Don't let the gorgeous hand-painted graphics and catchy Caribbean music fool you - Rayman Fiesta Run is tough.
A few months after Ubisoft released their popular revival of the Rayman character, Rayman Origins, they followed it up with a mobile spin-off called Rayman Jungle Run. Rather than a full version of Origins seen on game consoles and PC, it was specially crafted for mobile phones and tablets, a deceptively simple "one touch" game.
Rather than being under the player's full control, the titular hero would simply run, and the player would touch the left side of the screen to make him jump and later touch and hold to make him glide. Later still, a second control was introduced, and touching the right side of the screen would make him attack.
It was all deceptively simple, with these easy to learn controls and the game's toe-tapping music and colourful hand-drawn graphics making it look like an easy, casual time-waster.
Nothing could have been further from the truth, however. Over the course of the game's 40 levels, later expanded to 70 thanks to some free add-on packs, gameplay gradually increased in complexity until it was downright fiendish. At the same time, it also, somehow, became even more addictive.
I hooked a lot of people on Jungle Run. One game journalist I know cursed me at a social gathering because he'd played it all night instead of writing and had almost missed a publication deadline. Even my mother-in-law, who never plays video games, got hooked on it.
Late last year, history repeated itself. Ubisoft finally released the long-awaited sequel to Origins, Rayman Legends, and also a corresponding mobile game, titled Rayman Fiesta Run.
Very little has changed since Jungle Run. Fiesta run is slightly prettier than before, with lush hand-painted landscapes and characters looking gorgeous on a new generation of high-resolution screens, and it has a lot more levels; the initial release has well over 70, and this may increase in future if Ubisoft once again adds free expansions. Once again, players are controlling Rayman with simple taps on the screen of their phone or tablet.
The core gameplay remains the same, a combination of twitch reflexes and memory. The only thing that's really changed is the format of the levels. In the original game, each pack of levels consisted of nine increasingly difficult stages based around a certain gameplay mechanic, such as gliding or wall-running. After perfecting all of these, a tenth level would unlock, a devilishly difficult and deadly bonus stage that would test players' skills to their limits.
In Fiesta Run, every level comes in two flavours. After completing the standard version and collecting 100% of its treasures, a harder version is unlocked. While it usually has a similar layout and rhythm to the easier version, it is far more complex and challenging, and it's usually much easier to get poor little Rayman killed. Completing levels lights up a path through the world, unlocking access to later levels.
The great thing about this game and its predecessor is that there is so little time commitment. A complete run through a level takes no more than two minutes, and some of the shorter ones are less than a minute. This means that as difficult as the game sometimes gets, trying again from the beginning rarely costs more than a minute of your time. This also makes it ideal for sneaking in a few quick games on the bus or in the doctor's waiting room.
There is also some good news for those who found the first game too difficult. The challenge level has not been reduced at all, but you now have the option of spending the points you collect in the game (little yellow creatures called Lums) and buying tools to give you a helping hand. If a level is giving you a hard time, you can spend a few Lums to get a heart that lets you recover from one death, or a magic boxing glove that makes your attacks more powerful. Purists (like me) will refuse to buy them, but some players will be very glad to have the option available.
Overall, Rayman Fiesta Run is a generous package, jamming many hours of fun into a lighweight mobile download that will only set you back around three bucks. I have put at least ten hours into it, broken up into short sessions before bed or while eating lunch, so I have obtained tremendous value from such a cheap purchase.
It's not for everyone - at least one friend of mine found it too frustrating and had to stop playing it - but if it gets its hooks into you, it won't let you go until you've finished every level. You'll be humming that music, too.
- James "DexX" Dominguez
Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez