Rayman Origins E3 2011 Hands-On Preview -- The Beloved, Armless Wonder Never Looked So GoodBy Jeffrey Matulef - Posted Jun 13, 2011
Every year at E3 hopes are high that Beyond Good & Evil creator Michel Ancel will announce a sequel to his beloved action/adventure and every year we come back disappointed. When it was announced that he was going to return to Rayman, his limbless platforming hero that's hugely popular in France, and a third tier mascot elsewhere, hopes were dashed. It didn't matter how good Rayman Origins was; as long as it wasn't Beyond Good & Evil 2, fans would bemoan its existence. After actually getting my hands on it, I'm happy to report that I'm more than satisfied with this eccentric platformer.
First things first, the game looks phenomenal. While we've seen a resurgence of 2D games lately, they're usually low budget digital downloads or for the graphically subpar Wii. Games like Donkey Kong Country Returns and Muramasa: The Demon Blade looked good, but left plenty of room for improvement with our grossly powerful HD consoles untapped. There seems to be a notion that if a game is 2D it's lesser, and thus making a full-priced high-definition one is virtually unheard of. Rayman Origins seeks to go against this and prove that 2D can be every bit as beautiful and enjoyable as 3D.
This is mostly due to wonderful hand drawn animation. It may be the first time I've seen a game that looks like a genuine cartoon rather than a videogame in toon's clothing. Levels are packed to the brim with detail like a stage I like to call "Hell's Kitchen" that's based on fighting malevolent foods in a lava level. Salt and pepper shakers make up moving walls and platforms, vines are strings of peppers, and popcorn kernels fall into vats of molten butter only to pop up as platforms. There's even a snoozing red pepper that shoots out a waterfall of boiling cheese.
Outside of its visuals, it's not the most innovative game in the world, but its controls are every bit as smooth as its graphics. Running, jumping, sprinting, double-jumping, gliding, punching, and wall jumping all feel completely natural. Your movements are swift and responsive, making it one of the few games where simply moving about is a joy unto itself.
The game supports up to four-player local co-op with the other players assuming the role of Rayman's bloated blue buddy, Globox, and two teensies (like wizards, but cuter). All characters control the same, though their animations differ. I especially liked all their various methods of floating, such as when Globox whimsically flaps his arms.
Aside from being cute, there are advantages to having an extra hand around. Players can stand on top of one another for an extra bit of leverage, which can be useful for getting to hard to reach areas. All secrets should be available to solo players as well, so while it may be harder to go it alone, you'll still have access to the entire game. The other advantage to playing co-op is that when one player dies, they simply reappear in a bubble until someone pops it, bringing them back to life. It's shamelessly similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but it's a great system that I'm happy to see applied here as well. The only disadvantage to multiplayer is that other players can smack you around, leaving you temporarily stunned. This doesn't reduce your health, but it can be frustrating in cluttered spaces.
Ultimately, I found my time with Rayman absolutely delightful, and I can't wait to see what other visual inventions and glorious platforming sequences await me. We shouldn't have to wait long, though, as the final game is due out this autumn. Jade can wait.