Rayman Origins Review
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On 11/15/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola
It appears that Nintendo's not the only company that can make a stunning 2D platformer.
Don't let anyone convince you otherwise, Rayman Origins is worth its asking price. Everyone can enjoy it, it's pretty lengthy, and it's got tons of replay value.
Last week if you would've asked me what Rayman game you should play to get into the series, I would've unquestionably told you Rayman 2: The Great Escape. Today, that all changes with Rayman Origins. This gorgeous platformer manages to surpass a longtime favorite of mine with its skillfully executed level design and charming presentation.
Though new, Origins isn't completely uncharted territory. It's still Rayman through and through, complete with his pig latin gibberish, helicopter hair, and walloping punches. No, Rayman doesn't have an extensive, brand new arsenal. Instead, the various tools that have been bestowed unto you are used in unique and convincing ways. Furthermore, the levels act as an extension of your powers, allowing you to manipulate them in order to dispense with various foes.
So what makes this particular adventure so great? Well, it's not just one thing individually, but more the culmination of all of the little details. The fluid, almost comic-like graphics are absolute eye candy. Rarely do I feel a game's visuals make an impact on the overall product, but here there is no question. Enemies are full of emotion, the stages are full of life, and the overarching world itself is cohesively designed and original in its conception. Platforms aren't just inanimate stones or bricks, they're living plants, or umbrellas, or big slices of fruit, or tops to a pan exploding upward from building steam. The worlds are built in stereotypical environments like fire, water, ice, and wind but none of them follow that archetype. Each is a completely original take. Bongos and didgeridoos are scattered in the wind area, each giving Rayman a means of transport throughout the level. They make sound upon interaction and each instance feels meaningfully placed. Not one inch of the level feels rushed or forced; it all flows completely naturally.
As you begin each new world, Rayman is bestowed with a new power that makes it possible to get through the subsequent portions of the game. Each world presents a slew of unique ways to make use of the new power, as well as, or in conjuntion with, past power-ups. It's a true mastery in design and it never fails to impress.
Much like older games, secrets are abundant and you must keep your eyes peeled in order to grab all of the lums that are scattered about the world, as well as the hidden electoons. Collecting 300 lums per level is necessary to regain control of two of the five missing electoons in a level; these unlock a special precision stage wherein you must chase a jittery treasure chest who fears the wrath of Rayman.
These levels showcase the same exact design seen throughout the rest of the game, which is further amplified as timing becomes the new crucial element. As the chest gets farther away, the level scrolls accordingly, meaning you can't miss a beat or certain death is ensured.
This threw me for a loop initially. I didn't expect Rayman Origins to be much of a challenge, but it quickly proved otherwise as I pushed further into the game. As a completionist, I was determined by some uncontrollable force to collect as many lums as available in an effort to grab the medal at the end of each level, which typically requires you to find 350. Getting each and every lum is a challenge to say the least, requiring the most absolutely perfect execution and puzzle solving to grab all of them at the right times.
To break up all of the platforming, each world is concluded with a horizontally scrolling shoot-'em-up level that's surprisingly well done. Much like the platforming levels, these take place in richly designed worlds that require your interaction to fully come to life. You'll have to activate events by brushing up against certain foliage and taking aim at certain walls to ricochet shots and kill enemies. The ability to suck in certain items gives further depth to the experience, making it an enjoyable conclusion to each world.
If you've followed the game, you know by now that it offers local multiplayer for up to four players. This is its weakest part and it certainly feels like an afterthought. For one, having multiple players hurts the flow of the levels from a progression standpoint. As a result, their inclusion also makes the levels more difficult and aggravating rather than easier. Because there's nothing in the game that requires more than one player, I wouldn't advise taking on the game with friends until after you've had a chance to make it through at least once.
I can't say enough good things about Rayman Origins. Surely someone will disparage the title for being a 2D platformer available through retail means instead of downloadable. But the fact of the matter is that Rayman Origins commands its price. Its quest is lengthy and it begs replayability thanks to its inclusion of time trials, multiplayer, and high score medals that encourage extra trips through each level to maximize lum collection. Don't let Rayman Origins get lost in the holiday shuffle, it's unquestionably one of the best games this year.