Rayman Origins: A Review
The Limbless Legend Returns
Rayman is one of the zaniest platform games around, as well as one of the hardest on the Playstation One. Not only was it the first platform game to have hand-drawn visuals and animations of such a smooth frame rate, it also made several innovations such as flight, multiple paths to take and flexible requirements for later zones. But it was also filled with difficulty, something many seem to forget when buying this game out of nostalgia and even to this day it remains to be one of the hardest games you can easily obtain for the console. As time went by Rayman saw a fat load of reception from critics and players, as well as more sequels and sidequels, however it didn't live up to the character's potential. Upon the release of Raving Rabbids I thought that there was no going back; no hope for Rayman.
But I was wrong.
Rayman Origins is a platform game that's wound up its fist and punched platforming in the face, and from the groin of the genre dropped a pair of brass boulders. Ubisoft both developed and published this game, using some of the most talented and ingenious artists and animators to restore the original franchise to its former glory, and revitalise platform gaming. It removes the life support and encourages the genre to take in breath, before teaching it how to walk and how to feed itself, as though this genre is newly born. And thanks to lead designers and directors Michael Ansel (first two Rayman games and Beyond Good and Evil, the latter being a personal favourite) and Sébastian Morin, this game undoes the damage that has been caused to both the series and adventure gaming itself. Released on the PS3 (the console I'm playing it on as it should be) on the 25th November 2011, the sequel spent two years in development, and is expected for mid-Autumn 2013.
So let's dive right into Rayman: Origins, and find out what makes his return so damn good!
Dreams really do come true
One thing about the Rayman story is that it changed too much and lost its original appeal entirely. What happened to the food worlds, the art worlds, the music worlds, and why were they just replaced with enchanted forests and grimy factories? Is this Rayman or are we reminiscing over Donkey Kong Country? This no longer matters because Origins brings us back on track to a world where several characters, races and places are familiar with a few twists. It's quite hard to tell when this game takes place because the Dark Lums weren't introduced until the third game, the Lums in the second game and the Electoons from the very first one. Plus you have the teensies and the Land of the Livid Dead, causing all kinds of paradoxes.... but this isn't a title you play for the story. The tale goes that in the Glade of Dreams resides a being called Bubble Dreamer, who makes all the good dreams and fantasies by sleeping. But because Rayman, Globox and the Teensies' snoring disturbs an elderly lady in the Land of the Livid Dead, it gives her no choice but to send up a load of villains to put a stop to the racket! Things get out of control fairly quickly, and it's up to Rayman and the gang to restore order to the world, and calm Bubble Dreamer down who is constantly spawning nightmares.
The first and most important thing I can tell you about Origins is that it is not by any means a simple run and jump game, and while that's the bare bones, it's not as easy as it seems. Just because this game has sorted a few (as well as added some new) problems of the original game such as move speed, awkward jumps and tearing out other pages of Platforming 101, does not mean it has removed all of its original difficulty. I'm not trying to put you off by saying it's super difficult, but you will die occasionally even if you're concentrating as best you can. The challenge is fair for the most part, but there will be parts that not even the most hardened gamer can get through without thinking it through.
If anything, Rayman Origins feels a lot more like N+, originally a flash game on the internet turned XBOX LIVE Arcade forgotten classic. Rayman uses a lot of his original moves such as helicopter hair, punching, hanging, swinging, not to mention 4-directional kicks, wall kicks and ground pounds, so this adds a lot more to what the PS1 game had to offer.
Just in case you're not a fan of Rayman....
You can also play as three other characters such as Globox the blue vat of animated dripping and two different Teensies, each with their own abilities (or rather animations, as all abilities do the same damage and effects). Not only this but you can unlock more skins by freeing the Electoons, the magical creatures locked in cages which you may remember from the PS1 game! This not only adds some more experimentation to the game, but also makes co-op and versus multiplayer far more interesting, and keeps everyone from complaining about playing as the same character with a different skin.
The gameplay consists of reaching the end of each level and freeing the Electoons there. Each Electoon cage you find from the beginning to the end of the level (3 in each) is guarded by a bubble which has the lovely textures of a bruise, and to get rid of this bubble you must destroy the enemies around it. Once you've done that, wind up your fist and let it rip, smashing open the cage and freeing the tiny people! The only Electoon cages which aren't hidden are the ones at the end, and the 'bonus' ones are often stuck behind some foliage, causing an illusion in the 2D layout. It's very easy to find them up until the Gourmand Glaciers, where they are obscured by giant blocks of ice. Pretty hard when most of the level is ice.... and lemons.... and cranberry juice....
When you're not looking around for these, you'll be collecting Lums (pronounced 'looms', like illuminate). Each level has above 375 but collect that amount and you get a medal at the end which allows you to unlock time trial mode on that stage. You can also get 150 to 350 in order to get a set number of Electoons as a bonus, which are 'runner up' prizes to the medal. Lums are mostly found 'loose' in the environment sleeping, but the ones in bubbles float off the screen so it requires speed and accurate jumps to reach them. There's also skull coins which grant a large number of Lums, but these are quite the challenge and there's usually something stopping you from getting them. What I like about them is that they're not compulsory, but the challenge you get from finding them in and around the environment adds more difficulty in the same way crates do for the gem in Crash Bandicoot. Finally there's "King Lums", which double the worth of each Lum you find for a short duration, as well as change the soundtrack temporarily to a sweet and cheerful song.
