Rayman never really needed to be anything other than a 2D platformer. 3D platformers were all the rage back in 1999, and Rayman 2 needed to step up at the time – 2D just wouldn’t cut it. And if Rayman 3 had been in 2D, it would have felt like a step backwards, surely?
Fast forward to 2011, sixteen years after Rayman’s last main 2D outing and, suddenly, Ubisoft have thrown away a needless dimension and taken a step back into Rayman’s roots with Rayman Origins. The thing is, it doesn’t feel like a step back at all, really it’s anything but that. It’s not a remake either, and it’s no longer a prequel – it’s more of a subtle reboot of the franchise, which carries over most of Rayman’s friends and foes from the previous games.[drop]Rayman, Globox and two Teensies make up the four playable characters in Origins; whether you’re playing on your own or with three friends you’ll be able to select any of these characters to play with, which, despite size differences, act almost identically in terms of speed, attack power and platforming abilities – the two Teensie characters being completely identical. All of the characters feel quite speedy and energetic, and it’s this sense of speed which helps make this one of the finest platformers in existence.
Set over six worlds, each with its own theme, and an overall level count that comes close to seventy, Origins certainly doesn’t lack variety. Rayman and his friends will travel through a jungle, a desert, an icy area which changes into a fiery kitchen in the blink of an eye, the bottom of the sea and even to the top of a mountain and beyond, collecting new powers as they go. These powers – punching, hovering, diving and so on are revealed and then introduced at the perfect moments, before any of them get a chance to become stale.
Your objective, much like in the first Rayman game, is to free Electoons from their cages in order to progress. This can be achieved in a few ways: either by outright destroying their cage and the enemies protecting it (each level has an obvious cage at the end, and most feature two secret cages to discover); by collecting the required amount of Lums in a particular level; or by re-doing the level against the clock.
Trophies and medals can also be collected by beating the clock or collecting a lot of Lums.
Of course, freeing these Electoons isn’t going to be a very fun task if the controls are clunky and the animations are lifeless. Thankfully, Origins is the exact opposite of that; the controls and animations alike flow beautifully as Rayman and his friends jump and fight in response to the face buttons, dive, slide and generally move using the left stick, and sprint with any of the shoulder buttons.
And that’s the basis of the game: using these abilities to free Electoons from cages through a plethora of levels; each of which is crafted excellently. The level design really shines, with each level divided into sections separated by doors that act as checkpoints and, along with introducing new ideas and gameplay mechanics, the difficulty ramps up at the perfect moments.
These levels are filled with enemies to defeat – all of whom, bar bosses, will ‘bubbleize’ in a singular hit, leaving their floating, ballooned body to jump on or hit again for an extra Lum. Similarly, after one hit, your character will bubbleize unless you’ve collected a heart. If you’re fortunate enough to have picked one up, it’ll take a hit instead of you in the typical fashion.
In singleplayer, you’ll die instantly after being bubbleized and be teleported back to the last checkpoint. However, if you’re playing with friends you’ll be able to move your character around until one of them pops you and brings you back to the ground.
It’s not all fast-paced platforming, though – Rayman will often gather his Moskito allies and then engage in side-scrolling shooter segments which are all well execute and fun to play through. Boss levels are also delightful affairs, with one in particular sticking out as a fantastic example of level design.[drop2]Perhaps the most important thing about Rayman Origins is how absolutely stunning it looks; one of the first things you’ll notice about it is the wonderful art style, with a vast colour palette and unmatched 2D animation.
In fact, it’s one of the finest looking games this generation – it might lack the hyper-realistic graphics of Battlefield or the stunning, detailed 3D world of Uncharted, but it’s essentially a playable 2D cartoon, with impressive HD textures that are second to none in this genre. Rayman Origins is simply one of the most attractive games to look at in recent memory.
Origins also succeeds with its sound design – the music is extremely catchy and wonderfully composed (I found myself humming along on more than one occasion). The voice acting is sublime, as whilst at first it might seem like complete unintelligible nonsense, it soon becomes apparent that the words are still spoken, just in a jumbled manner.
Whilst it is one of the best platformers ever created, there are a few things that it lacks – it has everything a game needs to be a successful platformer: Lums to collect, powers to harness, hidden areas, a simple health system, super fast load times to avoid frustration and speedy characters with fluid animations, yet you can’t help but feel that a more driven narrative would really add to the otherwise fantastic experience.
There’s not much else to fault Rayman Origins on though; some minor control issues did arise in co-op and you’re only able to play locally, rather than with three online friends.
It’s a lengthy game, too – you won’t be short changed with four or five hours of gameplay; there’s eight to ten hours of levels to progress through and even more time can be spent replaying and collecting everything to unlock all of the costumes and even some additional levels.
- Unbelievably impressive visuals.
- Tight, fluid controls in singleplayer.
- Remarkable level design.
- Platforming at its finest.
- A good length with lots of things to collect and unlock.
- Fans of Rayman will be delighted.
- Co-op is offline only.
- Minor control issues in co-op.
- Lack of a cohesive narrative leaves it occasionally aimless.
Perhaps, though, all of Origin’s little faults – such as the lack of a tightly-knit story or online co-op – are in keeping with what Rayman is at heart: a traditional platformer. That’s all it’s aiming for, to bring that style of game into the modern age with spectacular design, incredible visuals and animation, top-notch sound and a lengthy playtime.
Rayman Origins puts Sonic in his place and stands atop the pile of this generation’s 2D platformers. It’s as close to platforming perfection as we can get from a Rayman game and not just a step forwards for Rayman himself but ultimately a step forwards for the genre altogether.