It had been ages- months, maybe even over a year- since I had played one of my favourite PC games. The game, called 'Rayman', was quite an old one but it had not lost any charm over the years. Because it had been made sometime around 1995, I needed an emulator to run it on my somewhat modern Windows 7 laptop. I had actually been looking through my DVD collection when I found the game; I must have misplaced it after finally quitting in frustration and getting caught up in all my other games, including some of the Rayman educational spinoffs I had bought just for the sake of having them. I gently wiped some dust off the otherwise unspoiled disk and eagerly inserted it into the laptop, then started the game up through an emulator. To my disappointment, it seemed that for some reason I needed to reinstall it. Perhaps I had gone and deleted the original installed files by accident some time ago. Had my two previous save files and progress been deleted as well? They probably had. ‘Rayman’ was a very challenging and sometimes frustrating game to complete, but the thought of starting over from the beginning still didn't put me off, so I reinstalled the game. If I was going to play it after all this time, it wouldn’t hurt to start from the beginning again.
Once I had reinstalled ‘Rayman’, I skipped the intro, selected the third out of the three empty save slots and began to play. Aside from a few emulator bugs, such as stuttering and incorrect game speed, it was fine. I played for about an hour and a half before finally deciding to take a break. After closed the game and the emulator, I checked back through the folder I had installed it into, with the slightest hope of perhaps figuring out where my old game progress had disappeared to. I didn't find it, however, underneath the "RAYMAN" batch file and "RAYMAN" folder there was a file named "THANKYOUFORPLAYINGRAYMAN_UNFIN.exe". I may not have played Rayman in ages, but I didn’t remember that being there the first time I installed the game, and I had poked around through the game’s files quite a few times back then. Maybe it was supposed to be there? Maybe something had gone wrong with my first installation that caused the files to delete themselves over time? I was no expert when it came to the way computers and program files worked, so I just left the file there.
Over the next week or two, I played ‘Rayman’ fairly often, usually in sessions no longer than half an hour to avoid getting myself too frustrated. At one point I had tried to open the " THANKYOUFORPLAYINGRAYMAN _UNFIN" executable file, but all I got was an error message, so I left it. After around two or so months- I wasn't really keeping a record of how long it took- I had freed every cage of electoons and unlocked the final world, Candy Chateau, in which I would battle Mr Dark! I was certainly excited, as I hadn't progressed this far in my previous save files. But first, I saved my game and gave it a rest. I wasn't in the mood for the final stage just yet.
The next day, I browsed the folder in which I kept the old PC games I'd installed. When I came across the "RAYMAN" folder, I noticed that the mysterious " THANKYOUFORPLAYINGRAYMAN _UNFIN.exe" file had somehow been replaced by " THANKYOUFORPLAYINGRAYMAN _END.exe". Curious about the subtle name change, I double clicked it, and to my surprise it ran the Rayman game without an emulator! However, it showed clear signs of incompatibility with my computer as it seemed very glitched, almost corrupted. The intro screen music was stuttering and skipping and the sprites were flickering awkward colours in the intro animation. The title screen had unusual saturation and brightly contrasted colours, which I guessed was a typical result of running an incompatible game without an emulator. I selected "Load Game" and my heart nearly skipped a beat when I saw my two earlier save files there! I had humorously named the first one "RAY" and the second one "MAN". The third save file, strangely, was my recent one I had named "AAA" out of pure laziness, but for some odd reason, where the number of lives for that save file would be there was only a blank space, same for the number of "Continues" for the game over screen. Next to the little smiling clock icon there was only a blank space. What really interested me was that my completion percentage for save file AAA was now 101%. The game must have encountered a glitch when trying to put my recent save file with my older save files, which I had thought were long gone. "RAY" and "MAN" both had a visible number of lives and continues, and completion percentages around only 40% and 25% respectively.