In your path to save the Lums and stop the forces from the Land of the Livid Dead, players must defeat the armies of darkness. By jumping on your enemies you'll "bubblize" them, literally hyperinflating them and causing them to float to the top of the screen. Jumping on them again gives you a small boost yet popping them in the process. It also gives you an extra Lum, so you might want to consider that before punching and kicking all of the enemies off the screen. Getting hit is inevitable you share the same fate as many of your bounced-upon nemeses; bubblisation. One of the best and worst things about the game is that when you die, you don't lose lives. "Now how can that be a bad thing", you might ask, and it's a valid question. Dying in this game has no penalty, but any lums you had before the next checkpoint are lost and you have to retrieve them again. That's hardly a punishment, and because there's no life system in place, the only concern you'll have is getting 375 Lums at the end of each level or the skull coins which are also returned to their original place. There's no fear of death nor a reason to scared of the consequences, but at least it removes the stress and agony of the PS1 title and actually allows you to complete this version.
Each zone has a particular theme, most of which pay tribute to the original game such as rock worlds, music lands, mystical forests and creepy Gothic-horror worlds, and none of them drag on for too long. In fact, when you bridge the gap from one place to another (by collecting a certain amount of Electoons, making them extra important) you're greeted by the next zone during your Mosquito ride (yes, he returns). This too is another great feature and one of my favourite aspects of Rayman One, though here you get so much more involvement with weapons and inhaling foes, as well as fighting creative bosses too!
Let this song set the tone for everything good about Rayman, life, video games and the universe.
And this is what you're missing out on if you don't have this game!
Bells 'n' Whistles
If Rayman Origins exceeds in a single aspect it's the visuals. At first I was terribly cynical toward this game's art style thinking it would ruin everything, or mask truly horrible gameplay but once again, one mustn't judge on appearances alone. The new art style is more than welcome and I'd dare say it's a vast improvement over the original game, especially with such carefully tweaked and crafted animations for both characters and environmental happenings. The only time I've been impressed like this by a platformer's visuals is Super Mario 3D Land, though that was more about the 3DS than the game itself. Uncharted 2 nailed my jaw to the ground with its opening segments, but Origins impresses me all the way through with its fun, overly-coloured and mouth-watering visuals. If you were to say it's sickly sweet like I did with Bioshock: Infinite, I can understand for the kinds of colour schemes and gamma present here aren't for everyone, so if you like your platform game with a little less vibrancy, I'd seriously consider N+.
The soundtrack is almost as ingenious as the visuals and each zone's music fits perfectly like doing a jigsaw for the first time and getting every piece right. My favourite has to be the smooth songs of the Gourmand Glacier, which remind me greatly of many Lupin 3rd soundtracks, and I bet the Castle of Cagliostro theme (starring Lupin, and was directed by Hayao Miyazaki) would probably suit this world too. Every song in this game, every noise, every sound effect is tweaked to the slightest detail and nothing is wrong - it's joyous, its lively and it definitely keeps a game that's already adrenaline fuelled alive and kicking.
Friend or Foe? Well, just friend....
Finally I'd like to talk about the multiplayer features of the game and what you can do. The only multiplayer aspect is the co-op, and it's the strongest element of the gameplay by miles, simply because most things done with friends are better than alone, or at least in video games they are. While you can play together and destroy the Darklums, you can always try race to the finish or collect as many Lums as you possibly can competitively, but because the game wasn't designed around it, co-op should be played as designed. Gaming with a mate doesn't make the game too easy, as you both have the potential of taking a maximum of two hits before dying, and you can't save each other when you're halfway down a pitfall and have turned into a living balloon. But still, the joy of seeing another person there makes the game all the more fun and if you've something to talk about, it's even more entertaining.
Return to the Land of the Livid Dead
'Tis time for me to go, but before I do, allow me to share my final verdict and opinions with you. For remaining faithful to the original game that started it all off, and adding some new innovations, Rayman Origins scores a huge EIGHT OUT OF NINE as well as the "More Bang for your Buck" accolade, as well as a new one, "Painting in Motion", for its revolutionary art styles and OST. The honour of Painting in Motion also goes to:
- Heavy Rain
- Tomb Raider
- Resistance 3
- Killzone 3
The only thing stopping this game from getting a fully blown 9 is the stiff control which you will notice, and can heavily change your comfort while playing. Buttons are responsive, but you'll press harder and slam the sticks in vane more often than usual for a game like this, and it's unacceptable. But if the control were fixed, and the difficulty were tweaked slightly, I reckon this could be a game for everybody. It's most certainly a Greasy Gamer MUST BUY, so don't delay, and try get yourself a copy for ~£20/25. Until the next time I thank you for reading, and wish you a pleasant day!
A nice take on the PS1 Rayman game, doing justice to a series that has seen so much damage without a care. This goes to prove that Rayman doesn't have to be a cash-in crisis, and you can still welcome both new and old fans to the fold! Totally recommended, one of this generation's best platform games.
The controller scheme itself is good, but the buttons and sticks feel awfully stiff. The only time the control felt fluent was when in Mini-Rayman (3rd zone this ability is unlocked), and when riding on Moskito's back.
Lods of levels to explore and with 246 Electoons to get, you won't be completing this game within a week, let alone a weekend. Definitely a game where you're getting more than what you paid for!
Some of the best graphics I've ever seen in video gaming, and really bring the old Rayman games back to life! For gasp-worthy graphics, this game comes totally recommended for its lush environments and gleeful character designs.
Great things have happened to the soundtrack but it's not for everyone. But considering this game is aimed at the youngsters, it's definitely something suitable for them that'll have 'em rocking in their chairs!
The game's lifespan is huge and it's unlikely you'll complete this game quickly. But in the event that you do 100% it, there's not much chance you'd want to try do so again. But the platforming is terrific and deserves more than one playthrough!