Rayman: Jungle Run is exquisite. It’s the very definition of what a platforming game on iOS should be: buckets of fun, gorgeous to look at, and fast-paced.
I’m a bit of a stickler for iOS gaming. It’s tough to impress me. The concept has to be one of those moments where I wonder why I never thought of it and developed it myself. It has to be beyond gorgeous (Infinity Blade II and its predecessor obviously blew me away), but the visuals have to suit the purpose. It has to be easy enough that anybody can learn it, but hard enough that a hardcore gamer could really get into it. Rayman has all of those things in spades.
The first time I booted up Jungle Run, I sat and I just stared at the menu screen and listened to the music. Rayman strums his guitar as a bird whistles behind him. I never got into Rayman when I was younger — I was always into Mario first and foremost — but the music here immediately grabbed me, and the soundtrack is like that throughout. It’s one of those elements that you aren’t going to really notice, but like the rest of the game, it’s perfectly thought out and brilliantly in tune (pun intended) with the actual gameplay.
The other thing you might notice right away is the visual quality. Graphically, this game is beautiful — it looks like it was painted with pastel colours. The only other game on the iPad with art direction that really blew me away like this was Angry Birds Space. Like that, Rayman is immediately striking, but boldly simple.
Another note is that there are no options. You can adjust the music and sound effects volume — that’s it. Don’t expect to be able to tinker with difficulty or with the speed or anything like that; there is now way to soup up Rayman or build him like an RPG character (not that I think anybody would expect that from a Rayman game anyway). The settings are as minimalist as you can get with an iPad game, and it works.
Getting a Game Going
I thought that getting started was a little confusing at first. There are four main “worlds,” each with their own set of levels within. They are each named after the skill you learn in said world: the first world is named “Jump,” the second “Fly” and so on. Without giving the worlds numbers, it took me a few seconds to figure out where I was supposed to start.
But once I got started, it was remarkably easy to pick up. The game gives you visual instructions, and the controls couldn’t possibly be any simpler.
Rayman: Jungle Run is a universal app, so it’s worth noting that people with both iPhones and iPads can jump back and forth between them. I was delighted to realize that my save files were stored in iCloud (the game never asks if you want to do this; it just does it automatically), and that moving between them is a piece of cake. (As an aside, the game is currently not optimized for the iPhone 5 screen size, and is pixellated on my 5 for whatever reason. It is not on my 4S. I expect that will get patched eventually, so don’t let it deter you).
Finding My Rayman Skills
The gameplay itself is incredible. Its simplicity is deceiving: although you can only control when Rayman jumps or hovers, his constant running means that there is always an obstacle just up ahead. It becomes incredibly challenging. Perfecting a level by collecting all of its jewels (called “Lums” in the Rayman world) gets you a Tooth of the Dead. Perfecting five levels in a world opens an additional level in the world of the dead, which means there are four additional levels to be gained by expert players.
And collecting all these Lums is not easy, nor are the secret levels. This is a game that is incredibly easy to learn and unbelievably difficult to master, which fits my criteria for a perfect mobile gaming experience. The levels are also short, which means that people who only have time for one or two quick rounds will be able to squeeze in some Ray time before getting back to work.
There’s also just the immense challenge of focusing on something other than the visuals. I can’t overstate how beautiful this game is — it’s one of the rare occasions where art design and gameplay marry each other perfectly. The last time I recall feeling this way about the visuals in a video game were for Super Mario Galaxy.
The game relies on Game Center for Achievements. Not unlike the rest of the game, there are some here for newbies and some that will challenge even the most veteran of players (one rewards players for collecting every Lum in the game!).
Seriously Polished Gameplay
In all of my playing, I never once found a bug. I never had a single experience that made felt wrong, or once felt the game was unresponsive. My third-generation iPad handled it with ease, and I have no reason to think any other iPad couldn’t. This game is beautiful, but not in a way that is graphically intensive.
Its reliance on iCloud for game saves may worry some people, but I was thrilled. I had one issue early on where I lost save data because I played on two of my devices simultaneously (for the record, I don’t recommend doing that with any iCloud-based save data), but that was clearly my own fault and I figured it would happen.
Final Verdict: Buy
If iOS games were like the stock market, Rayman: Jungle Run is something you would want to invest in. I hope that Universal plans on expanding it sometime soon with additional levels — as it is, it feels just a little bit short compared to some of the games on iOS — but otherwise, Rayman is as close to perfect as a side scroller could be on iPad. It’s addictive, challenging, beautiful, and to top it all off, loads of fun.