Platforms:  Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS Vita, PC (coming soon), 3DS (coming soon)

Developer:  Ubisoft Montpellier

Publisher:  Ubisoft

Rating:  “E10+” for Everyone 10 and Older

Review by:  Nick Cohen

Platform reviewed on:  Xbox 360

As the first new Rayman platformer to be released in years (in recent years, Rayman has only been seen in the first few Rayman Raving Rabbids minigame collections), Rayman Origins seems like a risky purchase.  After all, while his older platformers were pretty good, the video game industry has moved on and evolved.  Nintendo seems to be the only major publisher willing to put out 2D platformers, including such greats as New Super Mario Bros. and the phenomenal Donkey Kong Country Returns.  2D platformers have found a new home on download services such as Xbox Live Arcade and Steam, where indie developers get to put out creative platformers such as ‘Splosion Man and the infamously challenging Super Meat Boy.  Does Rayman Origins have what it takes to stand out in a genre that has changed considerably, or should you stick to Nintendo’s suite of legendary characters for your platforming fix?

Rayman Origins sure knows how to make a good first impression.  This is the most beautiful platformer I’ve ever seen; heck, I think it’s one of the best looking games in any genre.  The game vaguely resembles a cartoon, but to say it only looks like a cartoon would be doing the game a disservice.  The game has a gorgeous painterly style that gives everything a lot of color.  You’ve never seen a cartoon that looks this good.  The animation is superb and humorous, backgrounds are intricately detailed, and the framerate never slows down from its silky smooth 60 frames per second.  What’s more, most versions of the game (Wii and 3DS excepted) are in HD, making the graphics pop out from the screen even more.  Rayman Origins will be a great showcase for your HDTV, just like Battlefield 3 and Uncharted.

Likewise, the game sounds great.  Characters make cute-yet-weird noises like in Rare’s Banjo-Kazooie games and the sound effects fit the game’s tone perfectly.  What really stands out about Rayman Orgins‘ sound design, however, is the music.  Unashamedly weird and not afraid to be different, Origins‘ music is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.  It’s also darn catchy, with the salsa-inspired fire stage music and haunting underwater tunes particular standouts.  Some tracks repeat a bit too often, but you won’t complain since they’re so good.

So Rayman Origins makes a strong first impression.  Big deal.  The true test of any platformer’s worth lies in its gameplay.  Thankfully, Rayman Origins features tight, mostly-precise platforming that is challenging and fun.  The game features very simple controls–you can run, jump, attack enemies, and not much else.  Sure, you can swim and run up walls later in the game, but these sections control a lot like the regular platforming does.  This isn’t a knock against the game by any means; in fact, I like my platformers simple.  Too many controls make things too complicated and make you confused during their more difficult sections.

Rayman Origins is one of the best-looking games I've ever played.

And Rayman Origins does get difficult.  It starts out fairly easy, but gradually ramps up the challenge.  It’s never as difficult as Super Meat Boy or Donkey Kong Country Returns, but some sections–especially later in the game–get really tough.  The last handful of levels are true tests of gamers’ skill.  If you want to unlock everything in the game and see all that it has to offer, you have to collect a certain number of Lums (think coins in Mario), defeat each level’s two bonus stages (not all levels feature these, however), and complete every level under a strict time limit.  If you’re chasing after all of the secrets/collectibles and racing to beat every level within a set amount of time, Rayman Origins is going to be a very difficult game.  The only problem I have with the difficulty is that enemies are generally pushovers–they mostly just stand there and do nothing until you jump on them or punch them.

Rayman Origins breaks up the regular platforming levels with boss battles, treasure chest runs, and mosquito sections.  The bosses are okay–they look cool, but some are too easy.  The mosquito sections are just awesome.  Rayman and his Teensy friends hop on the backs of mosquitoes (amusingly, the pudgy blue Globox character gives the mosquito a ride) and shoot at enemies like in old 2D side-scrolling shooters.  Again, the controls are kept simple; you move around the screen, shoot at enemies, and can suck in–and then spit out–enemies.  These levels are short and not as prevalent as the platforming stages, but they’re a really fun way to break up the pacing.  The treasure chest runs are optional; you access them by collecting enough Electoons in each world (Electoons are the game’s main currency; think of stars in Super Mario 64).  These levels involve Rayman and friends chasing after a runaway treasure chest in search of a tooth for a character back at the hub world.  These levels demand concentration and precision, making them sometimes frustrating.

Similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Rayman Origins features simultaneous multiplayer for up to four players.  Multiplayer quickly devolves into chaos and makes things more difficult, so I suggest beating the game on your own first before you attempt it with friends.  Sadly, there is no online play, meaning you’ll have to play on the same console with friends.  It’s also worth noting that the PS Vita version of the game features no multiplayer; instead, you can run time trials against a ghost and share your best times online.  It’s not as good a bonus as the console version’s multiplayer, but it’s a fun distraction and the Vita version is otherwise identical to its console brethren.

Rayman Origins is of a decent length for a platformer, but it will still take you less than 10 hours to see everything.  Levels are very replayable and contain a lot of secrets, but there’s only so much content here.  I can’t recommend it as a full $60 purchase when that money can buy you Skyrim.  Thankfully, most retailers are offering the console versions at $30, which is the right price for this game.  The Vita version will run you an extra $10, so don’t buy that version unless you absolutely need to play Rayman Origins on the go, especially since it removes the multiplayer.

Overall Thoughts

Rayman Origins is one of the better modern platformers.  It’s gorgeous, has a catchy soundtrack, and controls well.  The game’s biggest problems are its length and the fact that the idle running animation sometimes causes problems in the platforming sections.  If you have a gaming console, $30, and like platformers, you should buy Rayman Origins.

Breakdown:

Sound:  Rayman Origins features weird, catchy music that you won’t be able to get out of your head.  Sound effects are appropriate and the characters all speak in weird gibberish, which may annoy some gamers.

Storyline:  Rayman and friends irritate a bunch of evil undead creatures with their loud snoring (seriously).  This is explained in the opening cutscene.  After that, you have to rescue some nymphs (with oddly gigantic bosoms) and then put a stop to whatever the heck is going on.

Gameplay:  Rayman Origins is a fast and fluid 2D platformer with simple controls.  The idle running animation can cause some frustration, but 95% of the time the game plays flawlessly.  Platforming sections are broken up by fun mosquito shooting sections.

Graphics:  Rayman Origins is the best looking platformer ever made.  If I had to describe this game in one word, it would be “gorgeous.”

Overall Fun Factor/Replay Value:  Rayman Origins is a ton of fun and includes four-player cooperative multiplayer.  There are a ton of secrets to find, but it’s not the longest game out there.

Final Score:  8.5/10 (great)

 


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