Rayman Origins – Review

Title   Rayman Origins
Developer  Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher  Ubisoft
Platform  PS3, Wii, X360 (reviewed), 3DS, PSV
Genre  Platform adventure
Release Date  25th November, 2011

It’s not hard to have felt the hype behind Rayman Origins. If you hadn’t heard the whispers and kept up with the development news, then you certainly would have heard about it when Brian Blessed was cheerily screaming it at you while you waited for your next YouTube video to play. Either way, you will have heard by now that Rayman is back.   The problem with a game like Rayman Origins is all the nostalgic bullshit that it drags up with it. I could sit here and tell you about my first experience with Rayman as a ten year old, and I could tell you how, ten years down the line, his adventures with the infuriating Rabbid friends kept me occupied many a night down the student bar. But I won’t. Looking back on gaming memories with rose tinted beer goggles and insisting that these were the golden years of my gaming experience is pointless. No matter how good a game it is, it is never going to beat the original. At least, that’s what I thought.

Much like the original Rayman, your objectives are pretty simple. Collect the Lums, free the Electoons and save the girl(s). From the offset RO smacks you round the face with all of its cartoony glory. Opening in the Glade of dreams, we see Rayman and his motley crew of friends snoozing in the sunshine. The sound of their rhythmic snoring really does get to their elderly neighbours in the Land of The Livid Dead downstairs and, not content with banging on the ceiling with a broom, they unleash all the evil beasts and baddies possible, capturing and imprisoning all the Electoons and some rather sumptuous and buxom nymphs along the way.   Of course it is up to Rayman and his friends, Globox and the two Teensies, to save the day. With the ability to play locally with up to three friends, you have the choice of playing as the eponymous hero in single player mode, or as any of his friends in the multiplayer. Being the lonely loner that I am, I opted for the former.

As far as side scrolling platformers go, Rayman Origins ticks all the boxes.  The use of pancake flat 2D graphics was more than a little bit exciting; Rayman in 3D may have been innovative back in the 1990s, but introducing 3D graphics into a platformer does affect the gameplay to some extent. Sure you have a sense of depth perception, but it still isn’t good enough for you  judge just how hard to mash the jump button. The decision to return to 2D graphics for Origins must have been a rather tough–like taking one step forward and two back – but it was most definitely the right choice. Don’t be fooled though, just because it doesn’t boast a full third dimension, Rayman’s visuals are still mouth-wateringly complex.

The cartoon artwork of Rayman is nothing short of brilliant. The worlds created truly are incredibly complex and luscious, and they put your tellybox to work with a large colour palate and ranging scale of intricacy. Small details hidden in the background that aren’t integral to the game add a depth to the world, and the juxtapositions of dark and light in some of the levels enhance the gameplay to a point where I had to sit back and enjoy the visual display on show, despite the fact I was about to be killed by something ominously pointy. Particular levels to pay attention to are those set underwater. Moving at a slower speed than those used in the ‘dry’ levels, you can stop, linger and appreciate the background that you’re normally speeding past. Don’t just whizz through the rest of the levels though; all six worlds hold their own artistic beauty and carry their own leitmotifs throughout. The soft focus  makes them gently fade off into a distance; the background is nothing short of what I would expect from a Disney animation and some of them truly are spectacular. Although they are all 2D graphics, the detail and intensity of the artwork really gives an effect of depth to the game, there clearly has been a lot of hard work put into them.

Of course the effort put into the graphics would be nothing without the music to accompany it. Like the artwork, it’s not surprising that such a fantastic score can get overlooked. Here, the soundtrack incorporates different genres and styles, along with several interesting instruments. From Kazoos to banjos and ukuleles, to full orchestras and harmonious choirs, the music featured throughout the game is truly stunning. Coupled with the beauty of the graphics, anyone who plays RO is guaranteed to find it an audio-visual treat.  There are, of course, those slightly quirky tracks that play alongside the most INFURIATING levels of gameplay, meaning that you will invariably listen to them so many times that you would rather ram a coat hanger down your ears and jump out the window. What you may initially laugh off as a humorous or enjoyable piece of music will most likely drive you insane when an hour later you’re still running through the same sodding level.

While picture and sound are all very shiny, the game itself is still pretty damn impressive.  Sitting down to it I thought that giving myself a weekend to play  would be more than enough time to get through it. I was wrong. I lost several evenings after work ploughing through level after level, all of my weekend and I still had not finished it by Sunday evening, despite pushing myself to play through as much as humanly possible. You’re getting a lot of game for that hard earned cash – over sixty levels of pure Rayman gold, each ranging in difficulty from the enjoyable and breezy to the controller smashing rage inducers.

