OXCGN’s Rayman Origins Review
©2011 Alex Baldwin
Back in the original PlayStation days when gamers were getting all gooey-eyed at those fancy new-fangled 3D platformers like Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot, a new 2D platformer was released that reveled in its missing dimension.
The armless French Rayman appeared on the scene with some of the most beautiful sprites and animation ever seen in a game, which contrasted wildly with the hard-edged low-poly characters model prancing about in Sony and Nintendo’s more well-known franchises.
After two well-received 3D sequels, endless ports of the second game (Rayman 2: The Great Escape, aka Rayman DS, aka Rayman 3D) and the spin-off Rabbids series, he’s back and in curiously familiar circumstances.
With the platform genre having evolved into more hybrid games such as Assassin’s Creed, LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted, while the indie scene is reveling in 16-bit revivals, Rayman: Origins on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii sticks out like a sore thumb.
A very, very stunningly beautiful sore thumb.
It may be superficial to begin this review discussing the visuals, but it’s the absolute first thing that slaps you in the face upon beginning the game.
2D still relevant!
Instead of going back to retro, blocky pixels, Rayman: Origins turns the detail up to eleven with an amazing hand-drawn style that makes each and every second an explosion of colour and character.
However, while some other games have used similar stylistic choices Origins sets itself apart with incredibly smooth animation on characters, objects and backgrounds.
Almost everything not tied down is constantly moving, swaying, sparkling or generally filling the screen with life. This is in contrast with the hand-drawn style that would typically defy detailed animation.
A risk worth taking…
Art aside, one of the biggest make-or-break factors of a platformer is character movement.
Nintendo have discussed the amount of time and effort that goes into making sure controlling Mario just ‘feels’ right, from his acceleration to his jumping height to the inertia upon stopping.
Thankfully, Ubisoft have pulled it off flawlessly with a mix between Mario’s precision and Sonic’s faster pace. I never felt controls or Rayman’s physical properties were ever responsible for deaths – rather just my own mistimed jump or failing.
As well as the usual repertoire of running, jumping, crouching, wall-jumping and butt-stomping Rayman has the ability to sprint up walls and even upside down, punch enemies, slide (crouch while running), catch ledges and use his signature helicopter hair (ears?) to glide over long jumps or use wind drafts to hover.
Surprisingly, I did not wish for the use of the d-pad in the slightest. While I prefer the precision of the d-pad in other 2D games such as Raskulls, I had not such issues in Origins.
Inventive and original (what?)
While most levels move along at a similar pace to Mario with some mild spatial puzzle solving, special challenge levels are a race against the swiftly-scrolling screen chasing a living treasure chest and force the sprint trigger to be constantly pressed.
The flawless physical characteristics and controls of Rayman are a highlight here where pixel-perfect jumping and timing is necessary and sheer reacting is key, and really get the adrenaline pumping more than almost any other game in recent memory.
Throughout the levels numerous secret cages of Electoons (little pink balls you’re tasked with saving, ala Sonic’s animals) and coins that grant extra Lums (shiny yellow firefly-like collectibles tallied at the end of each level to unlock more Electoons) keep you constantly on the lookout, as almost every time something in the level design suggests a hidden area such as two close, adjacent pipes that appear wall-jumpable there is a reward.
It helps heighten the replayability and invites exploration; something more usually found in 3D platforming games.
You and 3 mates; drop in drop out
Having played through almost every level with a friend, I can confirm that Rayman: Origins is definitely best experienced with a friend.
The screen zooms intelligently to keep both players visible (to a limit) and provides a helpful buffer in that when a player dies, they turn into a large freely-controlled bubble that brings that character back to life when a living characters hits it.
This is extremely useful for tricky hidden areas where a player can stay behind as another takes the risk, ready to revive them upon failure without consequence.
It all adds up to one of the most enjoyable same-room multiplayer I’ve experienced; particularly the treasure chest chase levels that often devolve into a tag team as each player misses a jump by millimeters only to be revived seconds later before that players misses their own jump.
You call yourself a gamer?
It’s challenging without being frustrating, gorgeous to look at, great fun with friends and lengthy for a 2D platformer (over twice the length of Super Mario 3D Land, which I was tag-teaming Origins with).
But most of all, it’s a perfect example of a game so well-designed and pitched that it can appeal to both casual and core audiences.
If you call yourself a gamer, there is no excuse for not having this in your collection along this year’s other greats such as Skyrim and Battlefield 3.
©2011 Alex Baldwin
Filed under: 3rd Party Games, Console gaming, Game Impressions, New Xbox 360 Games, PS3 Reviews, Xbox 360, Xbox 360 3rd Party Games, Xbox 360 Game Reviews Tagged: | OXCGN, Rayman, Rayman Origins, Rayman Origins Review, Rayman's Origins, Ubisoft