Ubisoft, what the hell were you thinking with this title? It is odd enough that you would decide to release a 2D platformer, a sub-genre that has been reduced to downloadable titles unless it stars an Italian plumber, at retail for $60. But you release it on the busiest day of the busiest month in the industry? On the same day as your own Assassin’s Creed Revelations? You developed an engine to make this game, so you were trying to toss it into the lion’s den? Well, joke’s on you, this game not only survived the lions, but it crashed into your office looking for more work. This is Rayman Origins, my favorite 2D platformer of this generation, if not all of time!
Rayman Origins Review
Release Date: 15/11/2011
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, Wii, PC, PS Vita, 3DS
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
The game opens with Rayman, some big blue slap happy frog thing, and some little blue guys known as Teensies, munching on fruit and snoring so loud that it wakes up some old people who are under the Earth’s crust, and they end up taking over the world so the noise will stop. It is so stupid that is is great, and the game never goes off in a direction where the plot feels out of place. All you are really doing is saving busty fairies and letting them grant you powers so that you can make your way through the 11 areas in this game.
But kicking the narrative in the head, let’s talk about the gameplay. It is a fluent platformer that thankfully has the dash button be a shoulder button, because my least favorite part of 2D Mario games in how Nintendo never realizes that humans might prefer that option. You run, jump, punch, and glide through over 60 stages with secrets and a bunch of little yellow lums to collect so that you get prizes in the form of character skins. I cannot begin to describe how smooth the control is, never feeling slippery or tight, and it only comes close when you are running on ice. And I must applaud the game for having the best underwater controls that I have ever seen in a 2D platformer, mostly due to the fact that you actually swim rather than float around like a ball of fat or move with less gravity.
From the frantic wall running, the careful jumps where you must manage the distance with your ability to glide, and the occasional mosquito 2D shooter section, the game manages to feel fresh for an amazingly long amount of time. This is somewhat surprising, since you really only go through vibrant jungles with the best looking 2D water that I have seen in a game, didgeridoo filled windy deserts, fiery kitchens, giant freezers, a mellow sea, and some steampunk final areas. The themes are simple, but there is always a bit of an angle that makes the areas feel distinct from other games of a similar nature. But now I must talk about this game’s amazing visuals.
I’ll admit that I am a sucker for 2D art, since I feel like I can never create it, while 3D art seems easier to make. But this game still looks wonderful, with a very unique and lively style that oozes with personality from every single frame. From the normal goons you fight, to the simple act of running on grass or getting hit. I actually feel bad for not having a massive TV to display this game on. Everything looks like a quick and jagged sketch after a team of artists polished it until it shined. And even though the game uses something similar to flash animation, it still feels far more livelier than a lot of games that use motion capturing for the majority of their animations. Every expression is lively and it feels like care was placed in every cell of every frame of this polished, but not necessarily professional style.
And the music! It is on par with the visuals in creating an atmosphere of pure fun! From the catchy beats and the overall oddness of it all, mixing many styles, from the lovely chime when you get double Lums for a few seconds, to the calming gibberish of the wonderful water levels. The tense sounds of some of the massive bosses, to the mix of westerns and didgeridoos in the desert area, it all sounds amazing. And if anything, it puts a smile on my face whenever I hear it. I actually have trouble finding any complaints with the game, from the creative and expressive enemies, the massive bosses that animate beautifully, so you want to just see what their next animation phase is, even though you died 8 times thus far. And the wonderfully structured treasure chest levels, with everything moving like an amazingly well done Rube Goldberg machine, with collapsing structures that you need to interact with while dashing at insane speeds. One slip up in your quest and bam, back to the beginning!
TThe only thing that some might dislike it’s the difficulty, but this game does something so sadly uncommon that it creates limitless amounts of ecstasy when I see a game where when I die for 3 hours straight, and want to keep playing. I feel like going back on in until I master the well structured challenge before me. I don’t consider myself to be notably good at games, so the fact that me and my friend beat it 100%, it feels fantastic. Okay, I’m not counting the trophies and medals, but those I consider to be 101% and 102%, or in other words, pointless semantics. But I still got over 300 Lums in every normal level, found all secret rooms, cleared all the time trials, and it just feels wonderful to see how far I got in this beautifully designed, wonderful looking, and amazingly fun world.
Through a shifting development platform, and a bunch of assets going into a sequel, I am proud to have purchased this title a week after release, and play through it even though it took me about 7 months. many games can get annoying when you die for the twentieth time, but the lack of weight that the designers placed on the death really makes dying a minor hiccup in your journey to the end, and what a journey that is. It is an absolute joy to play a game so beautiful, so fair, and so much fun. I know that I have given 2 games a perfect score thus far, but I only do it for games that I feel deserve it, and I am proud to grant it here. And by the way, thank you Ubisoft for giving us a sequel, Rayman Legends, a game that serves as half the reason I want a Wii U.
The game does something unlike any other, or does what it does with such finesse, that pointing out the minor qualms feels like nitpicking.