Hands-on with Rayman Jungle Run on iOS and Android
By James Gilmour 07 September 2012
Game Name: Rayman Jungle Run | Developer: Pastagames | Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad | Genre: Endless running
Fresh from his critically acclaimed turn in sleeper-hit Rayman Origins, the floaty-limbed platforming icon is leaping from consoles to iOS and Android for a brand new adventure: Rayman Jungle Run.
Rather than try to replicate the console experience, however, Ubisoft has chosen to collaborate with indie studio Pastagames (of Pix'n Love Rush fame) on a touchscreen friendly interpretation of the critically-acclaimed formula.
In motion, Jungle Run is a dead ringer for its console-based big brother. The vibrant colours and silky smooth animations which helped distinguish Origins from its stablemates look every bit as wonderful flashing across your smartphone or tablet display.
It is these touch-sensitive screens which prompted Rayman creator Michel Ancel to dismiss the idea of making a Origins-esque rehash with virtual joysticks. Instead, he has gone for a more streamlined, one-touch control system.
"I love joysticks, but I hate virtual joysticks," Ancel confesses.
When we catch up with the hoodie-sporting Ancel, we've already played through a world and a half of Jungle Run.
Despite the familiar - but still breathtaking - art design (the UbiArt engine is actually running on top of Pastagames's own engine), the mechanics are notably different. That hasn't stopped us almost immediately falling in love with the game, though.
Rayman charges forward automatically the moment the level begins, leaving players to help him clear gaps, avoid nasties, and collect glowing Lums with a single tap of their finger.
As anyone who has ever lost a lunch break (or a weekend) to Canabalt will attest to, this tap-and-jump system is perfectly suited to touchscreen devices, and bypasses some of the fiddly frustration which often goes hand-in-hand with virtual nubs.
"I can't master this kind of control system easily," Ancel says of floating joysticks. "So I wanted to do something different."
Though Rayman gains extra abilities as the game progresses - a wall run in world 2, a helicopter jump in world 3, and a punch command in the final world - the majority of the game is about timing your leaps to perfection.
Changes in direction are handled by the engine, a system which works surprisingly well. By choosing when and how high to jump, you can force Rayman onto a different path or reverse his direction - providing you tap at just the right moment.
"If you have the right game design elements and you put them all together with the right rhythm, you don't care whether you have a joystick or not," Ancel asserts. "It's really about analysing the right rhythm."
The levels are relatively short, and most can be completed in around a minute. We're told that finding every single Lum and secret passage, however, can take upwards of four hours.
And you'll need those Lums, too. Each standard level (9 per world) contains 100 of the glowy buggers, all of which are must be acquired to gain a gem-like tooth.
Collect five or more of these precious chompers and you will unlock the 10th and final level of that world, set in the encouragingly named 'Land of the Livid Dead'.
In these levels, a timer appears in the top of the screen, and players must avoid thorns, flames, and bottomless pits to get to the exit alive.
To add a social element to the proceedings, you can share your completion time for these levels via Game Center (or GREE for Android), and compete against other players for leaderboard bragging rights.
"They are completely different," Ancel says of these deathly stages. "It's not about collecting lums, it's more about surviving in these very tight, very different environments. It's more like a racing game."
"And the final level?" we ask tentatively. "It's horrible," Ancel deadpans. "It's insane. Even I die 100 times."
With its supermodel-good looks - and the smarts to match - Rayman Jungle Run could be the perfect example of how to tailor a console franchise to the demands of touchscreen platforms.
September 20th has been elected as R-Day, and £1.99 / $2.99 will get you a copy of the Retina-compatible Universal iOS version (Android price is TBC).