I was a huge fan of Rayman: Jungle Run last year when it came out. In fact, I loved it so much that I gave it a near-perfect review, praising its gameplay, visually-arresting art design, and unique twist on the platforming genre. With Rayman: Fiesta Run, Ubisoft is trying to raise the bar again.
The sequel brings a ton of new elements to the game, including swimming and, perhaps regrettably, in-app purchases. This review is a unique opportunity for me to reflect on what worked with the original, what still works, and what the formula is like a year later. Is a sequel necessary? Did the first game need little refinements? Read on to find out.
Re-introducing Rayman: Run
Conceptually, this game doesn’t differ much from the first. In fact, if you’ve played Jungle Run, you’ll have no problem getting into Fiesta Run really quickly. The app uses many of the same mechanics and introduces a little bit more variety to the in-game environments, which makes the game feel more immersive and fresh without making it feel like a simple rehash.
For those of you that haven’t played before, the iOS interpretation of Rayman is a runner that mixes the best elements of the old-school Mario and Sonic games while adding a hint of Temple Run. Each level consists of a run from one end of a level to the flag, collecting coin-like objects called Lums on the way. As you progress through the game, Rayman will learn how to jump, fly, punch, and double-jump his way to victory. Lums aren’t always easy to acquire, but your job is to get as many as possible during throughout a run.
The first game presented levels similarly to the old Super Mario games, in that levels were contained in their own worlds. Each world presented its own unique environment and introduced new abilities to the player. If you collected all the Lums in every level of a world, you unlocked a hidden high-difficulty level. In this sense, because replaying and perfecting levels rewarded you with even more levels of increasing difficulty, the game scaled to your skill level. It was genius and lended itself well to both short commutes and long stints during Amazing Race reruns. I explain all this because Fiesta Run handles Lum collection a little differently.
In Fiesta Run, Rayman collects Lums throughout the levels, just as before. When he collects all the Lums in a level, he unlocks a more difficult version of said level. That’s it. Lum collection has been reduced to a sort of joke. This is to accommodate the in-app purchases in the game (more on that later), which use the Lums as a sort of currency.
The game loses a lot with this shift, though. It means that there are fewer reasons to replay levels and search for more goodies. I’m not interested in playing a “more difficult” version of a level I’ve already played ten times; I’m much more interested in unlocking more difficult new levels by becoming more proficient in the game.
I think Ubisoft knew this wasn’t a great way to go, so they alleviated my main concern with the first game right out of the gate and have included a truckload of levels. While the first game did eventually get a lot of extra levels for free through app updates (the game currently sits at 70 levels), it’s nice to see Ubisoft take an interest in making sure there are enough varied levels to keep interest from waning.
While the additional levels are great, I don’t think this is handled as well as the first game either. The first game, as I mentioned earlier, had several worlds with a few levels in each of them. Each world had a consistent environment. Fiesta Run has none of that. Instead, the levels feel random. While they’re consistently varied, their lack of predictability almost makes everything blend together. The art direction suffers.
What’s Actually New
That being said, while I don’t think the art direction is as sound as it was in the first game, the graphics are more than up to snuff. The game has been given a once-over that makes the first one look antiquated, and that’s saying something. For most people, it won’t be noticeable, but it’s the difference between the first and second Super Mario Galaxy games. While the first one looked amazing the first time you played it, the second one blows it away in every area.
Some of the new gameplay elements are also very cool. On occasion, Rayman will shrink and Lums will appear impossibly large. He might be chased by a swarm of angry flying fish (this is a game where gameplay is superior to logic, and I’m okay with that). Rayman will swim, run to the left instead of the right (which definitely feels backwards in a platformer, but it’s amazing how that small change makes it feel fresh again), and jump deeper into environments thanks to worlds that are more three-dimensional than before. All of this is good.
What’s not good are the new in-app purchases. The game uses Lums as in-game currency, and allows you to purchase paintings in a gallery, buy a Heart to use mid-level to give Rayman a second chance, should he get hurt, or even buy an additional character. (Additional characters don’t appear to change the gameplay, but act more like a different skin for the player. I think Rayman is still the most physically cool to watch, from a perspective of both graphic development and art direction.) While Lums are easy to come by in the game, should you ever run low, buying some more is never more than just a tap or two away.
That wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the game didn’t feel geared towards getting your cash, but it does. A lot of the design choices are engineered to make in-app purchases more desirable, which makes the first game feel like a better overall experience. Again, I’d rather have Lum collection open up new levels instead of encourage me to buy more in-game character skins, but maybe that’s just me.
Final Thoughts: Still Good
A lot of this review will look like complaining, especially next to Jungle Run. Fiesta isn’t a bad game, but I don’t think it’s as marvellous as its predecessor. Remember when your favourite underground band finally released a number one record, and it was terrible in comparison to their old stuff? It’s not that the record itself was bad — in fact, it was probably pretty good — but deep down, you know that it’s only number one on the charts because of the strength of what came before.
That’s basically Rayman: Fiesta Run. I’m going to love sinking hours into this game. I’m going to waste plenty of time playing it. But I already know it’s not as good of an experience as the first one. Retroactively, Jungle Run is the only game I’ve played on iOS that I’d give a 10/10 to right now. It’s gotten better, and even more value-packed, with time. Fiesta Run is more like an 8. It’s good, and it’s a lot of fun, but it’s an IAP-filled shadow of what came before. It lacks the refinement of its predecessor, no matter how much fun I have playing it, that makes me a little sad.