When I opened save file "AAA" and the map screen loaded, the black binocular-shaped vignette was absent and the background had a dark, contrasted appearance. The level medallions, rather than showing smiling electoon faces to show that I had broken every cage for each level, simply showed six pink dots. I thought that might have been cut out of a prototype version of Rayman. As I moved around the map from level to level, I couldn't help but notice the worlds had different names than usual. The Dream Forest had become "JUNGLE", the Blue Mountains were "MOUNTAIN", the Caves of Skops were "CAVE", Band Land had become "MUSIC" and Picture city was named "IMAGE". Those were the respective names given for each world in the game’s files. Most of the individual levels were unnamed, but the levels with names gave me an odd feeling when I read them. The Swamps of Forgetfulness had the name "NOSWIM_FLOR", which I guessed had something to do with the floods and using giant flowers to escape them. Mr Stone's Peaks was renamed, or had possibly been renamed from, "NOMUS_GUI" which obviously related to the Musician character having his guitar crushed under a rock. Mr Skops' stalactites was named "RUN_MONST", perhaps since part of the level involves chasing the monster-like boss known as Mr Skops. There only level name I couldn't make sense of was Mr Dark's Dare, which had been renamed to "UNFIN". Was something somewhere unfinished?
The unnamed levels were pretty much unplayable. I only tried a few of them but when I did, there was nothing in the level but a small platform on which Rayman stood, and the only control that worked was the left arrow, which made him walk into the exit sign and leave the level. Also, the backgrounds were less saturated than usual, in other words they were more greyish than colourful. It was clear that I was far better off just running the game through the emulator, but I wanted to see what else was in this bugged version. Maybe I would find something odd and funny. When I tried to play "NOSWIM_FLOR", aside from the darker, greyish background, the level looked just like the beginning of the Swamps of Forgetfulness. However, Tarayzan didn't mumble gibberish and pull embarrassed faces as he hid behind a bush and pointed up at his clothes, which were hanging from a branch above him. Instead, he just pointed up at them silently with a blank look, moving only in a subtle 'idle breathing' animation. I felt a bit excited here, as this was either a really cool glitch or an unfinished version of the character's animations. I also noticed that the "Back arrow" sign was only a blank wooden sign, and nothing happened when Rayman walked over to it so I was stuck in this level.
I made Rayman jump and punch Tarayzan's clothes off the branch as the game intended. When Tarayzan put his clothes back on and jumped out from behind the bush, the picture of Tarayzan holding a magic seed didn't appear, just a black screen and some text reading "When nature tries to end you, fight back, use nature to your advantage". I didn't know whether to chuckle at the line or feel somewhat disturbed by it. After Rayman collected the magic seed, Tarayzan didn't jump into the trees and yodel; he just stood there, watching Rayman. His expression seemed blank and his eyes looked rather glassy.Shrugging, I planted the first seed and jumped onto the tall flower it sprouted- which was had an odd pink tint to it- as the water began to suddenly rise as usual. I couldn't help but feel a bit uncomfortable when I noticed Tarayzan still standing there, now staring up at Rayman, as the water began to rise over his head. I was glad that didn't happen when the game ran normally, as it had rather morbid implications... I decided to let that thought go for a while and I progressed further up the level, avoiding the rising flood waters. All the enemies in the level had been replaced with glitchy-looking boxes of flickering static that disappeared when punched.
The next section of The Swamps of Forgetfulness- known as NOSWIM_FLOR in this version- looked a lot like the last, with the dull background and corrupted enemy sprites. None of the animated background features, such as mushrooms and dancing flowers, were there. The music, to my slight concern, had been replaced by a slow yet tense ambience that sounded strangely out of place for a forest-themed level, and every sound effect echoed as if were recorded in a large, empty room. I had no problem completing the second section of the level, and once again I was beginning to believe that this THANKYOUFORPLAYINGRAYMAN _END was just a buggy, unfinished version of Rayman, which had been given a lighter mood somewhere later in development.
The third section, however, was very different to that of the Swamps of Forgetfulness. Rayman was standing in the middle of a small, flat, grassy platform, with bundles of spiked red fruits on either side of him. The only way to go was up, as Rayman was standing directly under a yellow climbing vine. As soon as Rayman grasped it, the usual cheery Dream Forest music began playing, and I could not get Rayman to jump off or let go of the vine. I must have spent at least a full forty-five seconds climbing up this seemingly endless vine. As Rayman climbed higher and higher, the background began to slowly sink out of view leaving only black space behind, as it would if anyone were to travel up that high by some glitch. The cheery music eventually began to stutter and distort, until the level abruptly ended and I was back at the world map.
