Review: Rayman Origins
It’s been a while since Rayman has appeared on a home console. The last time we saw the fist swinging hero on our TV screens was in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc which appeared on a whole host of platforms including the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and PC; his last title releasing on the Gameboy Advance in 2005. As the 6 years have flown by, has the wait been worth it? Find out in this review.
Rayman’s storyline has always been pretty straight forward, even going back to the original PS1 title, where the plot revolved around saving the Electoons, captured in cages by Mr Dark. Save some captured friends and save the day. As the games have progressed in the series, I’ve found the story lines to get a little more muddled, especially the games that appeared on the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. Now, when players talk about Rayman you will rarely hear any one say “that was a great story” because frankly it wasn’t, but the PS1 titles focused all on gameplay. When development shifted to the PS2, Gamecube and Xbox, Ubisoft seamed to focus more on the storyline instead of the gameplay. This has changed in Origins, and it is a change for the better. The plot is very simplistic and suits what Rayman is best know for… Gameplay. It starts a little like this, Rayman is in the Glade of Dreams, a world created by the mysterious Bubble Dreamer….
Rayman and his beloved friend Globox, along with a collection of other characters, manage to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Rayman and his pals manage to be attacked by an Old Granny?! (..I know an old Granny!). The Old Granny sends an army of the nastiest creatures, bringing some Darktoons to the fight as well. It’s time once again for Rayman and his friends to rescue the Electoons, defeat the evil creatures and set everything right. The plot is as I said ‘simplistic’, just like the original. No ridiculous twists or random occurrences that ruin the experience, just classic Rayman platforming action. It seems that Ubisoft have taken the correct route and listened to fans of the series. It’s a shame Rayman’s competitor Crash Bandicoot hasn’t also followed in Rayman’s footsteps.
Looking to the gameplay side of things, Rayman is back on form with some charming humour and is back in a side-scrolling platformer. A feature that I didn’t except was the ability to team up with local players for four player co-op, featuring drop in and out capabilities at any time. Whle I don’t feel that this is the main focus of the game….. It doesn’t ruin the gameplay experience either. If anything, it’s a nice alternative to 2009’s New Super Mario Bros Wii, which saw the same feature set implemented into the gameplay. It’s surprisingly nice to see couch co-op featured in the game, as many recent titles rely on the Internet for Multiplayer experiences, though this will mean you’ll need four controllers and a big couch, as opposed to just a headset, adding to it’s retro flavour. The Co-Op gives players more options when playing, allowing for a gameplay experience which fits everyone’s preferences. If you do decide to drop into the four player experience you can choose from four playable characters; Rayman, Globox or two Teensies, and s you progress, you’ll begin to unlock additional costumes.
Playing either alone or with friends, you’ll have to complete each level to progress through the game. Throughout each level, you’ll be up against a variety of different enemies, all while having to save captured Electoons. Your progression is also tied to your range of abilities that you can use, and these new tools add to the gameplay, keeping it fresh and interesting. The abilities you can unlock include being able to run up walls, gliding in midair after jumping and shrinking in size, allowing you to reach hidden areas. This isn’t all though, as the variety in each level, as well as across the entire game is a huge plus for the game, allowing you to jump on a mosquito and fly through some segments in-between the standard platforming gameplay. I was impressed by how well these different levels fit together, and when I was nearing completion of the game, I never got bored and actually wanted more even after the credits rolled. You will face many different obstacles and gameplay mechanics in the levels, inclduding some old Rayman tropes with spikes, floating platforms, platforms that disappear, platforms that move, platforms that fade in and out, and even some trampolines to bounce you around. Many of these platforms will catch players off guard and will require some practice, otherwise you may often be heading down many of the games bottomless pit.
Now, if you’re like me and tend to die a lot in the game, expect to see Rayman turn into a bubble and float away. As you may have guessed from the basic plot, Rayman is in the “Bubble Dream World”, and this bubble world dictates a lot of the elements in the game. Enemies also turn into bubbles and can be used to jump to higher places as they don’t pop until you jump on them, though be quick, or else they veer of screen and you will be out of luck with your 100% attempt. If you can’t handle this one hit death situation, you’re in luck, as there are random hearts placed through out the levels which allows you to take an extra hit. You can only carry one heart at a time though, and if you loose your heart and end up still getting hit again then you will be returned to the nearest checkpoint. During each level you will also want to be the lookout for gold-coloured Lums. Lums affect your overall ranking at the end of each level, rewarding you with a medal according to how many lums you have collected. If you manage to find a King Lum you will earn double points during a short period of time, forcing you to collect the floating Lums before they disappear.
If you’re familiar with the Rayman games, the general progression will be what you expect, since the more Electoons you save, the more of the story you will unlock. This is much easier said that done however, as some of the Electoons are hidden away and can only be freed by completing a puzzle. Some of the puzzles were a little frustrating to complete though, definately giving a challenge to veterans of platforming titles, but will be a little too tough for some. As you save Electoons, you will be able to unlock special treasure levels that give you the opportunity to earn “teeth” rubies. The gameplay has so much going on in it’s 2D environment, styled very much to the art of the original, and the platforming gameplay also bears a close resemblence, though there are of course a whole lot of upgrades and changes which work really well, so well in fact, that I have to say that this is the best Platformer title I have played this year. Sorry Mario.
The art design of the game is stunning, and is definitely one of the best looking games to come out this year. The 2D platforming with the layered 3D backdrops look beautiful and vibrant. The colours are mesmerising and stand out, elevating it above its competitors. Even the animations in the scenery looks extraordinary, and I was very shocked to see how many colours could ever be put into a game and work cohesively together. The levels themselves are amazing, from the icy mountains to the sandy deserts, implementing so many different shades of colours, making the game look rich. If you’re looking for a game that is oozing with colours and amazing 2D design then this is perfect for you. However, if you are easily distracted by pretty colours and ‘rainbow-like’ objects, then the design may lead to many deaths. There are some minor design elements that cause some issues, especially where the obstacles and backgrounds can blend together a little too well, again leading to some lost lives. This could also be caused by the fact that there is a lot going on in the levels, though sometimes maybe a little too much.
So far, with all the talk of the art style and platforming mechanics, I haven’t even touched on the soundtrack. Again, just like the other elements, it adds greatly to the game, slotting in nicely to enhance the already stunning looking (and sounding) title. I have nothing bad to say about the music at all, especially since I fell in love with its charming jazz themed songs instantly. The music is exhilarating and the combination of art and sound is top notch, overall, it’s an amazing mix and fits beautifully.
Rayman Origins is one of the best platforming titles I have played since Super Mario Bros 2. The gameplay features a lot of interesting elements which feel fresh and unique, and even though the local multiplayer feels a lot like Super Mario Bros Wii, there are many fundamental differences. The overall experience of the game was one which I won’t forget. Ubisoft choose four player local co-op instead of online functionality and it works really well. The design and sound are also worth picking up the game for. It seems Rayman is back, and let’s hope Ubisoft keep Rayman in this amazing form.
Game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.