High-powered flying fist adds twist to 'Rayman 3'

Ho-hum. Another platform title for the PlayStation 2.

Before you doze off, however, make sure you give "Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc" from Ubi Soft a try. It's a gorgeous addition to the decade-old Rayman line, with tight gameplay, lots of color and excitement, and a few new tricks for the limbless wonder.

In the latest version, Rayman, his flying mentor Murfy, and his doofus sidekick Globox (voice by actor John Leguizamo) get into a mess of trouble after Globox swallows Andre, the Dark Lum Lord.

Lums, you'll recall, are those little glowing red globes Rayman collects on his travels. The dark lums are their evil counterparts, hence the Hoodlum in the title.

Besides defeating Andre, Rayman also has the familiar task (if you've played earlier versions) of freeing the simple-minded Teensies. They are constantly being abducted by the dark lums, who use them for target practice.

All the requisite platform clues are present, including the constant hopping from place to place and the brain-snarling puzzles that must be unraveled before you can progress.

You'll probably find the puzzles aren't quite as tough as in the past, but they're still a challenge. So are the rail-riding tests between levels. I was yelling at the screen so much during my first experience with this evil mind-melter that my dog hid under the sofa.

Rayman's key new ability is the high-powered flying fist, which he can hurl at enemies after powering it up by holding down the fire button. He can also throw a curve with his detached mitt by moving to one side or the other as he lets fly.

Rayman collects a variety of special powers when he picks up cans of the Hoodlums' laser washing powder. For instance, a green can gives his a whirling burst of energy; a red can gives him a heavy metal fist; a blue can gives him a grappling hook called the Lockjaw, which can latch on to enemies and chomp on them.

The game awards you points for bonking enemies, and if you rack up enough, you can unlock bonuses which may or may not interest you.

Graphics get an A. Rayman continues its legacy as one of the best-looking games on the shelf. Warm pastels, dazzling effects and deluxe textures make it a visual treat.

Sound is another A. Great sound effects, an excellent variety of music in the background and hilarious voice acting keep your ears smiling. Some of the comments (insults, actually) are directed at your ham-fisted efforts to get through the game, and there are also references to previous Rayman titles.

A sarcastic videogame. What a concept.

Control gets a B+. The game plays smoothly and with no major glitches, making the genre-required jumping, hopping and hanging easy and accurate. It falls down in a common area -- the camera. It's usually where it belongs, but not always, making some jumps or combat situations harder than they should be.

"Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc" gets an A. The game carries on a proud tradition of innovation, solid gameplay and glorious graphics.


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