Rayman Jungle Run isn't a game that dawdles, so neither will I: it's excellent. Ubisoft's latest mobile endeavour straddles the largely untapped middle-ground between a conventional platformer and the ceaseless stream of endless running games that absolutely dominate the App Store, and is one of the strongest mobile titles in a long while because of it.
What Ubisoft has done here, then, is made it so you can't control the speed or direction of Ubisoft's spaghetti-haired protagonist. So far so Canabalt, but Jungle Run's levels are 40 short, authored stages instead of one never-ending randomised course.
Switching to the automatic running is a seamless transition, especially when you recall the gung-ho momentum of chasing those treasure chests in Rayman Origins. But now you're on the hunt for a hundred golden Lums in each stage, and the rush of our limbless hero's bouncy, precise movement is effortlessly retained as you follow these snaking trails of collectibles to each course's finish line.
Jungle Run works so well because it remembers that the core joy of platform games comes from the kinetic thrill of movement, and it conveys it even from the simple jogging on the spot animation that introduces each sprint. These are tests of reaction but mostly of memory, so you'll need to have multiple goes if you want to perfect each level, many of which tuck a few Lums off the beaten path to test your understanding of the mechanics.
There's a bouncy charm to each tap of the screen, and as the levels unfurl you'll get additional tricks in the form of bashing enemies, running up walls and using Rayman's iconic hair to hover over platforms and navigate across plumes of windy currents. The latter move slows down the pace of the game somewhat, but not enough to seriously detract from any of the game's harmonious zip.
Gobble up all the Lums and you'll amass the Grim Reaper's tardy teeth, which in turn open the game's Land of the Dead bonus levels. These are the meat of the experience, putting your reactions and timing to the test across extended stages peppered with tricky challenges. These bonuses and extras add a perceptible bulk to the game, too, which otherwise would have been a bit too short to hold anyone's attention for very long. Couple it with the absolutely delightful presentation - playing Rayman Jungle Run feels a bit like those moments in 2008 when everyone was continually dumbstruck by what developers were managing to achieve on mobile phones - and you're clearly looking at one of the finest mobile titles in a year sadly mired by underwhelming clones and safe sequels.
Hopefully the quality of Rayman Jungle Run will herald a wave of developers rethinking how to transition their titles to mobile, hopefully making it so we can all live in a world free of dodgy virtual d-pads. I imagine, though, that natural simplicity and finesse of Rayman Jungle Run will just lead to loads more games that are a lot like Rayman Jungle Run.
Version Tested: iPad