Review: Rayman Origins
Rayman Origins is easily the best sidescrolling platformer ever created, and one of the best games of 2011.
- Worth The Time?Definitely
- Things LovedThe gorgeous and charming hand drawn art, tight level design keeps the action following, an incredible sense of humour despite the fact that none of the characters speak an understandable language, hilarious and extremely well done animations, varying level settings and art direction, tight and responsive control scheme, awesome soundtrack and effects, brilliant difficulty curve, enjoyable boss fights, tons of collectables, drop in/drop out co-op, Lums, Lums and more Lums
- Things HatedThere really is nothing to hate about this game, though loading times can seem a bit long. Thankfully, you're still able to move Rayman around while it loads.
- RecommendationGo to your nearest games store and buy this title right now. Trust me, you will not be disappointed in the slightest. Rayman Origins will leave you breathless, and it truly deserves your attention.
- Name: Rayman Origins
- Genre: 2D Platformer
- Players: 1-4
- Multiplayer: Local Co-Op
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii
- Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: R462.95 (Xbox 360 and PS3), R370.95 (Wii)
- Reviewed On: PS3
November has been one crazy month for gamers around the world. Massive titles such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Uncharted 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 top sales around the world, and by this time many people are gearing down and settling in to all the awesome games they have bought in the past few weeks. However, Ubisoft decided to pull a bold move. A very bold move in fact. Rayman Origins is the latest Rayman game in a long time, and many found it curious that Ubisoft decided to release it in such a heavyweight month. Thankfully, and even more surprisingly, Rayman Origins manages to outdo most of the titles this month, delivering one of the most memorable and charming experiences of 2011, and one of the best platforming titles ever created. From the gorgeous visuals to the hilarious characters, Rayman Origins is an adventure that every gamer should experience, and is the best revival the Rayman series could possibly hope for.
Firstly, you shouldn’t be bothered about any story in Rayman Origins. The action begins just as fast as the game loads up, giving you a brief glimpse as to why Rayman and his friends decide to risk their lives in order to save some small adorable pink beings. In short, this game doesn’t mean to focus on a narrative, and never really tries at any point. Ubisoft realised that the main focus was to be on the platforming action, and decided to focus completely on this aspect instead of trying to bring across a half-thought of story to keep the game interesting. This choice has proved to be one of the best Ubisoft could’ve possibly made, as the amazing platforming grabs you and doesn’t let go for hours on end. Rayman Origins knows what it is, and never tries to imitate anything else in order to garner mainstream appeal.
Platforming mainly focuses and is built on the principle of fast and fluid player momentum. Landscapes shift and crumble, creating seamless pathways that seem to appear out of nowhere, but always aid in your hasty motion from left to right. The level design is truly amazing, with each new section feeling different to the last, throwing deadly enemies, traps and hazards in your way in order to slow your progress. Thankfully, all of these hindrances can be dealt with a variety of abilities that are bestowed upon you in each new unique area, allowing you to punch, glide, shrink and slide your way through levels. All of these abilities are kept for good once acquired, meaning that you can visit previous levels and tackle them in all news ways with your newly found skills. A simple yet elegant control scheme ensures that you are able to get the most out of Rayman with ease, and the fact that the controls are so amazingly responsive to all your actions really does help with the fluid nature of the game.
Having such tight controls is a good thing to, considering how challenging Rayman Origins can become. The difficulty curve is gradual though, and you can actually sense how your skills are adequately tested as you become better and better at navigating levels. The difficulty never spikes, and hardships in certain areas always come down to mistakes on your part. The game is completely fair with you, never dealing out heaps of frustrating deaths, but rather another chance to correct your ill timed button press or over extended glide. The game is also forgiving in a way, with checkpoints spread generously around levels, and an unlimited supply of lives, meaning that your exploration and progression is never hampered by a limited pool of Rayman lives. This may sound a lot like there is no difficulty at all, and that levels are simply trial and error exercises, however that would be completely false. There is a difficulty, areas will challenge and test you, but the difference is that the difficulty always comes down to skill, and never feels forced or artificial.
While you race through all the different and bizarre locals, you’ll be forced to free adorable pink creatures called Electoons, which makes up your main objective throughout the entire game. Each level has various Electoons that are available for collection, but each requires something different. Merely completing a level will reward you with one crate of Electoons, while there are additional crates in hidden rooms scattered around each level. While tearing through each fantasy land, Rayman can also collect Lums (this game’s version of coins), and the total number collected at the end of each area will also determine if you get extra Electoons or not. Once an area has been completed, you can revisit it in order to engage a speed run, which tests how fast you can race through each area. Hit a fast enough time, and be rewarded with additional Electoons. Why should you care about Electoons? Well, they determine your progression through the game, however you’ll never feel as though your play style is not catered for either. If you don’t care to stop every once in a while and look for secret rooms, then the game never punishes you for that choice. However, most of the game’s addictive nature spawns from the obsessive compulsive desire to fully complete each area, especially when rewarding bonus levels are up for grabs.
