Rayman Redemption and the problem with remakes
An extremely impressive fan game, but one that highlights some continuing issues
Hello. Regular readers will be well aware that when it comes to remakes and remasters, I can be a tiny little bit fussy. It really is very minor, though. I don't mind aesthetic changes. I don't mind quality of life features. What I mind - and I mind it more than I probably ought to - is when gameplay changes fundamentally alter the feel of a game, when something esoteric and unusual is smoothed over for broader consumption, robbing it of what made it special. Unfortunately, Rayman Redemption falls into this trap.
What, I hear you ask, what the flump is Rayman Redemption? Excellent question. A full remake from lone developer @Ryemanni of the original 1995 Rayman (the best-selling PS1 game in the UK, period), you're getting a Sonic Mania-ish widescreen take on the cartoony classic. And, at first, it's very impressive. The running and ledge grabbing skills - previously unlocked as you play - are now available from the start, making traversal less sluggish to begin with. The increased field of view makes it a treat to get around, it's smooth to control and looks beautiful throughout. The new Magician Token collectables are a smart idea, and there's plenty to discover overall for both newcomers and Rayman veterans.
It really can't be overstated how big of an achievement this is, and like with Alex Kidd DX, none of my criticisms are meant to be anything but a personal take. But there is a major problem for me with this game, and it's one I see in so many modern takes on classic retro titles. In the quest to broaden the game's appeal, there's been extensive attempts to "iron out" the original Rayman's flaws. The problem is, the idiosyncracies and oddities that have been airbrushed away were what gave the game most of its identity and memorable content.
Examples. There's a level in the first world of the game where you fly on Moskito, a purple insect friend in a sort of quasi-shmup stage. In the original version, Rayman threw his fist in this level as usual, but this has been changed to a projectile from Moskito's nose. Fine - this is a change that makes sense, as using the fist attack in that scenario was awkward. The sticking point for me is later in that level, there was originally a segment where Moskito starts flying at top speed and you must avoid spiked plants as you rocket towards the exit. In Redemption, this sequence has been entirely excised. Presumably because it was considered unfair, and yes, it was difficult. But I remembered it.
In the next world, Band Land, there was a stage where you manouevred around a large red creature; it would attack you, but you had no way to harm it and simply had to traverse the stage while it attacked - you'd weave through its legs on a moving platform, dodging projectiles. It was cool, and it felt like you as Rayman had trespassed into this thing's space; like it was there before you and was simply defending its turf animalistically. The remake changes this whole sequence to a tedious boss battle, making something that was once nuanced and interesting into a rote back-and-forth fight, because... well, that bit was weird, wasn't it? Obviously it wasn't supposed to be like that. It was supposed to be boring and stupid.
I could go on, but you get it. Character, charm, quirkiness and surprises that would arise from the game's design have been replaced by the expected homogenous bollocks, simply because it's a video game, and this is what video games have to be like now, I guess.
Excuse the extremely in-character whinging. Rayman Redemption is still very impressive, and the myriad changes will make it a better game for many. It's far easier, and in places that difficulty is managed sensibly - the ability to permanently upgrade your health is cool, as is the store full of items you can purchase for another leg-up. Overall though, it feels like yet another step towards the encroaching beige of the HD remake.
Sassa frassa rassa Rayman Redemption.