The story comes out of a conversation with the "Final Boss" (as it says on the man's business card) of French outfit Pasta Games Fabien Delpiano, as we ask the developer exactly how his team landed the conversion of Rayman onto mobile.
He explains how he'd been handed a copy of last year's Rayman Origins by its creator Michel Ancel, after being introduced to the man by a mutual friend and talk had turned to Delpiano's day job as a mobile developer.
That mutual friend being Jordan Mechner, creator of Prince of Persia.
Whatever else was discussed during their chat, conversation turned to Ancel's desire to bring Rayman to mobile and a wider audience by way of a demo. Fabien and the team at Pasta Games were perfect candidates given their history. Right place, right time.
Delpiano said no. Already near-smothered by his workload, he knew he couldn't find the time. Yet Ancel managed to convince him - the man's own quality of work, along with the emphasis that it was now or never (the six months later that Delpiano projected as the earliest he could commit much too late).
What resulted was a collaborative process between Rayman's creator and the new team. Ancel dismissed the idea of a virtual pad immediately, finding it too unwieldy, lacking precision. Pre-Origins, a one touch Rayman offshoot wouldn't be entirely preposterous. Yet such a game based on the Origins template would seemingly disembowel the game entirely.
The compromise however works - a free-running Rayman were player input is stripped down to just single (and double) screen taps to jump walls and avoid traps on a route that'll collect all the level's Lums before reaching the goal at the course's end.
But even before we talk controls, its fair to mention that this looks exactly like its older brother. Pasta Games carefully unpacked the game's UbiArt Framework engine node for node, resembling it in smaller, leaner form for mobile consumption that's an effective mimicry.
This is a game that's been built to run on an iPhone 3GS up, and the multitude of Android devices. We play today's build - a mostly unlocked version of the four worlds and the ten levels contained within each - on an iPad, but we see other tablets and smartphone versions littered around the game's Ubisoft Digital Days booth, testing of each only curtailed due to the crowds that persist throughout the entirety of the event's seven and half hour running time.
Each world introduces a new skill - effectively dismembering the bare basics of Rayman's move set and offering them up as epic progression unlocks. So we start with the basic jump, then add the ability to hover by holding rather than tapping the screen. Wall runs are next and finally the ability to punch (the team dropping an extra button on screen to juggle the two-touch approach).
Even introducing these moves caused consternation within the team during development, Fabien explaining if the team couldn't get the latter two working to satisfaction (theirs or Ancel's), four worlds would become two in the final release.
So Rayman runs without input from the player. All we have to do is tap at the right time. The levels sampled don't reach the painful beauty of Origins' latter stages, but that's not to dismiss them as simplistic. Bounce off a wall correctly and Rayman will alter course from left to right to right to left - important for discovering alternate pathways and picking up all the Lums, and secrets, of each level. Get all 100 Lums and you earn a Tooth - get them all and each world's tenth level - a suicide run in the style of the Treasure chases of Origins is unlocked. Each one will host leaderboard rankings.
In play the levels are oddly relaxing even with the need for fast tapping fingers, but there's a thought that unlike other mobile titles of similar form Jungle Run's longevity doesn't stretch as far. There's little variation beyond working out the correct route and timings to hit the 100% success rate on each level, and even with the ability to unlock artwork galleries, it's likely the leaderboard element that'll be the single sustaining feature of Jungle Run beyond initial completion. And given the small download size (somewhere between 30 -50MB) means only a handful of music tracks from Origins are carried over: for the first time the otherwise excellent score may grind due to repetition.
However, if it does well the team will more than likely return for more, suggesting like its mobile peers, ongoing updates could expand the game's lifespan. If not thought Pasta Games already have their own projects to work on. A case then of voting with your wallets (the game will be a couple of quid on release) if you want to see the brand continue on mobile. After an afternoon's enjoyable play through some of the levels, we know we will.
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