Format Reviewed – Playstation 3
Rayman Origins came out of nowhere for me. Yes I saw the trailer at E3 2011, and I heard little bits about the game leading up to it’s November launch, but I paid it no mind. The graphics in that E3 trailer looked good but too much focus was placed on co-op, which led me to believe it was a game that would only be fun playing with somebody else. I got that Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One vibe from it. Considering I don’t really have the time to play through full games with other people whether it be locally or online, my interest levels were not even high enough for me to raise an eyebrow.
Then October came. Doing my weekly rounds on the Playstation Store I came across the demo. So I decided to give it a shot. I booted the game up and played through the 3 levels I had access to THREE TIMES IN A ROW! I was blown away. The game looked absolutely stunning, the controls felt tight and the music was quirky but loveable. I got so excited and couldn’t wait to share my thoughts with other people. I needed to play the full release.
I eventually got chance to just a couple of weeks after the UK launch.
Now let me clear this up. There is an insane amount of content in this game. So much content that I have not yet finished the whole game, but have put enough hours into it and am around halfway through the 60+ levels the game boasts, that I feel confident that I can write this review.
Story-wise, Rayman is set within the Glade of Dreams. After a peaceful nap is interrupted by an old woman from the Land of the Livid Dead, frustrated by the incessant snoring from Rayman and Co, she sends an army of creatures and Darktoons across the world to capture the Nymphs and Electoons that inhabit the Glade of Dreams and turns it into chaos. It is up to Rayman to set out on his rescue mission and restore the world to peace.
That’s about as much story as you get, but Rayman isn’t about a deep and interesting narrative. Rayman is about the gameplay, and this is where it truly shines.
Rayman Origins is a 2D side-scrolling platformer. Anybody who has ever played any of the older Mario, Donkey Kong or Kirby games are going to be instantly familiar with the formula. Rayman navigates an over-world map first, then within the levels, moves from left to right of the screen, collecting tokens (Lums) a long the way that will help him unlock different characters and levels, to reach the goal at the end. Enemies come in different shapes and sizes and the majority can be dispatched by simply jumping on top of their head. However Rayman does have attack move which can be utilised for the more creatively minded. That’s about the short and skinny of it.
I always believe that you can separate the men from the boys amongst game developers when you give them a shot at creating a platforming game. A 2D side-scrolling platform game to be exact. Ubisoft, obviously not their first time donning the, ahem, platform shoes, there are of course many other Rayman games and let’s not forget Assassin’s Creed, come out of this one singing. It’s that good.
The level design in Rayman is fantastic, different platforms are positioned in just the right area and angle that a jump never feels impossible or frustrating to complete. The levels flow like water, with Rayman jumping from platform to platform, swing to swing, without it ever really slowing down. The pacing is really good, which is essential considering how many levels are included. Ubisoft really needed to get the pacing right in order to keep hold of the gamers interest, and I believe they succeeded. Some levels are short, but others are fairly long, so the game does have longevity to it, but there is a balance within that stops it from ever getting monotonous.
Rayman makes me want to keep playing, makes me want to do just one more level, even when I know it’s time for me to call it a day. The exclusion of the game over screen, as Rayman doesn’t have ‘Lives’ in the traditional sense, as well as check points throughout the levels, means that dying never really becomes a frustration, because you are never too far from the nearest checkpoint. Ubisoft accomplished this by each level consisting of a bunch of different areas. Finding the door at the end will then unlock the next area to explore. The game checkpoints at the beginning of each area.
The level design would count for nothing though if the controls were not up to scratch, luckily though, Rayman manages to succeed. The controls are probably not as tight as the likes of Mario, but tight enough that you feel like you have full control over Rayman’s movements, and any deaths you incur are a result of your own dexterity and timing on the controller, rather than a flaw with Rayman himself. It’s a joy rather than a hindrance to control him. Like most games in the genre, the initial stages are pretty easy to complete, but get more difficult as the game progresses. Some stages are really going to test your reflexes and dexterity with the controller.
