Release Date: November 15, 2011
MPAA Rating: Everyone 10+
Rayman Origins is the latest in the long-running platforming series published by Ubisoft, and developed by their internal Montpellier studio. It’s also the first game to make use of the UbiArt Framework, a graphics engine that takes a lot of the technical aspects out of creating games with hand-drawn elements. With other engines, artists have to factor in movement and scaling to keep their images from being distorted. UbiArt Framework makes a lot of these factors moot as it handles them automagically, giving artists a chance to focus simply on creating great art, and then allowing them to animate the pieces by manipulating the individual object’s silhouette. The result is a truly gorgeous 2D platformer that may well be the crown jewel of the genre’s recent renaissance.
Rayman‘s gameplay is pure 2D platforming. It’s all about precision jumping and fancy footwork, navigating harmful obstacles and a myriad of colorful and offbeat baddies. All the while you’re collecting coins, or rather in this case sleepy little balls of light called “Lums.” Along the way you’ll cross a sea of punch, explore a mountain temple, and enlist the help of a flower king. Oh, but just so you know, there are piranha in the punch, the mountain temple is infested with swarms of bat-like creatures, and when you first meet the flower king he’s 25 feet tall, covered in thorns and wants to eat you. Cute and challenging are two words that would go a long way toward describing this game.
There’s nothing worse than a game that’s difficult enough to require precision, only to give you control of a character that floats around or whose jumps seem ever so slightly delayed. Luckily that is not the case here, as Ubisoft nailed the controls. Everything from sprinting to jumping feels tight and responsive, and Rayman (or Globox, one of the tweenies, or any one of a number of other unlockable characters) seems to go exactly where you mean him to go. Replayability is also good as completionists will find themselves playing each level multiple times in an effort to collect all the Lums, find all the hidden Electoon cages, and earn all the time trial trophies.
Amid all the stuff that Ubisoft did right with this game- and they did so much right- I think the real unsung hero is the soundtrack. From the music in the opening cinematic that instigates the Darktoons to attack the Glade of Dreams, to well-crafted scores that complement each stage’s theme and worm their way into your head with their sublime quirkiness, it all complements the art style so well.
In addition to being a great single player game, Rayman also features an up to four player co-op, a la New Super Mario Brothers, allowing you and three friends to navigate the hazards out there together. Luckily checkpoints are frequent, and since players that fall or get hit are ‘bubblelized’ and can get tagged back in by floating close to another player, progress is possible even if you have to carry a weak link. This will prove especially nice to those of you who like to game with your kids, or who have spouses who aren’t as good at games as they think they are.
All in all, I can’t think of much to complain about concerning this game. It looks and sounds great, the controls are solid and replayability is high. Lots of fun, lots of challenges, lots of heart, and lots of charm. In fact, the only negative thing I can even think to say is the game is 15 years too late to be a part of the genre’s heyday and get the attention it deserves. Rayman Origins has been out since November 2011, and so far its story has been one of critical success but commercial disappointment. I think that will change over time, though, because despite the decline of 2D gaming, Rayman Origins is in it for the long haul. Games this good don’t go unnoticed forever. If you are a fan of great platforming in the vein of classic Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog titles, you owe it to yourself to check this game out now.