Although the Rayman franchise has been around for close to 20 years, my first Rayman experience only came earlier this year with the HD remake of Rayman 3. After having played Rayman 3, I couldn’t help but feel that if I hadn’t gotten the chance to play Rayman 3, I would have missed out on a significant franchise in the gaming industry. While Rayman 3 HD had various gameplay issues holding it back, I was, nevertheless, excited to experience what Rayman Origins had to offer.
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Wii
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Release: (AU) November 24th, 2011, (EU) November 25th, 2011, (JP) April 12th, 2012 (PS3), (NA) November 15th, 2011
After a six year hiatus, Rayman Origins marks the first venture of the franchise into the world of the next generation in gaming. As the “origins” tag would suggest to the discerning reader, this game is a return to the roots of the franchise with 2D platforming.
Continuing on shortly after the events of Rayman 3 HD, you take on the role of Rayman or any one of his 3 friends as they do their best to save their world from the dark forces known as “darktoons”. However, as with the majority of platforming games I’ve played in my time, the story is probably the last thing you should be looking at when playing this title and therefore this sentence is all I will dedicate to the storyline.
In Rayman Origins there are ten unique worlds/areas for you to experience. Within each world there are 5-6 different sublevels in addition to a special level that is unlocked based the amount of collectables you’ve unlocked. Once you’ve completed each level, you are awarded with a medallion that fills up with badges according to two things, the amount of lums (bright yellow creatures) you collected and also the amount of hidden cages you have unlocked. In addition to the medallion, each level has a time trial that will earn you another badge. I am impressed at how the game has made it enticing and fun to replay a level. For some, that sense of satisfaction from seeing a completed medallion is just worth all those hours you’ll spend trying to get them (I may or may not be one of those people).
Other than serving as fodder for medallions, the badges also accumulate to unlock special “crazy toy” levels. In each of these levels the aim is to chase a box through a level filled with platforming challenges. What makes these levels difficult are that the screen will always focus on the crazy toy, so as it moves to the left of the screen you must do all you can to keep up with the incredibly difficult obstacles you are face with, and you’re only given one chance to get it right! After you finally catch up with the toy, you unlock one of ten skull teeth that belong in the mouth of your wizard friend, who resides back at home base.
In the normal stages of the game, your aim is to get from the start to finish while collecting as many lums. Along your journey you’ll encounter challenges such as moving platforms, moving earth, mobile enemies, deadly projectiles and hidden rooms. What amazes me is that each level is designed in a way that if you have the skill, you can basically make it through each level without stopping at all but for more common folk like myself you won’t be so daring on your first playthrough of the game. During my playthrough, I only managed to pull this off once and it made me feel like I’d accomplished something major.
Technically speaking, the first four worlds of Rayman Origins is nothing more than training levels. After reaching the end of the final stage in each world you will free a different fairy. Each of these fairies grants you a different “power”, such as walking on walls or being able to helicopter after jumping. This way of introducing new mechanics is friendly to newcomers as you don’t get thrown into the deep end straight away. However, after you have unlocked all the powers available to you, the game’s difficulty increases significantly as you are now expected to incorporate all the different powers you have learnt from the previous four worlds.
When you reach the end of each stage you’ll encounter a trapped cage of lems imprisoned by a force field. In order to break through the force field and the cage, you must defeat the enemies holding the field together. Sometimes the stages are set up so that you can create a chain reaction of enemy destruction which only increases the fun factor you’ll get from the game. I found that these final encounters escalate in difficulty as you progress and at the later stages of the game you really have to be on top of the controls in order to finish the stage.
An unexpected surprise in Rayman Origins is the ability to play with three other friends. I only managed to try the game with one other person and I must say I can only imagine the amount of fun that can be had with three other people. Tackling the challenges of the Rayman world is made slightly easier with four people because after you die, within a limited time period, you are able to be revived by your surviving co-op partners if they can reach your bubble in time. I can see this as potentially being exploited by more savvy players to finish levels but you will still need a significant amount of co-ordination and teamwork to pull it off.
In my experience with platformers I’ve found that they usually manage to have extremely tight controls. Rayman Origins is certainly no exception to this. The responsiveness in the controls means even in the later stages of the game, when the difficulty begins to become unbearable, your platforming ability will really be put to the test because you will have the tools in front of you but it is up to you to execute them.
The presentation of Rayman Origins is one of the strongest aspect in the game. The game really nails in the minor details. For example, when you run on grass, you will see tufts of grass get kicked up as Rayman traverses along the path. While details such as these are only trivial and most likely inconsequential, these are the sort of finer touches that really impressed me. I also felt that Rayman Origins really excels in the graphics department. Whilst I am aware that Rayman Origins doesn’t have to deal with textures and models given it is a 2D game, it is nevertheless extremely impressive at just how beautiful the game looks. All the animations are smooth and the game utilises a colour scheme that, no matter where you are in the game, reminds you that this is a light-hearted adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The soundtrack to Rayman Origins is probably one of the less spectacular features of the game. There are no real stand out tunes yet every every sound you hear does have a cartoony exaggeration which ties in well with the overall light-hearted and uplifting mood of the game. The majority of the background music is generally an atmospheric, synthetic musical compilation that one can expect from platformers.
Rayman Origins is a game with old school character and difficulty presented on a modern day platform. In my view, the Rayman franchise has taken a step forward by looking to the past. The result is a game that leaves you wanting to delve back into the world to uncover more of what this game has to offer. This is a game that should be picked up by gamers who yearn for punishing gameplay and just good old fashioned fun!
9.5 – Excellent. Fun, enjoyable, engaging, and memorable but is missing that little something that will make it exceptionable. People will fondly talk about this for generations to come.