Rayman also unlocks different abilities during his adventure. You start off with nothing, then in each world he will unlock something new, such as the ability to use melee attack, swim underwater, glide and run up walls. This allows you to then go back and visit previous stages that contained Items or areas that were just out of reach because you had not unlocked that specific ability.
One could not talk about Rayman Origins without mentioning the graphics. This is by far one of the best looking games of not only 2011, but of this whole generation of HD consoles. The characters and environments are all completely hand drawn and rendered in native 1080p. The beautiful bright colours pop off the screen, and I constantly find myself stopping the flow of the action just so I can take everything in. It’s not going to win any awards for having the most realistic graphics and best human expressions, but Rayman isn’t trying to achieve that. It’s roots are stuck firmly in the quirky cartoon genre. The game benefits more because of this. Not many games, especially full priced retail games on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, are looking like this, as they are trying to attract, I guess, a more mature audience, who would prefer to explore war-torn cities. However, I get excited about what each level of Rayman holds and how different it’s going to look from the next. The art style is right up my street. Again, variety in environments is not something Rayman skimps on either. He will traverse locales ranging from forests, shipping docks, fiery caverns, underwater caves, sandy deserts, and snowy mountains, and this is only in the first half of the game. Bosses are beautifully detailed as well as all the animations on the different characters. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the game holds for me. All in all the game is feast of beauty for your eyes to gaze upon. Adding to that the beautiful music and it’s a delight for all your senses. Technically the game is smooth as butter. Running at a constant 60 fps. During my time I haven’t noticed any slow-down, screen tear or weird glitches and bugs. This is how games should run, and it goes to show the effort put in by the team.
Like I said previously, the game has an insane amount of content, there are so many levels, hidden areas packed within levels, and levels you need to unlock along the way, that it will probably take you a while to finish it. Then after that, you can always visit each level again to claim any last treasures you need, or complete each level’s time-trials. There is also full 4 player co-op, so if you have got 3 buddies to team up with, then you can go through the game with them. The game isn’t necessarily tailored just for co-op though, meaning unlike LittleBigPlanet, you won’t find any areas, that I have come across up to now anyway, that you won’t be able to access without the help from a buddy. The game is fully accessible for the single player to enjoy. The downside of the co-op experience though is that there is no online play. Co-op is local play only, so unless you have a friend or family member to sit on the couch with you and run through it, then you are pretty much riding solo. Not really a big deal because there is an immense amount of fun to be had playing alone, but online co-op would have been a nice addition, as chucking in a few extra players could only make the game even more fun than it already is.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Rayman Origins. It has been my surprise hit of the year. The game is damn near perfect. Though unfortunately it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste. The older gamer may find it childish and have an issue with paying full price retail value for this type of game, out of fear the gameplay could get monotonous, and because of the lack of online play. It’s a shame, unfortunately it seems like Rayman is already coming up against some hardship sales wise. Ubisoft decided to release the title in the middle of November. Effectively putting it in direct competition with the likes of Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim to win the consumer’s money. Those games are more adult-orientated and, with the exception of Skyrim, have excellent online play. This game deserves to be played and deserves a lot more praise and recognition than it is currently getting. The reviewers are loving it, but on a consumer level, there are more games out right now that appear to be more of a safe bet, and with the Christmas coming up, and the economy how it is, you can’t blame people for sticking to what they know. My thoughts are maybe the game would have been more successful if it was released digitally through Xbox Live and the Playstation Network (the game is also available on Nintendo Wii and the upcoming PS Vita), at a discounted price. However that would probably have meant we would not be getting the same amount of content that we have right now. It’s a bit of a double edged sword, but Ubisoft can be happy to know that they have crafted a stunning game that is an absolute joy to play. I’d recommend this game to anyone, even if it is just to rent. It’s an experience that I’m glad I didn’t pass up and can’t wait to explore more of it.