“What a weird way to end that.” I said to myself. I moved over to one of my favourite levels, Mr Stone’s Peaks, or “NOMUS_GUI”. When I entered that level, there was no background music, just ambient sounds like wind and the echoing calls of distant birds. The background and scenery was normal, instead of dark and gloomy like the last level. However, outside the house at the beginning of the level, the Musician’s wife and child weren’t there, and there was no boulder crushing the Musician’s guitar, either. The guitar was just lying on the ground in front of the Musician, who was sitting in his usual spot with an expression that looked unusually gloomy. Of course, at the beginning of Mr Stone’s Peaks, the Musician should have been crying somewhat comically over the loss of his guitar, but in NOMUS_GUI, the guitar was undamaged yet he was gazing into the sky with a look of misery, rocking back and forth slightly with tears occasionally dripping from his sad eyes.
It actually took me a while to notice his hands. The Musician’s hands looked like all his fingers had been bandaged together. Then I guessed it was no wonder he was upset, his fingers had been injured so he couldn’t even play his guitar! But how was I going to get the super helicopter potion? After all, I couldn’t go any further into the level without it. Not that I really needed to, since I had already completed Mr Stone’s Peaks ages ago, but I wanted to see what else was in this ‘glitched’ version of the game. Without any real cue or trigger, the Musician snapped out of his gloomy trance and turned his head to look at Rayman. The screen went black again and some text appeared, reading “Just be careful out there. The Blue Mountains are a cold, lonely place after all”. Then a bottle of helicopter potion appeared on the ground in front of Rayman. I picked it up and flew forward into the level.
As I flew Rayman deeper into the mountains, I noticed some parts the level layout were a little different. It was actually easier to navigate through. I also began to notice something very off, something that I don’t think matched any sprites I had seen in the game before. There seemed to be a lot of… Junk… embedded into the mountains. Just trashy stuff, growing thicker and more noticeable further into the level. It was beginning to look like a junkyard, almost a bit post-apocalyptic. I didn’t find it ‘scary’ at all, just really, really weird, and a lot ‘darker’. It was a bit sad, actually, to think that the Blue Mountains had been reduced to a dump. I kept Rayman hovering in one place as I better observed the new scenery. Perhaps the game was originally going to have a ‘junkyard’ level, which would be pretty odd considering that in Rayman’s world, supposedly ‘people and nature live together in peace’, or something like that. From what I could make out, the junk consisted of things like cans, buckets, pipes and… Syringes? I’m not entilely sure about the last one but that’s what it looked like to me. It seemed a little morbid, but they were still drawn in that lively, cartoony style the rest of the game was drawn in, albeit dull-coloured.
Well, I made it through that part fairly easily. Coming into contact with that junk lying around hurt Rayman a couple of times as touching spikes would, not to my surprise. The next part was the rope-cutting part, where Rayman had to use his hair to cut off the weights pulling down a huge stone slab before it trapped him underwater and drowned him. I found that part interesting in the way it worked differently to the other levels in the game. The water looked very unpleasant here, a murky brown-ish colour. It sort of reminded me of those parts in Rayman 2 where there is black sludge pouring into the water. Come to think of it, the water back in the forest levels had been an off colour too, but that could have just been because of the level’s darker atmosphere or to better fit a ‘swamp’ theme. Aside from the visual changes, including a slightly off-colour background, the second part of ‘NOMUS_GUI’ was the same as it should be.
Now, the third section of the level is when something else strange happened. I had spent most of the previous two sections with Rayman flying, but now he was walking on solid ground. Whenever Rayman stopped, he would turn to face the camera and put his fingers to his mouth with a frightened look, shaking a little. This was the animation Rayman would do during boss battles, so I sure found it odd to see him doing it in a ‘normal’ level like this. I put it down to just being a glitch and headed on forward. The grass was now a gross brownish tone and the litter was still present around, but usually out of Rayman’s way, and the rising floodwater still looked yucky as well. The music was the same ambience as before but now with a very distant-sounding slow banging noise, like something hitting something metal, and a distant and almost mechanical-sounding hum. Once I got Rayman past the first flood of this section, I stopped to take a look at the background. It was almost as if it had been colour-shifted. Unlike the foreground scenery, the mountains were a sickly green colour and the foliage- If that’s what it was still meant to be- was a strange dull, dark purple. I smirked slightly as I joked in my mind that the Blue Mountains were even less blue than they were before.
