freaking Razorbeard, which is not only one of the most awesome names for a villain ever, but just one awesome concept. Imagine that. The Rabbid years, while controversial, had their fair share of fun, even if Rayman was slowly vanishing from his own series... Then, the post-Rabbid years, which began not so long ago, with Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, which are just as awesome as the original installments, but also such a treat to watch... Long story short, I love the Rayman series.

However, I was introduced to this series through a little Game Boy Advance game called Rayman: Hoodlum's Revenge. Back then, I had an idea of who Rayman was, but there was no answer as to what a Hoodlum was, nor why it wanted revenge. I still bought the game, and... well... I'll refer you to the very first line of this review. The long “No”.

Is it really that bad? Am I making it worse than it really is? Come with me if you wish to find out! And try not to get lost on the way, it's really easy to lose yourself in isometric 3D.

The game begins during a summer afternoon. Rayman and Globox were lazing off around a tree, sleeping. Globox cannot help but have nightmares about Andre the Black Lum, a creature that seems to have scarred him- oh wait, I think I should explain that first.

After doing a bit of research, I found out what happened. In Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, there was this Black Lum- oh wait, I should explain that first.

Basically, the Lums are little brightly-colored balls of light with wings, apparently sentient, in the Rayman world. There's the regular yellow ones, then there's the red ones which replenish the heroes' energy, the green ones which serve as save points, the blue ones that help hold propellers in the air or let Rayman breathe underwater... And then there was Andre the Black Lum. (Being a French Canadian, I cannot help but almost put my finger on the “é” key on my keyboard until I remember that it's a normal “e” in this name. Although, they do nickname him Dédé sometimes in Rayman 3.) So, yeah, Andre is a Black Lum, first of his kind, a Lum filled with hatred and darkness. He is so bent on hatred that any Red Lum he touches will become a Black Lum. And that's how he created the Hoodlums, a dark organization that may have caused the extinction of a number of species from the Rayman universe. By ripping them of their fur, dressing them as Rayman, and then beating the ever-loving crap out of them. Holy cow.
Wow, he's like a shadow Dark/Fairy-type

In Rayman 3, Globox gobbles down Andre near the beginning of the game. From that point on, the evil guy watches the events of Rayman 3 unfold, thus seeing his plans – which had begun before Rayman 3 – come to fruition. Which leads us to Hoodlum's Revenge. Basically, even though Andre was defeated in the preceding game, it seems that Globox still has nightmares about him. Maybe this goes beyond just remembering Andre... So, back to the story: Globox wakes up from his sleep, and wanders off. Rayman wakes up a bit later, and realizes that Globox is gone. He sets out to find him.

From the first level, you find out through Murphy – the annoying little fairy with big eyes and a big mouth – that Globox has been kidnapped by the Hoodlums. Whoop-de-doo.

In this game, Rayman moves diagonally...
...and dies all in agony.
So, here's how the game works: It's a 3D isometric world. What this means is that the world is basically spun 45 degrees, and therefore everything is at an angle. This is a style we've seen a few times before, one of the best known examples being Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. I won't lie, it sometimes looks very nice. Here, I know it does look nice as well, but it adds a little problem... You see, Rayman has the ability to float for a short time with his helicopter hair. This means that he can cross large gaps. However! In this game, the screen is small, and even though you can take a look around you to see where platforms are, it's sometimes difficult to find the damned platforms. Another problem with isometric 3D is that, while you can float to platforms in the distance, you can't always tell if the platforms are at the right height. What I mean by this is that you can try going to a platform and make it out okay, but then you could try going to the preceding platform... and fall to your death because you couldn't see that it was too high for you. The isometric 3D is rather tricky. Very tricky, in fact. It's really awful when you fall down because of some perspective troubles, which cause you to think that a platform was located at just the right height, but after all it wasn't, so you fall down and die, and find yourself having to make your way back to where you died.

Did I mention that water and lava hurt you in this?
Not kidding, Rayman is harmed when he steps in water!
...Seriously, what the Hell...
Okay, back to the story. So, Rayman lands in the Fairy Council level, which serves as a tutorial of sorts. In there, he is explained how everything works; for all levels, he has to search for the Exit. Luckily for him, it's kind of easy to find, because he can access a level map when you pause the game. So you just have to find the way there. In every level, there are Lums scattered all over the place, and as an additional challenge you can set out to find them all. Next, there's four Teensies that have been captured by the villains in every level. As yet another additional challenge, you can try to find them all. Shouldn't be too difficult, right? If you squint your eyes, you can, in fact, see those on the map. Lastly, through each level, there are lots of enemies, and lots of jewels. Destroy the former, collect the latter. One important thing to know is that collecting a Yellow, a Red or a Green Lum gives Rayman 5 points, the score for each enemy type and for each jewel color varies, and saving a Teensie gives 400 points. I think. When you get points, a little “bonus” white bar shows up under your score. If you get more points while that bar is there, the points you'll get will be doubled. Let's say you get a Lum, then you get another one; that one will give 5 points to your regular score and an additional five. Then same for the next, and so on until you take too long to get more points. The total points will be added to your score.

