Rayman Origins ReviewSean Kelley
Rayman Origins is unlike anything else on the market. Not only is it colorful, preposterous and manic, but it's a genuine rarity: a high resolution sidescrolling platformer released at retail. It's also one hell of a game and an old school experience that transports its players back in time – a time when consoles were connected with RF-units. To play Rayman Origins is to feel like a kid again. The grin; the joy; and the frustration; it's all in here.
Utilizing Ubisoft's new UbiArt framework, Rayman Origins is a staggeringly beautiful game. Rayman, his buddy Globox and Betilla, the saucy head nymph, come alive thanks to their whimsical, exaggerated animations. When Globox ducks, his entire body squashes accordingly; when Rayman charges up his punch, it turns into an abnormally huge fist. Origins is crammed full of these subtle animated details that go the extra mile, popping the characters and personalities off of the screen; and by god, is it ever infectious.
Just running around, doing all the classic things you'd expect to do in a platformer, is a simple unadulterated joy. Part of it is due to the wacky nature of the title, but a lot of it has to be attributed to the sharp controls, which yield a wonderful feeling of momentum – perfect for speed run enthusiasts and better than recent Sonic titles. Every level can be blasted through in a mere matter of minutes, though it can be just as satisfying to slow down and take the time to collect every single Lum and Electoon.
As is the norm with the genre, Origins relies heavily on collectibles, which become necessary to unlock stages as the game progresses. It's generally quite easy to find the hidden Electoons in each stage, as long as you know where to look, but it can be tough to meet some of the Lum requirements – which comes into play with Lum quotas following every stage. Since each level requires nothing more than a few minutes to replay, trying to chase down the requisite amount is never too daunting, especially since it's just plain fun.
As the game wears on, Origins does become pretty difficult, and occasionally downright devious. In each of the game's ten areas there is one Tricky Treasure. Borrowing a page from Super Meat Boy, each Tricky Treasure run is a mad dash through imminent and certain death while you chase an anthropomorphic treasure chest. Each run is half exhilarating and half lose-your-mind infuriating. But, every single one is impossible to walk away from; the deed has to be done. Deaths result in an immediate respawn, dropping you back at the beginning of the level and putting you back in the driver's before you have the chance to rage quit. When you finally do it, it's always worth it; it is one hell of a relief.
Most likely in response to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Rayman Origins supports 4-player local co-op. Friends can control Globox and a pair of small wizard-like creatures named Teensies. However, co-op feels like an afterthought since there is nothing designed into the game to take advantage of it, other than griefing. Players can smack one another and cause mayhem, which admittedly supports the kooky vision of series creator Michel Ancel, but none of the levels are enhanced by the participation of multiple players.
As Rayman journeys to rescue all of Betilla's friends, Origins hits a lot of the familiar platforming level tropes. There are the requisite assortment of lush forested levels, ice levels and lava levels, but Ancel finds a way to put his own bizarre stamp on each cliched location. For example, the ice and lava backdrops are spiced up with a food motif, introducing frozen goods into the former and hot sauce bathing chili peppers into the latter. What's most impressive is that it all blends together seamlessly, creating this eclectic universe that Rayman and his pals fit into perfectly.
The weird characters and locales are punctuated by the game's soundtrack that underscores its goofy shtick. The standout track, without a doubt, accompanies the Tricky Treasure levels, creating a welcome sense of humor to the fun but frustrating chase sequences. Rayman may piss you off on occasion, but the music, the graphics and the game's character always shine through, making it impossible to stay angry with.
As the exceedingly rare boxed retail platformer, Origins is a long game spanning over sixty stages. The game is structured into ten different worlds, but it feels like significantly less since each world motif is recycled once. This doesn't mean the second round of stages populating the return trips are bad, however, it does leave the second half of the game feeling less inspired than the first. Since that element of newness and wonder is largely missing in the second half, though there are a few interesting gameplay wrinkles introduced, Origins unfortunately begins to drag towards its climax. With that said, Origins has an extremely satisfying, ridiculously challenging conclusion that is worth every minute and every expletive it takes to see it through.
Rayman Origins is the rare game where you feel like you're having just as much fun playing it as the creator had making it. For the most part it is a master class in old school platforming game design. It's unapologetic in its difficulty level and uncompromising in its vision, which is to be fun, funny and weirdly irreverent. If any game serves as a showpiece for what can still be accomplished with 2D graphics, it's Rayman Origins.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.