Rayman Jungle Run is not the Ubisoft mascot’s first foray onto the iPhone; that honor (such as it is) instead belongs to Rayman 2: The Great Escape, a largely failed effort to squeeze a console game onto the iPhone. This is a mistake that developers and publishers tend to make all too often, expecting a good console game to work well on iOS, despite numerous differences that can affect the entire experience.
Fortunately, Rayman Jungle Run is something else entirely; despite its looks, it’s actually a completely original game that seems to have been built from the ground up for iOS devices. It owes its gorgeous graphics to the proprietary UbiArt Framework, which helped bring fame to the title Rayman Origins, as well as the upcoming Wii U sequel, Rayman Legends. As a result, the visuals look flawless with their smooth animation and lively characters, and you could be forgiven for thinking that Jungle Run is a port.
The big difference is in how it plays, though this is not an issue of good vs. bad. While the title may call to mind the numerous endless runner games which populate the App Store, Rayman Jungle Run is indeed a runner, but is by no means endless. Rather, it’s more like speedrunning a traditional platforming game with the throttle always on; there is no going back, only continued movement forward, save for a few instances where you can move back just enough to get up to speed again.
Rave of the Fireflies
Some might see an item they missed and wish they could go back for it, but to do so would defeat the entire purpose of the game; if you could backtrack, the game would be a cakewalk. The challenge comes from learning from your mistakes and being ready the next time so you can improve your performance and your score. And you will certainly need those skills, for only those who can acquire enough of the floating baubles across five stages in an area will be able to restore Death’s teeth, thus unlocking an ultra-challenging Land of the Livid Dead level. Land of the Livid Dead has no baubles to collect. Instead, your goal here is strictly to make it to the end.
With back and forth out of the picture, you need to control Rayman’s other actions, which build as the game moves along. You can only jump in the first set of levels, but in the second, you can use his signature helicopter spin to hover, while the third brings in the ability to run up walls, and the fourth batch adds punching to the mix. All the while, it remains streamlined with simple controls. And just as with Rayman’s constant forward momentum, you cannot bring newly-acquired skills back to older levels. This may seem like a downside, but those who pay careful attention to the level design will realize how this is actually a good thing– introducing these advanced elements would only serve to complicate and perhaps even ruin earlier stages.
For a fleeting second, Rayman almost had courage enough to ask the cliff to elope with him.
Rayman Jungle Run requires a lot of trial and error, especially as you move on, yet possesses that “just one more try” mentality that pervaded arcades so long ago. It can be a little frustrating at times, especially when certain automated elements don’t seem to perform as they should (such as jump-pads launching you where you don’t want them to be), but practice really does make perfect. Thankfully, most levels (save for the Land of the Livid Dead) are fairly short, and once you have it down, you don’t have to go too far to reach the end.
Furthermore, while you might expect the game to become repetitive, the developers manage to keep things fresh with a variety of environments with their own respective obstacles and– later on– enemies. Additionally, a few wild and catchy tunes rotate as you replay levels, keeping the audio from becoming repetitious.
Rayman Jungle Run is a terrific game, one that manages to shed the problems faced by other attempted ports. Even if you’ve never played a Rayman game before, this is one title fans of platformers and endless runners alike should check out.