Rayman 3 Hoodlum Havoc is likely the least known of the Rayman games for many reasons. For one, it hasn't been ported to every gaming platform under the sun and compared to the monumental critical and commercial success of Rayman 2, Rayman 3's reception was rather mediocre. And in truth it was mediocre. In honor of Rayman's 20th Anniversary, let's look at some of the failings of the black sheep of the family, Rayman 3.
Rayman 3 was the first Rayman game to not be directed by series creator Michel Ancel, who was busy with Beyond Good and Evil at the the time. Ancel stayed on only as a design consultant for Rayman's new look, the design of environments, and other things. Going from Rayman 2 to Rayman 3 there's a massive change in tone and characterization. The first Rayman was a bizarre adventure through a dream world of many landscapes. Rayman 2 took a more consistent and serious approach to its world, creating lore, connecting environments and a pantheon of races and gods. Rayman 3 takes the consistency of Rayman 2's design, adds in many fairy tale-esque locales, and then unfortunately combines it with the tone of the ill-fated Rayman Animated Series.
The introduction into Rayman 3's "humor" is your tutorial guide, Murfy, the greenbottle from Rayman 2. With his sleazy hollywood producer attitude, Murfy quickly begins breaking the fourth wall by insulting the lore and past of the Rayman games and then making crude jokes and sexual innuendos as he argues with the game's virtual manual. Rayman is a little less whimsical and a little more Sonic-style cool, and it isn't exactly flattering. Even his pal Globox comments that Rayman isn't as pleasant as he was in Rayman 2. The Teensies have all become stereotypical old jewish men, and just about every other character is some sort of racial stereotype. While these things on there own don't spell out terrible humor, the writing just doesn't hold up. I usually see Rayman's humor as mostly silent, physical, slapstick and the constant barrage of silly voices and quips doesn't work well at all.
In terms of gameplay, Rayman 3 is not a bad game. Controls are tight, getting power-ups is fun and the game has enough collectibles littering some great looking environments to warrant a bit of exploration. But when you're coming from Rayman 2, a game praised by many for revolutionizing 3D gameplay, it's just a step down in several ways.
First off, the game has a poor setup. I've always believed you can judge the quality of a game based on how the tutorial is laid out. Rayman 3's tutorial a lot of worthless fluff. After the opening cutscene where Andre, the game's main antagonist, turns red lums black and then into Hoodlums, the game's basic fodder enemy, and Globox runs off with Rayman's hands. If you're unfamiliar with the Rayman series and all this terminology has gone over your head, all you need to know is that without hands you can't punch things, which is what Rayman does best. Imagine Mario losing his feet.
In the first instance of playing, you're actually controlling Murfy carrying Rayman as he flies through an on-rails segment where you're tasked to fly through a certain number of red lums before progressing. It's strange Rayman 3 starts with collecting red lums when red lums are health items and jewels are the true collectible. Then our hand-less hero walks through a few areas collecting jewels and kicking things as Murfy does his previously mentioned "comedy" routine until breaking Globox out of a barrel to retrieve his hands. From then on you get a good grasp of the actual core gameplay, but the first half of the tutorial is worthless fluff that poorly represents the full game.
Something positive and unique to Rayman 3 is the point system. When defeating an enemy or collecting a jewel, players earn points. Accumulating points in quick succession builds up a second tier of extra combo points along with the regular points. Once scoring stops, all the points are collected into one counter. These points determine your score in the level and there are tiers of rewards for reaching certain thresholds in each playthrough that grant extra modes and minigames to play. It's nice to have beating enemies amount to more than just overcoming oan obstacle. An in-depth look at the scoring system can be found here.
In a surprising twist, Rayman 3 is one of the easiest platformer-action games I've ever played. I was 11 when Rayman 3 was first released, and even then I could tell Rayman 3 was an easy game. On top of that, Rayman 3 is wholly linear. There's no abilities gained later in the game to go back to previous levels and access new areas or find more teensie cages. The only reward-based reason to revisit a level would be a higher score. On a positive note, Rayman 3's level design is much more aesthetically varied and while they aren't as over-the-top as Rayman, the environments are much more visually distinct than Rayman 2's levels. Plus it has a pretty awesome soundtrack.
While Rayman 3 looks good, its gameplay is simplistic and the writing is pretty obnoxious. It's these factors that make Rayman 3 such an underwhelming entry compared to the critical and commercial success the other games have, and this is coming from someone who enjoys the game. It's clear that Rayman just doesn't have the right stuff if Michel Ancel isn't involved, and it shows in Rayman 3, seeing how aesthetics and character designs are the only things the game really got right. Other than that, Rayman 3 might as well be seen as some foreign made bootleg.