The difficulty doesn’t really show itself all too quickly in RO, and you might find yourself foolishly thinking “Well I clearly remember this being a lot harder because I was a kid”. WRONG. Unlike Cadbury (who have, in fact, made the creme egg smaller), RO delivers on the difficulty when you least expect it. When I felt the game drawing to a close and I was watching what I thought to be the final cut-scene I reflected on the game. It really didn’t seem much and I felt I was only just getting my teeth into what Rayman is truly capable of as a limbless character. It wasn’t until then that I realised that this wasn’t the final cut scene, but the end of the beginning of the game. A whole series of new levels, as well as those that were previously locked (due to my lack of Electoons) were now open to me and by golly was there a difference in difficulty. It was as though the previous levels had been there purely for me to get used to Rayman’s abilities  and now the real game was about to start.

Before, I had sailed through the levels, grinning and fluffing my own ego and scoffing and at the ease with which I killed the bosses. Running through the levels collecting as many Lums possible and avoiding the bad guys just wasn’t enough anymore and as the levels progressed, I had to repeat the mantra “just let the Lums go”.   By the end of the game I was truly reaching the end of my tether. RO boasts well over sixty levels and I was finding it a little hard towards the final stages to really care about why I was still here. Yes, it was pretty and shiny and had an oooh factor, but it was starting to wear a little thin. Coupled with the infuriatingly difficult final levels that would put any gamer to the test, the whole thing did start to feel like it should have ended long before it actually did. I can’t begin to imagine just how much I would want to punch my team players by this point had I played the multiplayer version. I truly found my blood boiling to a point I never knew existed, and if it wasn’t for the intrigue and my own stubbornness to not back down from a challenge, I would have given up  at the reveal of all the new levels.

I’m glad that I stuck with it though as the sense of achievement I felt after completing the final boss levels was truly immense. The replay value of the game is still reasonably high, despite the fact it felt like an epic to get through. Even though I had defeated the boss, there were still levels I was yet to unlock and explore, and there are medals to be won on each level for collection of Lums and Electoons, but it is highly improbable you will achieve all these on your first playthrough. Those who like to max games for the achievements should think twice with this one, as there is a great deal involved in getting a fair amount of them, and you are going to have to be very dedicated.

The controls are as smooth as silk and there was only one hiccup that niggled at me throughout the game. The button to dive down to the floor while flying is also the same as the punch button, which meant that I would quite often plummet to the earth below, rather than punch the enemy fluttering towards me. While on some levels I could laugh this off, I would more often than not find myself hurtling into an unknown abyss or enemy below that could quite easily have been avoided, meaning I had to start the whole subsection of that level again. This double use of the X button had me mashing my controller into my face in pure rage and I couldn’t help but wonder why they had doubled up the button when B and Y were free.

Another minor issue that I noticed, especially on the icier levels, were platforms that, although destroyed, wouldn’t disappear. Despite smashing my way through a layer of ice, Rayman would stay suspended in the air for up to ten second awaiting his next command. It was as though the game were trying to play catch up with itself. I found this somewhat frustrating as he would finally drop, but not when I expected it meaning that I was often caught short when trying to catch some Lums or avoid a trap below.

Other than these two really minor faults that could easily be overlooked, Rayman Origins truly is a gaming masterpiece. Despite letting it drive me to the point of nearly  throwing my television out the window, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would actually rate it equal to, if not better than the original that had held a place in my gaming hall of fame for so long. With Christmas fast approaching I can easily recommend this as an option for all the family to sit down and enjoy. Children and parents alike will find charm and enjoyment from the game.

  • A truly beautiful and charming game that will hold appeal for all the family
  • Hours and hours of gameplay for your cash
  • A game that is challenging, yet addictive enough to keep you coming back for more.
  • You will invent new curse words to make up for the fact that you most commonly used ones just don’t sum up the rage.
  • Your thumbs will go numb
  • There really are a lot of long levels. Young children and easily distracted adults might get bored of this easily.

Rayman Origins really is something special. It's captured all of the true charm and magic from the original and brought it up to speed with modern day technology. It is a fantastic game, if not a little infuriating attimes, and truly needs to be played. Any fan of Rayman, even those of the Rabbid spin offs, isn't going to be disappointed, and those new to the franchise are in for a treat. It's a great launching point, so for fans of the original who want to initiate their kids/friends, it's a great place to start. A definite must for Christmas wishlists.

Although he doesn't poke his tongue out any more. What's with that?

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One Comment

  1. Edward Edward says:

    Hnnnnngghhhh I want this game so much because I love platformers and the fact that big companies apart from Nintendo are going back and embracing them like this is amazing for me.
    Sucks that it’s not sold nearly enough, but hope that it does based on this review :)

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