The second flood of the third section of this level didn’t even happen. After the first flood, I had Rayman jump onto a cloud that seemed to then ascend indefinitely, before the level abruptly ended after about forty or so seconds just as NOSWIM_FLOR did. As the cloud was rising, I had noticed that Rayman no longer had that smile he seemed to always have in this game, but rather a more neutral look. It was a lot like the expression Tarayzan was pulling, but without the glassy eyes. I hadn’t noticed his face change before that moment, so I’m not sure when it happened. So anyway, I was back on the map screen once again. I’m going to be honest, I was creeped out, this was way darker than the normal ‘Rayman’ game, and I could say it even had a darker atmosphere than Rayman 2. I wasn’t soiling myself in terror over it; I just found it really off. So my next place to go was RUN_MONST. I was hoping no sort of grotesque beast would jump out and terrify me, but honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it did.
Well, nothing of that sort happened there; however, as soon as I went to move Rayman, something else happened that shocked me a bit. He stood frozen in place, with a startled expression and his open hands out to his sides, trembling like someone when they’re frozen in fear, but the trembling was stronger. He did that for about two and a half seconds before coming normal, with that neutral look still on his face.
“The fuck..?” I muttered softly to myself.
Pardon my language, but I had absolutely no idea what that was about. It didn’t seem like Rayman had taken any damage, all I had done was attempt to move him forward across his platform. Aside from that, all that seemed different about the first part of this level so far was that the water was green. Not murky green, bright green. A weird change, in my opinion. The background was also less saturated and perhaps colour-shifted once again. The music was a quiet, echoing cave ambience with some dripping and a strange fizzing sound, like something dissolving. I was beginning to wonder if maybe this was a mod I had installed and forgotten about, as I had installed many mods for my games in the past, but I didn’t recall installing any Rayman mods. In fact, I don’t think any mods for the original ‘Rayman’ exist, except for the Mega Patch (Now under the name 'Rayman Optimum'), which I was sure didn’t include anything like this.
I could move Rayman normally now, so I made my way through the level, swinging on pink rings. The flying pink rings didn’t have eyes; it was as if no-one had drawn eyes onto them yet. An understandable early design choice, if you ask me. When I made it to where the checkpoint would have been (But wasn’t), Rayman did that strange motion again. He suddenly stopped, trembling violently in place with a shocked look on his face for a couple of seconds, before letting me continue. I still had no idea what caused it, but I was just glad it was happening on solid, safe ground and not while swinging above that weird green water.When I reached the end of the first section of the level, Rayman did that trembling animation once again, but this time his face was different. Instead of his shocked face, he was pulling that face he makes when he punches, the one where he grits his teeth and has his eyes clenched shut, like an angry face. But the motion Rayman was making made this face seem more like a cringe, kind of like in that Game over animation where he coughs and falls over. I actually felt rather sorry for Rayman at this point; something was either really scaring him or hurting him.
To my surprise, the game then took me to the first encounter with Mr Skops again, which was unusual since I had already defeated him. The lava was bright green, like the water, and when I noticed the large metal barrels (What are those things called again, canisters?) lying around, I realised what it was.
“Ah, it’s toxic waste.” I said to myself with a nod. “Or maybe it’s acid.” Then I realised that wasn’t really relieving in any way whatsoever, why the heck was there toxic waste in the caves? Then again, I could ask the same about all the junk lying around in the mountains. I must admit though, a toxic waste level is a cool idea for something to put in a Rayman game. Just maybe not the first one.
