In a world where we praise dull, grey landscapes for their ‘likeness’ to real-life portrayals of war, Rayman Origins‘ 2D landscapes are refreshingly lush, full of vibrant colour and contrast. Whether you are swimming through underwater worlds or exploring beautiful jungles, the attention to detail is clearly of paramount importance to the developers. Every world is consistently fluid and full of charm. Rayman Origins owes its predecessors for its roots in 2D platforming and although it does take cues from the original, it still grows and flourishes on its own merits.
Built to propel players through level after level of landscapes, the game’s fluidity can’t be faulted. The controls exist to genuinely help rather than hinder you through your journey. Beginning with a basic skill set, you naturally acquire new moves as you progress, ranging from hovering (i.e. ‘falling with style’) to super punches. These extra moves only add to your experience, as they allow you different methods of interacting with those ever-so-lush landscapes. This is, naturally, quite a good thing, as Rayman Origins is actually a challenging game. Like any game there is a learning curve, with the first section existing merely to ease you into the controls and familiarise yourself with the surroundings. However, after you’ve mastered the basic stuff it has no qualms about throwing you in the deep end as you dive through metal spikes and face threatening enemies. Although a test of your dexterity and patience, you’ll never lose your temper with Rayman. The quirky, upbeat soundtrack will take care of all your anger management needs.
During the first section of the game you’ll find yourself getting caught up in the fluidity of scouring the landscapes for Lums (Rayman’s own branded coins) and searching for hidden areas to free those captured Electoons. If you’ve played Rayman before, you’ll know the drill. Origins rewards your efforts for collecting various items with new playable characters, purchased from ‘The Snoring Tree’ which can be easily accessed any time you wish to change your chosen character. However, new to the series or veteran, you will still find yourself wanting to stop for a moment to simply appreciate the environments you have been assigned to dash, jump and swing through.
Although the collectibles are a chance to reward your nimble fingers and thumbs for successful platforming, it is also quite clear that they are of high importance to progress through the various worlds. If the game deems that you’ve missed out on too many collectibles then it will prompt you to revisit levels and have another attempt to grab them. This is most definitely very frustrating. Although this allows you to immerse yourself one more time in the sheer variety these worlds offer, it seems like a small ‘silver lining.’
While the single player experience is very enjoyable, where Rayman Origins truly comes into its own is through the multiplayer. Sometimes the co-op element of a game simply feels like an afterthought. In Origins, this is not the case. If the whimsical landscapes didn’t already feel like a playground, they certainly do after you add a friend or two. Each player takes control of a character from the Rayman universe, including Rayman (naturally), Globox and two Teensies. Each character acquires new moves as you progress through the game, ensuring some situations are made a little easier for everyone involved.
Once you and your buddies have fought over who gets to play as Globox and are thrown into the world, you might notice a few behaviour changes. At first you will aid each other in the collecting of Lums, and gentlemanly let your co-op buddies release the Electoons from their damning fates. However, after approximately 10 minutes of this attitude you’ll quickly switch on the ‘every man for himself’ outlook, ensuring that you are the ‘breadwinner’ of collectibles and occasionally hitting your counterparts in their virtual faces. This makes for a simply fun experience. As Rayman’s 2D world scrolls by, if you are not quick enough to jump over the wide gaps or manoeuvre through spikes you will drop off the screen and return in a little bubble. This means that one of your buddies, which you’ve probably just slapped in the face, needs to pull you back down to earth to continue running and jumping. Although the game is built for players to cooperate together, you will find yourself begrudgingly doing so, as it becomes far too much fun to simply turn it into a competition.
Whether you decide to tackle Rayman Origins on your own or with a few friends, either way you are sure to experience a test of your wits and patience. It is a glossy, lush, well put-together world, but don’t let its innocence fool you; Rayman is no walk in the park. Leaping over hot molten lava and flying on the back of a surprisingly friendly purple mosquito is more its style.
With the sheer number of games being released in such a busy quarter, it was too easy to overlook this hidden gem. However, it is not something that should be missed. You could mistake Ubisoft’s branding for Rayman as simply something for children, and perhaps that is where they have slightly missed the mark. For gamers it provides a strong sense of nostalgia for how games ‘used to be made,’ embracing its roots and flourishing, while setting a pretty high standard for a new generation of 2D platforming.