Whenever console games come to mobile devices, there’s always that sense of dread to see what won’t carry over. Rayman had a relatively good run with Gameloft, but last year’s Rayman: Jungle Run put him back in Ubisoft’s capable hands, using the very same engine and assets as Rayman Origins. Much as we all fear, it was simplified into a runner; a speed-platformer on rails where Rayman never stops bolting forward.
Ordinarily this would be a disappointment, but Jungle Run succeeded where others have failed by taking its simplified gameplay seriously and delivering some incredibly polished, addictive design. Now, Ubi has returned with Fiesta Run, a game that hopes to build on that success with a bigger, better game. The fundamentals really haven’t changed. The simple controls, moves and mechanics are virtually untouched, but the presentation and value have gotten a huge shot in the arm.
Just as in Jungle Run this is a speed platformer, with notes of Sonic the Hedgehog in addition to Rayman. Rayman runs forward automatically, and you can simply tap anywhere to jump, tap again to glide, and hit a button to attack. There are no directional controls at all, although you can kick-jump off of walls to change your direction.
This all sounds pretty similar to other side-scrolling runners, but where Rayman succeeds is in its level design. The levels are incredibly dynamic, often collapsing, growing, or spinning as you dash through them. Unlike Jungle Run, this Latin-flavored sequel is a genuinely challenging as well. Every level has 100 lums to collect, and this often requires nearly perfect execution. When pulled off, a perfect run is a thing of beauty as all the many dynamic components of a level fall perfectly into place at just the right time. There’s an incredible satisfaction to a good run, thanks to the careful level layouts.
The graphics have received a nice bump up as well, to maintain parity with Rayman Legends. The cheap-looking vector sprites of old have been jettisoned in favor of hand-painted characters. All of the animations are hilariously exaggerated and Rayman and Globox in particular are incredibly expressive. The environments are even more impressive, made up of layers of hand painted elements, but always brimming with life and animation. This is every bit as beautiful as its console counterpart, and despite being a primarily 2D affair, it’ll tax all but the highest end phones pretty hard.
Jungle Run felt like it was over as soon as it started. A lot of this was due to the low challenge rather than the dearth of levels. Fiesta Run packs a comparable number of stages, but introduces new harder variations unlocked by collecting all the lums in a stage. These stages seriously alter the layouts in addition to adding new traps and hazards and the increased challenge makes them the most rewarding part of the game, in addition to effectively doubling its size.
This is ultimately why Fiesta Run work. It’s not meant as a dumbing down of the console series; just a simpler interpretation to suit the control limitations of the platform. It might be disappointing that the exploration element is gone, but there’s nothing “casual” about Fiesta Run. Its simple, challenging gameplay has plenty to offer the seasoned vet.