Mr Skops wasn’t sleeping, he was just standing there. I wandered back and forth along the ‘bridge’ of red crystalline platforms for a little while, waiting for the enemy to make his first move. Nothing seemed to happen. Rayman made that trembling- heck, I’ll even call it convulsing- animation again while I waited. Growing both impatient and curious, I walked Rayman over to Mr Skops, who responded by backing away as the liquid began to rise. This is what he would have usually done a little further into this this confrontation in the normal game, after attacking Rayman. Instead of jumping backwards up onto the ledge behind him, Mr Skops just stopped at it. As the toxic waste began to rise past him he thrashed around in it in a distressed manner and let Rayman pass over him. I’m actually not sure whether I was more disturbed by this or Tarayzan’s implied drowning. This was a boss enemy I was dealing with, so it was more understandable if he, well, died, but this was also a little more morbid. Rayman kept running but the exit sign wasn’t there where it should have been, so he kept running along as the green fluid kept rising. I thought he was done for, as there was no way to avoid it, but once again the level abruptly ended and went back to the map screen before Rayman could be killed.
Alright, now things were starting to escalate a bit on the creep-o-meter. Not to the point of making me want to quit, mind you, I’d played my fair share of grotesque horror games that this would pale in comparison to, but to think how cheery and innocent ‘Rayman’ was meant to be made it creepy in a different way. Like seeing someone get shot in a children’s cartoon, as opposed to seeing someone get shot on a crime-themed show. So, it seemed it was time to take on the last level, Mr Dark’s level, ‘UNFIN’. As I moved Rayman over to that level, I wondered why it was called ‘unfin’, possibly implying that something was unfinished. I tried to enter the level but nothing happened. I tried again and again, yet still nothing happened. Oh. I couldn’t get in there, what a bummer. Well, this version was pretty buggy, so perhaps it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. I didn’t know what else to do now, perhaps this was all I could do in this glitchy ‘prototype’ version of the game. I decided to try out every single unnamed level, in order. As expected, they all wielded the same result as before, being unable to do anything but exit straight back out. Occasionally Rayman would have one of those weird convulsions upon entering a level, but there wasn’t anything specific triggering it.
To be truthful, not all of the unplayable levels were unnamed. The level that was once Space Mama’s Crater now possessed the name ‘ZAROFF WAS HERE’, to my bewilderment. Who’s Zaroff? I know who Razoff is, but he’s not meant to even be in this game. And why was that title on that specific level? Anyway, I might as well tell you what Band Land and Picture City looked like, since none of the playable levels were in those worlds. The Band Land, or ‘MUSIC’ levels, were raining and the nearer layer of background imagery seemed to have little ‘holes’ glitched through it. The IMAGE levels were a jumbled mess, like someone had eaten the contents of a student’s pencil case and vomited it all back up. I went through every unnamed level one by one and was unable to play any of them, but I did notice that somewhere along the way Rayman’s eyes had become cloudy like Tarayzan’s had been. I knew that definitely wasn’t right.
After testing all the unplayable levels, I returned to NOSWIM_FLOR. If Tarayzan had actually drowned, what would happen if I tried to visit him again? Maybe I was looking too deep in this. Maybe Tarayzan didn’t drown, maybe he swam away when I wasn’t looking. Honestly, I wasn’t sure. When I entered the level, I was shocked once again. Tarayzan was absent, and Rayman was no longer walking normally. Instead, he had the same walk he would do in the game over screen, a miserable trudging with his head lowered, a pained expression, and his hands limp at his sides. When he wasn’t walking, he would raise his head and stare directly at the camera, also as he does in the game over animation. He couldn’t jump or run, either, so there was no way I could progress through this level again. Luckily, the exit sign was working again, so I was no longer stuck in the level.
I then headed back to NOMUS_GUI, and Rayman was doing that same pained trudge across the map now. When I entered that level, the Musician was still sitting outside his home, but he wasn’t staring up at the sky any more. He was staring forward with a blank, glazed-eyed stare, swaying very subtly. I walked Rayman over to him but nothing happened. Over the next minute or so, some stone dogs started appearing. Rayman couldn’t attack at all, but they dealt him no damage. Instead, they seemed to gather around the Musician one by one, cautiously edging towards him like… Vultures gathering around a dying animal. That might not have been what was going on, it probably wasn’t, but the thought frightened me so I chickened out and left that level before I could see what happened next.
