Rayman Origins ReviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Nov 10, 2011
Rayman Origins delights and amazes at every turn. Everything from the art style to the characters to the settings is brimming with creativity, and while the platforming is definitely challenging, you won't be able to play this game without a huge smile on your face.
- Hand-drawn animation is stunning
- Unfettered creativity on display inside each pixel
- Co-op adds competition and eases frustrations
- Uneven checkpoints in places
- No online co-op
Rayman Origins Review
Rayman Origins marks the series’ first appearance on a home console since Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc released on last gen consoles back in 2003, bringing with it the tale of how Rayman and his wacky band of cohorts first came together to save their precious Glade of Dreams from a seemingly never ending stream of continually bizarre and colorful creatures, enemies, and foes spread out over a series of equally inventive and visually striking environments. It’s the kind of setup that harkens back to the classic platformers of old, only now it’s supported by technology capable of bringing it to life with a level of detail and depth the likes of which the genre hasn’t seen in a long time.
It's A Joyous World After All
As I pointed out in my recent 5 Reasons You Should Be Excited About Rayman Origins write up, the visuals in this game are breathtaking. The hand-drawn animations are among the best I have ever seen in any medium, and as such, the characters and environments pulse with life and are just as joyously amusing during the credits sequence as they are during the opening few minutes of the game. Whether its Rayman or his blue amphibian pal Globox (or any of his other buddies) slipping and sliding their way across glaciers dotted with giant pieces of frozen fruit to riding the tops of boiling pots as chili peppers spew fire in a kitchen-themed level to bouncing on drums and wind instruments spread across a dusty desert setting, the game is constantly amazing and dazzling your senses with something new and totally unexpected.
This is kind of random, and it’s probably something only a very small percentage of players will care about/notice, but the fire animations are practically identical to the kinds seen in classic Disney movies, and that delights me to no end. I don’t know if this was a conscious choice, but it made me happy to think that it was, because the whole game really does feels like you’re playing through a Disney feature film, and that has everything to do with the brilliant art direction and animation.
A Game That Keeps On Giving
In classic platformer style, Rayman Origins is divided into multiple, uniquely themed lands, each with their own boss-controlled mini land and each with a magical lady who must be freed and who gives you new abilities in return. Classic stuff. Once you beat a level, you can replay it against the clock to test your speed running skills. There are also hundreds of adorable glowing lums and other items to collect and a healthy amount of hidden levels, so leaderboard lovers and completionists will have plenty to keep them busy.
Of course, if the platforming weren’t enjoyable, all of that content would be for naught. Fortunately, this is not the case. It’s a little weird to not have a double jump, but once you get the flow down, you’ll be bouncing and floating around with ease. I should warn you though: do not let the colorful presentation fool you. In classic Rayman fashion, this game will kick your ass and smile widely while doing it. It’s not quite at the Splosion Man/Super Meat Boy level of brutality, but it comes pretty darn close a number of times, especially during the boss fights and the final sequence, which is a one shot/zero checkpoint gauntlet of platforming punishment that requires second-to-second accuracy across the entire chase (Pro tip: You might want to have a few extra controllers around for this portion.)
Sadly, it’s these moments that mar what would otherwise be a flawless exercise in game design and craftsmanship. The majority of the game is played in trial and error style, and it incorporates fairly generous checkpoints as you’d expect. But there are more than a few sequences that have zero regard for the emotional stability of players, tasking them with completing a sadistic series of feats by hitting each successive beat with pinpoint timing or risk restarting from a point just a bit too far back in the level. The game is so gorgeous and wondrously presented that these frustrations won’t ever make you want to give up, but they stick out for unfortunate reasons.
Lend Me A Slaping Hand
Thankfully, a lot of these frustrations are alleviated (and in some cases replaced by entirely new ones) when you team up with your buddies to play co-op. The entire game can be played with up to four people, and while it’s obviously wild and wacky fun to slap each other around and compete for high scores, the biggest benefit of co-op is the ability to revive each other when you die. Instead of reloading a checkpoint, you’ll simply turn into a bubble version of yourself and float around the level until someone pops you and brings you back into the game. The more players you have, the more chaotic things get, but also the more chances you have of getting through difficult sections without wanting to break something fragile.
The Beginning Of Something Great
The fact that I haven’t yet mentioned the gloriously whimsical soundtrack that perfectly captures the joyful energy of the visuals, the fully interactive map and load screens (it’s odd how simply satisfying being able to actually sprint across a map screen can be), or the fact that all the characters speak pig Latin should be seen as a testament to just how deep the creativity stream runs in Rayman Origins. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll exclaim, “Oh right! The pig Latin!” or “Totally forgot about that wind instrument snake that plays notes as you run across it!” or something similar well after you have stopped playing. Sure, you’ll have some painful memories too, of levels that just seemed unbeatable, but for every one of those, there will be dozens more of things like hot dog enemies sizzling on flattops as you hop on their backs or journeying though the intestines of a giant beast.
Scream at Michel Ancel all you want for taking his sweet time with Beyond Good & Evil 2, but if this is the kind of game we have to “suffer” through to get to it, by all means, take your time, sir. I can wait. Rayman Origins might be releasing amid some of the highest profile games of this generation, but do yourself a favor and do not let this one pass you by.