Step aside, Mario—Rayman’s the new platforming king
When you go shopping this holiday season, think back to the days when you and three friends would game together on the same console. Think about how fun those experiences were—when you could actually hit your buddy for being a jerk or high-five and celebrate with an actual, in-person human being. Today’s online multiplayer’s great, but it can’t re-create the atmosphere of being in the same room as your buddies. That’s why it’s refreshing to see a game that intentionally bucks that trend, saying, “Hey, bring some friends. Let’s have a good time.”
That’s exactly what Rayman: Origins is—a good time for four friends. The bare-bones narrative offers some backstory to the series and features the same merry band of misfits as previous entries. But the plot doesn’t matter; it’s only a stepping stone to the gameplay and action, a simple method to get the wheels turning. Up to four players take command of Rayman (the armless, legless, and neckless hero), his sidekick, Globox, and two Teensies and run off for a silly, kid-friendly-yet-engaging adventure.
Origins is a simple side-scrolling platformer, but it properly introduces players to the intricacies of the game with expert pacing. After completing each new world, Rayman and friends gain abilities like running up walls, hovering, swimming underwater, and so on. Even kids and nongamers can pick up a controller and get how to play. Best of all, because each level offers so much to collect, players can return to earlier levels and 100-percent complete them with a second runthrough, or attempt a timed speed run.
And even as a side-scroller, there’s nothing simple about Origins’ artistry, mechanics, and general gameplay. Every level’s filled with hidden treasures, secret passageways, colorful backdrops, and always an opportunity for tomfoolery. The miniscule plot serves as a warning to newcomers: Do not take this game seriously. After all, who can consider obnoxious snoring as the cause of all Rayman and co.’s problems as a serious motif?
Fun—and a general good time—is all that Origins is about. Alone, the game’s similar to Mario entries when it comes to gameplay and mechanics, though it’s faster-paced and offers the ability to attack enemies. Larger levels, more worlds, and a bigger overall purpose (to collect as many Electoons as possible) makes Origins a more exciting game than Mario titles if you’re going it alone. This is platforming at its finest; it’s never so frustrating that you’ll want to throw the controller and never so tiring that you want to stop—and it’s never, ever too serious.
Playing with friends is an entirely different experience. Two players may go slap-happy, three’s a race to the finish, and with four, it’s a constant struggle to move forward. It’s just too much fun to screw around—oftentimes even more fun than actually progressing through the game. Special levels, such as treasure races and flying levels, are especially creative and a absolute blast to play through.
Origins’ artistry is also incredible, a real testament to how games should look if they aren’t pushing the boundaries in a technical aspect. The game’s not texture-heavy like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Okami, instead opting for very clean, colorful, and clear settings and in-game objects. Certain levels do an amazing job of showing off the artwork, such as underwater levels with hundreds of fish swimming about, or levels on high with deranged fowl flapping around unhappily. I can only hope that the artwork isn’t lost on players who are having too much fun just playing the game, though.
The musical score matches the game’s carefree attitude—it’s lighthearted on simple, more barren levels, while dropping a few octaves for more challenging areas and bosses. The sound and music is, like the graphical design, very clean and meshes perfectly with every level and situation.
Rayman: Origins may appear to be just another kids’ game, but don’t pass it over just because it doesn’t have that blockbuster name. This is one of the few games that’s fun for adults and kids alike—and together.
SUMMARY: The best-darned platformer you’ll play all year.
- THE GOOD: Pitch-perfect solo and cooperative gameplay, excellent artwork and score
- THE BAD: No online play will rub some the wrong way
- THE UGLY: It’s competing with, like, 20 games
Rayman: Origins is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii. Primary version reviewed was on the Xbox 360.