Friday, April 18, 2014

Feature Friday #6 - Rayman Fiesta Run

Every Friday on our blog I’ll feature a game that’s doing something unique, innovative, and truly noteworthy. This isn’t just an app review; it’s an analytical look at a fresh game from the perspective of someone within the game industry. ~~~ In the spirit of promoting indie games and new ideas, I try not to write about big games from huge publishers, but this week I’ll make an exception. Rayman Fiesta Run is the followup to the popular Rayman Jungle Run, a mobile spinoff of the nearly 30-year-old Ubisoft franchise. The autorunning collectathon (gameplay is virtually identical between the two, a point I’ll get to later on) may not be revolutionary, but its not yet beaten to death either, and these games are a great example of what the genre should strive to be. The physics feel right, the graphics are spectacular, and there’s enough nostalgia without feeling like they’re banking on the brand alone - good stuff all around for these games. Despite the similarities I’m going to focus on Fiesta Run, the later release, and how it feels given the scale at which it was developed. Holding Ubisoft and the Rayman franchise to a higher standard is completely valid, as these names were factors to my downloading (and paying for) the game in the first place, not to mention the expectations coming from a AAA studio on mobile should be appropriately elevated. (To backtrack a bit, I bought Rayman Jungle Run largely due to name recognition and critical acclaim; I purchased the sequel because I’d enjoyed the first so much.) Without these factors, the game would’ve fallen in among the countless other games that receive positive reviews, but none of my money. Creating a sequel, much less a full franchise, is a tricky proposition because past experiences inherently influence expectations. Users have invested their time and money into the style of game, the story behind it, even the franchise itself - and they’re expecting that investment to pay off. Rayman benefits from this initial foot in the door, but it’s also provided its own standard for fans of the franchise. In this sense, Fiesta Run fully lives up to expectations. The graphics are among the best I’ve seen on mobile and stick to the franchise’s roots. I personally don’t love the autorunning genre, but the constant misdirection and changes of scenery do a lot to keep my interest. This is a game you truly have to see to appreciate, and there’s no way to do it justice with words. Hours of gameplay that are truly as challenging as they are fair, plus the option to advance even without 100% completion should satisfy casual players as well as perfectionists. That’s not to say, however, that Fiesta Run is perfect. Slapping “Rayman” on the title may warrant a premium price tag, but seemingly minor features detract from the game’s overall value. First and foremost, this game is virtually identical to the original, Rayman Jungle Run. If you’ve played this title already, most of what you’re paying for is a new level pack. If you couldn’t get enough disjointed autorunning from the original, this game is totally worth it, but the lack of real innovation felt a little cheap. The biggest change between the two is the transition from Angry Birds-style level selection to a saga-like map, full of challenges and goodies like the ability to unlock cosmetic upgrades.

Which do you prefer?

This is a fun change and gives the game a more open feel, but also slows things down. You’re forced to watch your path grow after each level you complete, and the map centers to what you’ve just unlocked rather than the level you finished last. Small changes, admittedly, but significant time-sinks at scale and the latter particularly irks my sense of order since I was used to playing levels in a sequence. The game offers both cosmetic improvements and in-game powerups as IAP, and really seems to give a fair amount of currency, Lums. Because the game isn’t stingy I don’t mind the presence of IAP or the bonus 500 Lums for Facebook integration, but something about this rubs me the wrong way too. This is a paid game from a huge company and they won’t leave the microtransactions alone (maybe that’s how they became a huge company…). The packs of Lums ranging up to $9.99 also sting me a bit, especially given how much the game pushes powerups at the start of each level, and the fact that some really do seem “pay to win”. (I should clarify, one powerup shows you the route necessary to get all 100 Lums in a given level, taking away the problem solving aspect of the game, and turning it solely into a coordination test. It’s worth noting, though, this effect only lasts for one round, so even with a track to follow, if you die you have to re-buy.) Again, the rate at which you earn Lums to spend them seems fair, but the IAPs still feel a little off. All things considered, Fiesta Run is a great game on its own and does plenty to honor the Rayman franchise. Despite an ever-growing toolbox of premier development tools, a divide remains between large studios and indie developers, and a game’s resources and pedigree cannot be ignored in how we evaluate its success. Neither can its accomplishments, though, and Rayman Fiesta Run certainly has plenty to be proud of. ~~~
Rayman Fiesta Run is available for $2.99 on iOS and just $0.99 on Android as of this writing! It’s predecessor, Rayman Jungle Run, is $2.99 on both platforms. Both games are a ton of fun, though their similarities may make whichever you play second a bit redundant. Josh Dombro Community Manager

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