This bonus levels appear once in each new area. Each bonus level demands a certain number of Electoons in order to be made available, so scouring each level thoroughly not only adds to the experience, but will also allow you to enjoy some of the best platforming sections this game has to offer. In these bonus levels, you are tasked with catching a chest that seems to have wised up to Rayman’s violent nature when it comes to cracking open other chests. The chest will speed away from you, leaving you to take up pursuit through crumbling, changing and often perilous locales, which punish even the slightest of errors, whether it be an over long glide, missing a sinking platform and even path choices. These levels are extremely exhilarating, mainly due to their fantastic design. Terrain crumbles and falls into place perfectly, making these speed runs feel seamlessly elegant as you race perfectly through them, They also don’t take trial and error runs in order to memorise the entire area, as the movement and transitions feel so natural and challenging at the same time. You’ll most definitely gasp for breath at the end of the level, as each close call, each sudden change in terrain and all your previous failures will most certainly come crashing down on you all at once, leaving you with a indescribable feeling after you smash the chest into tiny little bits, and reveal the reward inside.
This type of objective variation is not only restricted to bonus levels thought, and throughout the main areas you will experience varying degrees of platforming and side-scrolling action. One of these variations comes in the form of levels where you hop onto the back of a giant mosquito, and shoot your way through levels like a vintage shoot-em-up, showered with all the Rayman charm. The mosquito is able to shoot and suck up enemies, and these levels progress from slow starts to almost maddeningly fast sections, where a keen eye and lightning reflexes are required. The other variation comes in the form of fantastically realised boss fights. Boss fights are used sparingly, with only a handful of disastrously gorgeous monsters daring to go head to head with Rayman. Each encounter is different to the last, and the challenging aspect of the game is prominently shown off here. Whether it be a giant chicken like creature that attacks you in the air, or a grotesque sea worm leaps out of the water to attack, each boss fight feels unique, and retains its own variation of Rayman charm. However, none of these imaginative locals or horrid monsters would be possible without Rayman Origins most outstanding quality.
Rayman Origins is the best looking game released this year. There, I said it, and I will surely be disputed on this, but the fact remains that no other single game has thrust me as deep into its world like Rayman Origins has. This game’s visuals can be considered a work of incredible art, and having each and every image hand drawn really shows how each artist was able to impose their own type of flair on the Rayman world. Colours burst out of every crevice, and the Glade of Dreams does a fantastic job of truly expressing the odd, exciting and bizarre world that Rayman and his friends reside in. Each locale has a different theme, and it is amazing to see how each transfers from one to the next. At first you’ll be running through a lush jungle, filled with oddly coloured foliage and shallow rivers. Next thing you know, you’ll be in a horrid realisation of an evil kitchen, with red and gold lava pouring out of pots like volcanoes, with the environment slowly changing into a winter stricken mountain range, with ice cubes encasing cold lums, and surfaces littered with snow, making platforming all the more challenging. Animations are also superbly done, bringing each and every thing in the Glade of Dreams to life. Animations breathe life into all the creatures you will encounter, and seeing how enemies react just before you end them is always a pleasure to behold. You can really tell that the artists and animators were having a ton of fun when creating this world, and their passion for their art really shows, creating the most gorgeous and engrossing visual experience you’re mostly likely to ever come across.
One thing that shouldn’t be left out though is the sound. Rayman Origins soundtrack is outstanding, giving each location its own unique theme song that is both fitting and enjoyable to listen to. The sounds of the Glade will most certainly put a smile on your face, and it was sometimes better to just slow things down and take in the beautiful surroundings while a fitting soundtrack played in the background. Sound effects also deserve a mention, as a lot of work was put into making sure that every little creature made its own unique noise. In particular, a large didgeridoo worm that forms the ground in an Australian styled area is one example, with each of his bodily sections producing a different sound when stepped on. It was almost more fun to quickly run across his body and listen to the melody than it was to complete the level. This is only one example on how sound plays a huge role in Rayman Origins, and there are certainly a lot more out there for you to experience.
But what would these experiences be if you couldn’t share them with a friend? Well, don’t stress too much, because Rayman Origins also comes kitted out with a simple drop in/drop out co-op system that enables up to four people to enjoy the mayhem on a console. There is no online multiplayer, but I feel that this was a better move, as the experience of playing with friends is more enhanced when you can sit down with four other people in the same room and revel at your hilarious deaths, rewarding triumphs, and abundance of gaming memories. With four people in the mix, Rayman Origins also becomes a little more challenging. Hearts are now distributed evenly among teammates, and death comes more than often, especially when you realise how mean some of your friends can be. One moment you can be soaring through a level, and next thing you know, one of your partners can decide to give you a nice slap across the face, sending your character down into a pit of death. These types of multiplayer moments can only be compared to the amount of multiplayer fun in Portal 2, but thankfully the whole game can be played with friends, instead of just a handful of sections.
Sadly, Rayman Origins is bound to fly under a lot of people’s radars. With all the other massive titles that have been released, the seemingly childish nature of the game and a lack of “core gaming appeal”, it is sad that many people will not even glance over at the box, which is unfortunate considering how perfect this game really is. Rayman Origins decides what it wants to accomplish early and sticks with it, never getting confused as to what it wants to do, and what it should do. In a world of colourless war shooters, Rayman Origins shows that even the most vibrant, colourful and innocent titles can still be regarded as some of the best games out there. It breathes life into platforming once more, and introduces an art style that can rival even the top dogs, despite its 2D orientation. Rayman Origins is one of the most memorable experience in 2011, and is a game that can only be considered as art. Rayman is back, and I am overjoyed to have gone through the Glade of Dreams with him.