4. Level 9 – The Sanctuary of Stone and Fire (Rayman 2)
I hate this level. I might as well end it there because that is all I can really say about this level. I hate it. Only joking, they say you can always write more about what you hate than what you love, and boy is that ever true with this god-forsaken level.
Rayman 2 was a very drastic departure from Rayman 1. The franchise itself seemed, at this point at least, to pride itself in being almost impossible to complete, despite looking like a game marketed to children.
Where Rayman 2 departed from its predecessor was mainly in the mechanics of its gameplay: the original Rayman was a standard 2D platformer but because of its lack of 3D depth, and because it was released in 1995 when 2D platformers as the standard for games were on the way out, the manufacturers were given free license to redirect the budget into wonderful graphics that still hold up today for the most part, and a breathtaking soundtrack that perfectly complimented every level you were on.
The second Rayman was the first to venture into a 3D world, and the protagonist was given many of the skills right from the get go that his 2D counterpart had to slave and fight for. The combat mechanics had changed also. For instance, in Rayman 2, instead of punching, you could throw energy orbs at enemies, which could be charged before throwing to increase damage. Originally released in 1999, four years after the original, the game was critically acclaimed and is considered to have raised standards regarding 3D, level design and gameplay. It is also ranked in IGN’s top 100 games of all time.
But for all its qualifies and pluses, of which there are many, this level really made me want to chew my controller up and spit it out like bullets (imagine the villain from The Mask).
The level is designed like a labyrinth, with many dead-ends and detours which can cause quite a great deal of frustration. As well as that, most of the level takes place over a lake of lava, over which Rayman has to swing from giant purple plum to giant purple plum, with only unsteady small terrain to stand on. Not only this, but you’ll also have enemies attack you, as if it’s not difficult enough. The margin for error in this level is laughably small, and because of the positioning of the camera (which is above Rayman) it sometimes proves difficult to gain a sense of depth. So basically, sometimes you can’t even tell how far away the giant plums, onto which you have to jump to avoid the lava, are positioned. More often than not, you will misjudge it and have to start again. And again. And again.
This level really made you work. Not only that, but you had to have a certain amount of lums (small balls of energy you pick up during the course of the game, the amount of which determining how far you can progress) to even get to this level. If you don’t have enough, you have to go back and get more, risking losing more lives in the process.
This level was a fully-fledged nightmare for late 90s and early 2000s gamers, and for many, it would be one level they would never actually get past.