When I went to the cave level, RUN_MONST, there was really nothing I could do in it without Rayman being able to jump or punch so I left it pretty soon afterwards, since the exit sign was working again for these levels. I then headed back over to the Mr Dark Level. Goodness knows why, but I did. The level name was no longer ‘UNFIN’, it was ‘END’. I remembered the way that .exe file changed part of its title from ‘unfin’ to ‘end’ when it became playable. I was confident the same would apply to this level, so, not knowing what to expect, I dived right in to see just how much deeper this rabbit hole would go.
The level began. This didn’t look like Candy Chateau at all! Well, the foreground did, albeit off-colour as if it had been left to putrefy as edibles would, but the background didn’t. The background was all grey and smoggy, and had no signs of teacups, bowls, cutlery or desserts anywhere. The music was just a quiet, low-frequency melody. The level began on a flat, solid nougat surface, not at the ‘frying pan’ part. I moved Rayman to the right, and he continued with that pained trudging as Mr Dark appeared (oddly enough) behind Rayman, and did nothing. He let out that evil laugh then just stood still and watched as Rayman lumbered away from him. I made it to the first obstacle in the level, just a simple ledge in the way. Usually Rayman would be able to jump up onto it, but it this state Rayman couldn’t jump, so I thought I was stuck. Upon reaching the ledge, however, Rayman leaned on it with one hand and clutched his chest with the other. I had a feeling I knew what was going to happen, from having seen that game over animation (The one that would play when the player has no continues left), but seeing it here seemed a lot more pitiful. Rayman leaned on the ledge for a couple of seconds then cringed painfully, before coughing- or spitting out the last of his magic, however one interprets it- and falling down. It may have just been re-used animation I’d seen before, but golly it was unsettling in this particular context.
The screen faded to black.
I thought that was it, game over, until Betilla the fairy floated into the blank screen. She looked completely normal, to my surprise, but wasn’t Betilla supposed to be captured by Mr Dark at this point? She spoke (In her usual sound effects of course) and text appeared beneath her.
“Do you wish to be healed?”
‘Yes’ and ‘No’ appeared beneath the question. I think choosing ‘yes’ was the obvious choice, why the heck would I choose otherwise? Though now I do wonder what would have happened if I did.
“I will heal you to the best of my ability, Rayman. May Polokus be with you.”
Hm, could have sworn Polokus was never seen or mentioned until the second game, but whatever. Maybe they were going to introduce him in the first game but didn’t. With that, the scene faded back in to where it had left off, with Betilla still in view. Rayman was still lying on the ground when Betilla shot magic at him from her hands, as if she was giving him a new power, before ascending out of view. Rayman pulled himself up off the ground and turned to give a confident smile to the camera before returning to normal. Now he could walk, run, jump, punch and the like just fine and was smiling again, but he looked, in my own words, ‘like crap’. That is, he was rather sickly-looking despite his otherwise cheery-as-usual demeanour, with dull skin and tired, bloodshot eyes.
So I pressed on. The level looked rather poorly-designed at first, with bits of different platforms scattered all over the place at random. A little further on, Rayman entered some sort of labyrinth of (off-colour) candy, which I thought was rather clever. Scattered throughout the labyrinth, particularly at dead-ends, were clown enemies. Strangely, yet not surprisingly, they seemed almost brain-dead, standing in place with incredibly distant, dazed looks on their faces. If Rayman approached them they would just flail their hands haphazardly. The maze was legitimately challenging, it took me a good five or so minutes to find my way out of it. When I did, an orange ball of fiery magic swirled around Rayman as if Mr Dark was casting a spell on him, but Mr Dark himself was not there. Shortly after, Bad Rayman appeared and gave a rather unenthusiastic chase after Rayman. The delay between Rayman’s actions and Bad Rayman’s actions was too long to prove much of a challenge, to my advantage. Bad Rayman was going absolutely berserk, though, his sprites were jumping and twitching and glitching and the like all around him. It might have been a little weird at the time, but looking back it was rather amusing how unlike the rest of the game, Bad Rayman actually might have become less threatening than usual.
