Ahh, the platformer. During this generation of consoles, the genre has been kept on life support by the likes of Mario and LittleBigPlanet, while Master Chief and Marcus Fenix sprint past them on the financial flow chart with first- and third-person offerings. Shooters are most definitely the flavor of the day, so playing Rayman Origins was a welcomed breath of fresh air, and one that brought me back to the heyday of platform gaming.
Developed and published by Ubisoft, Rayman Origins was originally going to be an episodic downloadable title for the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. Ubisoft announced this at the end of their E3 2010 press conference, after which not much was said about the game until early 2011, when it was confirmed that Rayman Origins would be a full retail release. While there is no questioning the quality of the game, I wonder if, in the end, Rayman Origins would sell better had it been downloadable.
Rayman Origins takes place in the Glade of Dreams, a world in trouble thanks to some party-crashing creatures from the Land of the Livid Dead. It is up to our hero Rayman and his best friend Globox to rid the world of these nasties before the Glade falls apart, so they can get back to their lazy days of eating and sleeping. The Bubble Dreamer, creator of the Glade of Dreams, is a fun-loving but moody fellow, and the Glade reflects his mood changes. The dynamic duo, along with the big-nosed Teensies, must free the cute pink Electoons from their prisons at the end of each level by defeating Darktoons, various bosses, and Betilla and her Nymphs, who first appeared in the original Rayman.
"In design, graphics, gameplay, and sound, it wins best platformer of this generation, hands down."
Being a platformer, the gameplay is simple in nature: one button for jump, one button for attack, and one button to sprint. It is a welcome change with most other games using every single button on the controller, either for a single purpose or for mind-bending combinations. Your objective in every level is to collect as many Lums (pronounced “looms”) as you can, in order to unlock more areas of the game, and thus advancing to the different bosses. You need to reach the end of the level in order to free the imprisoned Electoons, creations of the Bubble Dreamer designed to bring happiness to the Glade. The overall charm of Rayman Origins is in its honesty. Ubisoft wants the gamer to have fun with this game, and the developer gets its wish, in spades.
Rayman Origins is the first game to use Ubisoft’s in-house graphics engine, UbiArt. Let me say this now: This game is flat out gorgeous. The backgrounds are works of art, and the character models are just the right touch of cartoony. Picture this: Braid, plus Bastion, with a dash of Sesame Street. Yes, it looks THAT good. The four-player co-op is a fantastic and a much-needed addition, and it’s reminiscent of New Super Mario Bros for the Wii. I played Origins with my daughter and her friend, and I was just as giggly as them throughout our experience. The game sounds stunning in 5.1 surround, with intricate beeps and chirps in the forest levels, and swirling winds surrounding my living room for the desert levels. In design, graphics, gameplay, and sound, it wins best platformer of this generation, hands down.
Rayman Origins brings me back to my youth, when I used to play my Nintendo for hours on end, trying to get Super Mario to the end of each level, and dying a lot along the way. So it is with Rayman, as I found some of the levels somewhat challenging. Don’t get me wrong, though: it’s not a “frustrating” kind of challenging, but a “satisfying” one. Origins finds just the right balance between child’s play, and the urge to return to unbeaten levels until you’re finished. So many things are done right in this game, and Ubisoft gives you over 80 levels of gameplay to prove itself. It is a sizeable experience, and well worth the $60 price tag.
For nostalgic reasons alone, Rayman Origins is a must-have for the platformer fan. Before playing Rayman, I never considered myself a “fan”, per se, but I also didn’t realize, until now, that platformers are my gaming roots. All other games have grown from those roots, and have been nurtured over the years so that I may enjoy the popular games of today. It’s my hope that maybe, just maybe, Rayman Origins can pull some kids away from the shooters so that they can appreciate the genre that started it all, for most of us at least. Simply put, Rayman Origins has every right to copy the moniker given to soccer/European Football: it’s The Beautiful Game of the video game world.
Release date : 2011-11-15
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft
Gameplay : Platformer
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