HE’S always legless, but that doesn’t stop Rayman from doing his job. You could say he has some neck, but, well, he doesn’t have any neck at all. He doesn’t even have any arms!

French icon Rayman may be missing vital limbs, but that’s never held him back. He swings from ropes, jumps over crevasses, fights pirates and raving rabbids — the man (thing?) has been on countless swashbuckling adventures over the years.

He’s made his mark on pretty much every console in that time, and now he’s doing the same on mobile.

Rayman Adventures has just been released on Android and it’s a treat. There was a time when platform games on mobile were stiff and clunky, far removed from their console brethren. This piece of software shows how far the genre has come on touchscreens. Like other ‘free-running’ games, you don’t press down a direction to keep Rayman running — instead, you simply swipe to choose the direction he takes. You tap the screen to jump, and swipe again to attack. It’s pretty simple stuff, but Ubisoft has really nailed the controls here, resulting in a very accessible, smooth, and responsive method of controlling Rayman. You’ll rarely feel like the controls let you down.

Naturally, however, the level design is limited by this type of touchscreen experience, because gamers only have so much control over the character. Ubisoft have done a great job of mixing things up where possible, but this Rayman can’t quite compare to his console counterparts in that regard. On the other hand, the graphics and presentation are surprisingly close to Rayman Legends, which is astonishing considering the limitations of Android hardware. In fact, the colourful characters and animation, in tangent with the silky smooth controls, is what makes Adventures a clear step above other free-running Android games.

There’s plenty of content, too, even if the confusing layout can take some getting used to. For the most part, you’ll be collecting little sidekick monsters that accompany you on levels, each one adding a special ability to your arsenal. Some reveal secret items, others protect you from damage, others hover up collectibles, and so on. At the end of each section, you’re rewarded with another monster egg, which takes time to hatch. If you’re willing to pay, the eggs can be hatched immediately. If not, you’ll need to wait — sometimes for hours — for the egg to become available. Rayman Adventures is free-to-play, but the price structure is largely fair for the full experience, should you choose to pay for it. As free-to-play titles go, this one has been constructed with love. Shine on, Rayman!

DEVELOPERS DIVERSIFY

Michel Ancel, the Frenchman who created Rayman, has never been shy of pushing the boundaries in gaming. But like most developers, he’s male. In 2014, the International Games Developers Association released figures that showed only 22% of developers were female, but that trend may be changing.

In the US, where the majority of big developers still reside, the University of Southern California (USC) has enrolled 12 women and seven men to its graduate programme this year — in 2011, that figure was 15 men and five women. USC is considered the top games development course in America, so these figures are a welcome sign of improving diversity in the industry. One of Ireland’s leading games development courses, the University of Limerick’s BA in Science Games Development, currently has a ratio of ten men to one woman.

LAOIS LEAPS

Timahoe National School students Laura Miller and Sinead Buggy, who won the Intel Mini-Scientist award for their game Labrador Leaps, are proof that game development is now accessible to even the youngest bright thinkers.

Miller and Buggy created “a game for the blind”, one in which visually impaired users are prompted by sound. The game involves a dog jumping over cats, with bones on the ground making sounds that indicate when the cat will appear. It may not be Half-Life 3, but Labrador Leaps is a lovely example of gaming with soul. It’s a simple idea, one designed to bring joy to someone who traditionally can’t play video games. Plus, if players need to take a break, it probably has a paws button!


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