Bad Rayman chased Rayman, or rather, followed him from a distance, higher and higher up the level as the platforms became jumbled and distorted. They still worked fine, but it looked as if their tile sprites had been put together all wrong, in a complete mess. It was more noticeable the further Rayman ascended. Eventually, though, I came to a dead end. There were barriers around and above Rayman, and when he and Bad Rayman entered the area a couple of those bizarre, loopy-looking forks appeared, blocking the way out. This worried me, as with no way out I would have to either quit the game or just intentionally let Rayman die. I didn’t do either, technically, but I did manage to get Rayman touched by Bad Rayman by accident. I had spent a while in that room, having Rayman jump from platform to platform as I tried to figure out a possible way out, when Bad Rayman touched Rayman. It most likely happened because of the long delay between his actions and mine, I’d lost track of where I had jumped, so when Bad Rayman jumped beneath Rayman they collided.
Upon the two characters colliding, the entire screen glitched up and corrupted for a moment, startling me slightly, before returning to normal. Except now Rayman was at the top of a steep slope of icing and his dark double was nowhere in sight. Perhaps I was supposed to let him touch Rayman. Now I had no control over Rayman, though, as he began to slide down the slope. It was a bit like the ‘frying pan’ part of the normal Candy Chateau level, except without the frying pan, and with just one very big downward slope. I really had no clue what was going, Rayman just continued to slide downwards until the slope smoothed down to a flat surface. Rayman eventually slowed down as he slid into what I could perhaps describe as… Some sort of chocolate architecture. It looked like there were neat rows of chocolate pillars lined up in the nearer background in a repeating pattern. In fact, it probably would have looked very nice if it wasn’t so off-colour.
Now here’s where this level started to get very interesting. I could move Rayman around now, so I continued walking down the path I was already going. I didn’t get far, though, before Rayman suddenly stopped again, and the view panned to the right. There he was, Mr Dark! And to my surprise, the Magician was there too! The Magician appeared to be made up of his sprites from the learning games, which I would have found odd if it weren’t for everything else that had already occurred. The Magician was flying, or perhaps ‘hovering’ around Mr Dark, attacking him with what I can only assume to be magic spells. I was surprised more by the Magician attacking Mr Dark than by him flying. If there’s anything Rayman Junior truly taught me, it’s that the Magician can apparently fly, but he’s a real coward around Mr Dark. But anyway, that wasn’t important.
The Magician launched attacks at Mr Dark, who stood still, blocking the magic with his dark cloak and looking rather unaffected. This only happened very briefly though, as moments after Rayman arrived, the Magician turned to notice his presence. But in that very moment Mr Dark fought back, shooting a much more powerful-looking magic at the Magician, who hovered in the air in front of him. I actually gasped a little when he was hit, as the villain’s magic seemed to explode upon hitting him, and the Magician was sent plummeting (Presumably unconscious) down past the foreground and out of view, leaving a trail of smoke and sparks behind. Rayman had watched the whole fiasco as surprised as I was. I felt a little guilty, having just distracted the Magician into his own demise. It was all part of the game, though, I suppose.
So now it was just Rayman and Mr Dark face-to-face. The screen faded quickly to black and one of those vignettes, or in-game artworks like the one that’s shown when Mr Dark captures Betilla, appeared. It showed a rather frightened or upset looking Rayman staring up at Mr Dark, who had some sort of cartoon light glare effect coming from his eyes. The two were surrounded by what I’m guessing was a green cloudy mist of some kind. The image was captioned ‘Mr Dark has found Rayman’, though to me it seemed more like the other way around, like Rayman had found Mr Dark. Unless Mr Dark had been looking for Rayman before he was attacked by the Magician, I am not sure. When the image went away, Mr Dark was gone, replaced by what I can most simply describe as… A four-handed abomination of pixel art with fire magic and a huge syringe. I am not even kidding you, I already knew from playthroughs of Rayman 1 that Mr Dark would summon (Or shape-shift into) monsters that were a combination of previous enemies fought by Rayman, but none looked quite like this thing.
This monster was a mix of all bosses simultaneously. Its head was an unsettling merging of Mr Stone’s and Space Mama’s heads, its body was that of Mr Skops’ merged with the backwards lower half of Mr Sax, and out of Mr Sax’s lower body it had a tail like that of Mr Skops, with Moskito’s proboscis stuck to the end of it. It’s feet were those of Mr Sax, and its first pair of hands where those of Mr Stone, one wielding a flame, and its other pair of hands were those of Space Mama, one wielding what I’m pretty sure was a really big syringe. You’re probably wondering how I remembered this enemy down to such detail. Well really, it’s hard to forget such a weird-looking creation, but also I had the help of screenshots while I was recounting this experience. I’ll get to that later, though.
