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Portabliss: Rayman Jungle Run (iOS / Android)


This is Portabliss, a column about downloadable games that can be played on the go.

I think I'm starting to understand a paradox embraced by the level designers of Rayman Jungle Run. To do good, and to earn praise from their players, they must do evil. They must string together chasms, ropes, hills and hazards in a way that rewards concentration and casts failure into a bottomless pit. It's a thankless job that thrives on devious impulses, and I am grateful for it.

Rayman Jungle Run is a mean, clever purification of Ubisoft's console game, Rayman Origins. The immediate reward of playing it can be seen in the gorgeous 2D artwork, which is vivid proof of the UbiArt engine running well on mobile platforms. There's more personality crammed into Rayman's spirited run than you'll find in the entirety of some other games – and he doesn't even have a leg to stand on.

Gallery: Rayman Jungle Run | 4 Photos

Rayman dashes through the environment automatically, relegating the jumping, hovering and punching to quick taps and holds on the touch screen. It's elegant because it does away with the dreaded virtual d-pad, and exciting because it makes a quick pace mandatory. The auto-run genre thrives on this feeling of locomotion and last-minute reactions, but Rayman Jungle Run is closer to Sonic the Hedgehog than Canabalt.

The level design really narrows your focus to the immediate path ahead, giving you just enough visual information to connect the obstacles and pinball yourself over hills, up walls, and into gusts of wind that carry you through prickly passages. The firefly-like Lums littering the levels give you a rough idea of when and where you should jump, though even they can conspire with the designers in a few nasty "gotcha" moments. They'd be infuriating if it weren't for the the instant restarts, and less fun if they weren't so perfectly timed with the onset of hubris.

With forty levels lined up (four of which deserve a schadenfreude laugh track), Rayman Jungle Run offers a hearty helping of taut platforming – via a nearly demoralizing number of d'oh deaths. The best evil, it seems, always comes from a good place.
Rayman Jungle Run is available on iOS and Android for $2.99. This review is based on the iOS version, played on an iPhone 4S. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.

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