Game Rant's Rob Keyes reviews Rayman: Origins.
After more than six years, the oddly limbless, yet lovable Rayman is back. Since 2005, Ubisoft chose to instead focus on Rayman's spin-off series, Raving Rabbids, which grew to such popularity that they dropped "Rayman" from the titles of their games. Now the original series is back with a prequel titled Rayman: Origins.
Debuting during one of the busiest video game release seasons of all time, does Rayman: Origins deliver a 2D side-scroller that's worthy of your attention? Read on for our review.
If there's one game that should be picked up by families this holiday season, Rayman: Origins is it. Origins, like previous games in the Rayman series, is a side-scrolling platformer. It features a few of the better elements from other major platformers including Mario Bros., LittleBigPlanet and Sonic, but wraps it all up in a nearly flawless package.
The story of Rayman: Origins follows the titular hero, his awesomely hilarious pal Globox and a pair of Teensies hanging out in the Glade of Dreams when the Darktoons and other evils invade. It's up to the player (and up to 3 friends playing cooperatively) to save the captured Electoons and rescue the voluptuous Nymphs. There's a Nymph representing each world and several ways to rescue and collect the Electoons (think pink smiley emoticons). The story doesn't resonate and most won't even know what the story is, but for this game, it doesn't matter.
The game is structured in a way that is familiar to the platforming genre with a linear path through multiple worlds, each featuring a set of levels that follow the theme of that respective world, whether it be diving into underwater adventures or traversing dangerous mountaintops. The first level in each of the main worlds involves rescuing that land's Nymph who in return, grants the players with a new power needed for the levels of that respective world. These include the abilities to glide in the air, shrink in size, run up walls, etc. It's a neat and effective way of weening players into learning all of the moves the characters will eventually possess and it keeps the gameplay fresh as players progress.
[gallery columns="2" exclude="117061,117064,117065,117066,117067"]
The levels themselves are gorgeous in their unique designs and that's a tribute to UbiArt Framework, Ubisoft's new graphics utility which was used for the very first time with Rayman: Origins. The animations and designs of the characters are silky smooth as are the interactive environments and game menus. From world to world and level to level, there's new environmental hazards, obstacles and creatures that lend themselves to the varied gameplay. Rayman: Origins offers players new types of experiences continuously.
Levels load super quick and players are never kept waiting as the loading screens themselves let players fool around with their characters. The visuals alone will immerse the players into the polished gameplay, but it's the music of Rayman: Origins - even in the menus - that will put a smile on your face. Production values in a classic 2D sidescroller just don't get better than this.
Like most platformers, the Rayman prequel is designed to be replayed over and over. The game's "coin" system actually serves a legitimate purpose as players collect Lums in each and every level to help unlock more Electoons. Each standard map has two hidden Electoons that need to be freed from their cage with a third at the very end of the level. But that's not the only way to collect the happy smiley face people.
[gallery columns="2" exclude="117061,117062,117063,117066,117067"]
At the completion of an area, the collected coins/Lums are tallied up to see if the player hit the 3 benchmarks, the first two of which award the player additional Electoons. There are special stages with less rewards and different benchmarks to hit, but the basic structure is the same. The one annoyance here is that after playing a bunch of levels, the animation for this recap gets tiresome and there's no way to skip it so learn to love it, especially since most players won't be able fly through the game on their first playthrough and will therefore be seeing this a lot.
The Electoons aren't just a fun collectible, they are needed to open up certain stages. Before the game's final levels and bonus areas can be played, players will find themselves having to replay previous levels to collect more of these in their playthrough but by this time they will have learned and mastered Rayman's full set of acquired abilities. In each world, there's a bonus stage of sorts which requires a certain number of Electoons as well, giving yet another reason for players to revisit previously conquered worlds.
There are a few worlds which pit players in a chase sequence either running after a target or away from an oncoming foe, but outside of these, the levels do not enforce time limits, allowing players the time they need to navigate obstacles and search for secrets. And there are a lot of secrets to be found since every standard level has the two Electoons that need to be rescued.
[gallery columns="2" exclude="117061,117064,117065,117062,117063"]
Collecting these is a norm for most platforming and adventure-type games but Rayman: Origins can be punishing at times in this respect. Levels are divided up into smaller sections which work as checkpoints. Die somewhere in a section - which can happen frequently- and re-start the section from the beginning or in some cases half-way through depending on the level. This becomes a frustrating exercise in certain trickier situations as the game forces the player to re-collect all of the Lums in that area, so the player now has to not only focus on traversing a dangerous area, but collecting something they've already collected which is tedious.
Fortunately, the game's controls are eloquent in their simplicity and despite Rayman and his allies having a lot of abilities and actions - more than most platformers - performing these actions is intuitive and the controls are responsive. That being said, Rayman: Origins isn't an easy game. What makes it a great game is that it strikes the perfect balance of challenge, especially for players attempting to reach full completion.
Ubisoft has crafted one of the best and most entertaining platforming experiences we've seen in a while with Rayman: Origins and it's one of those rare titles that is fun for everyone. It's a beautiful game, with perfected controls that offers fun cooperative and solo play with the right amount of challenge.
Rayman: Origins is now available for PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii with future releases planned for the 3DS and Vita.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.