I waited, on edge, for the beast to make its first move, but it just stood there doing that idle animation all bosses do in the brief moments in which they aren’t beating our dear protagonist to a pulp. A little puzzled, I had Rayman move towards the enemy and attack it. I made him jump up and punch its head, since that seemed to be the weak spot of a few enemies, Space Mama in particular. The punch dealt the boss no damage (At this point I noticed that it had no health bar, and Rayman’s health, lives and tings counters were still missing) but it did ‘awaken’ it, so to speak. I think it must have shook a little and stomped its feet angrily before throwing a fireball at Rayman. Luckily, my reflexes seemed to be on my side as I managed to dodge it. I had never seen this enemy anywhere before, not in any playthrough or any written description, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The fireball-throwing was a bit of a no-brainer, but how it would throw them had been for me to find out, as well as what it might do with that syringe. It was noticeable that this enemy’s animations were unfinished. It’s face and body sprites never changed, only moved around, and so it always looked like it was turned towards the background slightly with its head turned to its left. Its tail was a bit more mobile but only swayed back and forth slightly. Its feet and hands seemed to animate normally, except for the ones that held the fire and the syringe.
I made Rayman jump and punch the beast again, and pretty much the same thing happened. This wasn’t as hard as those playthroughs off the proper end boss fight looked. This time I changed things up a bit and punched it without jumping, so Rayman’s fist hit somewhere around its foot. That didn’t harm it either. How was I supposed to fight this boss? There was nothing else in the area to use against it. Then the monster thrust the syringe forward, but once again I reacted quickly and had Rayman jump over it. These seemed like very standard attacks for a boss fight, which I found odd given the circumstances. The battle continued like this for a while, as anticlimactic of a battle as it seems, until I slipped up. The slippery icing ground made Rayman’s jumps harder to control, and so Rayman fell onto the beast’s syringe. Rayman yelped and jumped back as he usually does when he takes damage, though by now I had no idea how many health points he had left for the health and life counter was still missing.The monster didn’t attack again after that, it just stood idly and watched. The screen had gone a slight shade darker. I impatiently made Rayman wander and jump back and worth as the screen became slightly darker every few seconds. After a while, the screen was completely black.
“Well, what happened?” I said to myself, or something like it. “Did I die?”
Then an image appeared of a seashore with a cartoonish-looking house on it. Layered over the image was rather bizarrely-posed Rayman and unevenly arranged text reading:
THANK YOU FOR PLAYING RAYMAN
I clicked a few times and mashed buttons on my keyboard as I tried to figure out what to do next. After a minute or so, the game closed itself down. I groaned in frustration at the game abruptly ending itself and went to reopen the executable file that had begun the madness, but alas, it was gone! In its place was a folder. Can you guess what this folder was called? It was called ‘Thank you for playing Rayman’. Alright, already! You’re welcome, sheesh! I opened the folder to see what post-game peculiarities awaited me. The folder was filled with images, screenshots from my gameplay, each titled ‘Thank you for playing Rayman (1)’ and ‘Thank you for playing Rayman (2)’ and so on. I hadn’t taken these screenshots; it was as if the game had taken them itself. In fact, they didn’t seem to have been taken at specific intervals at time. Some I remembered to be only brief moments apart, while some consecutive screenshots had at least a couple of minutes of time between them. Luckily they seemed to capture some of the most interesting moments of the game, and will help me tell this story as some things can’t be properly described with words alone. I only wish I had captured some video footage or something, because I have absolutely no idea how to replicate what happened. I have no clue what triggered it, my copy of the game was normal before and is normal again now.
While I can’t say I was considerably scared by the ordeal, at least not enough to put me off playing Rayman again, it did leave me feeling pretty uneasy for a while. Was Rayman’s original story intended to be a lot darker? More than anything, though, it left me wondering. There were a lot of questions raised by that game that were left unanswered. Anyway, I’m going to include the screenshots with this story so you can see them for yourselves. And yes, in case you were wondering, I did eventually defeat Mr Dark and complete the normal game.