The Teensies are locked in those... things.
At the end of every level, after you're back to the level selection screen, Murphy will look at your score. He'll also tell you how many Lums you've collected and the number of Teensies you've saved. Lastly, if your score is good enough, he will give you up to three Murphy Stamps. Collect enough stamps, and Murphy will unlock some secret levels for you. Yep, that's pretty much it.

Rayman crosses two more levels after the Fairy Council one: Clearleaf Forest and Clearleaf Falls. I love these names. Oh yeah, also you can access one secret level, Vertiginous Riddle, if you get six Murphy Stamps. The next level is titled Infernal Machine. Is that a boss? Yes! It is! In Rayman 3, one of the other major villains was Reflux, a warrior from the race of the Knaaren. Not only that, he also was one of the strongest warriors from his species. Rayman defeated him in battle, and from that point on Reflux tried to get revenge. He pretty much teamed up with Andre in a way. And he proved to be a fierce opponent. He was destroyed near the end of Rayman 3.

Yes! Destroy that machine! No, over there!
Well, the Infernal Machine is trying to revive Reflux. Oh crud. The machine is manipulating dark energy goo to bring him back from the dead, but the process is extremely long – and the machine is armed with cannonballs to prevent Rayman from interfering. Yet, it's pretty easy to interfere; the limbless hero just has to press a switch located beyond many cannons, which will make a power-up available in another section of the room where the machine is. He just hurries to get the power-up, which gives him superhuman strength, and then he can beat the six small machines that compose the whole thing, which is more of a factory. However, the power is limited, so he must return to press the switch more than once if he wants to beat all the machines. Huh. For a first boss, that was... kind of lame. After the fight, Murphy tells Rayman that the Hoodlums are trying to clone Reflux (Thanks, Lord Obvious Exposition...). Well, at least now Rayman can go to the region of Murk to find Globox.

And... If you wondered why I had such a long “No” at the beginning, here's one of the reasons. You control Globox in the Dungeon of Murk, where he's held prisoner. He wants some plum juice (even though he hates the taste; it sends him in a fit of rage). Also, he seems to have gained a dissociative identity disorder, as he goes back and forth between a happy, moronic personality and a more evil one. Alright, so Globox looks around his prison and finds a switch. He can start escaping now! There's just one problem, there are monsters guarding the other switches that will make him go forward... And when Globox gets too close to an enemy, or when an enemy gets too close to Globox, he panics and starts running away. He's uncontrollable during his panic attacks. …Did I mention that he cannot jump? Oh, also, when Globox gets near a plum juice barrel, he drinks it all, turns purple, and will attack back and destroy the enemies in his way.

I'll recapitulate. He cannot jump, he is a coward who'll run from battles, running away means that he cannot be controlled during that time, and also the only way he can fight back is by drinking something he (supposedly) hates, pruine juice in barrels which are ALSO guarded by enemies?

The world's greatest video game hero, everybody!

...My sarcasm known no limits.

Pictured: Worst video game character ever.
However, I'll give that to Globox; while his levels – and his parts of levels, as you'll understand later – are much less interesting, his controls are a lot more puzzle-oriented. You see, when you play as Globox, you can't jump, therefore you must find ways to reach higher places despite never jumping. You must also find switches that will open doors, either to him or Rayman. You will also have to do with the whole “plum juice superpower” thing and the fact that you must sneak your way around places to reach the plum juice and give enemies a beating. So, in a way, he's not TOO bad. But dammit, a video game character who panics when he sees a weakly enemy, that's not friggin' serious!

After you complete one level with Globox alone, you also have to finish another level with Rayman alone; he'll surf on a river with some kind of boat, and he'll control the waves with switches located all around the level. After that level, you'll get to the Bog of Murk... where Rayman reunites with Globox. Hurray! ...I guess? Oh no, wait. Before that, you have another level with Globox alone. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay... Anyway, Globox has to open the door to the exit, but there's one problem; the foot pad won't stay down to leave the door open. And it seems like only a creature of Globox's weight can keep that pad down. That, or a weight. Globox looks around and finds a Teensie who says that if Globox saves his friends, then they'll all step on the pad to let him out. Is this level over soon?


Well, seems like it is as soon as you get six Teensies and they all step on the pad together. Globox can finally exit this level. Thank God.

Now, the two pals are back together. That's good I guess. Except the next stop in their adventure is the Begoniax Bayou, where is waiting the old witch Begoniax. She wants revenge because – Because why, exactly? Because he... No, that's too stupid, that can't be the reason! ...Oh wait, that's serious? She wants to kill Rayman... because he broke her toilet? Didn't even guess that people in that world would need toilets.

Well, anyway, in this boss stage Begoniax will be running around, often throwing at Rayman some spells that will drop to the wooden floor like puddles of magic. If he steps in one of the puddles, Rayman will turn into a frog, helpless against Begoniax. By the way, you can't harm Begoniax when she's in normal form. Luckily, she isn't immune to her own spells, so drive her to walk into a puddle and she'll become a weakly frog that can be hit. In other words, you use her spell against her, in a rather clever and funny way. Once defeated, Begoniax faints.

Now, Rayman and Globox form a team, I guess the first part of this game is over... You know what, I think I should end here for now. I'd say it's enough. There's only so much cowardice I can stand in a day. Wait for next week as I continue this review.... And hopwfully I won't have crushed the cartridge under a mallet before then.