Limbs? What limbs?!
Rayman and friends are back, and this time they’ve received a rather sexy makeover. Has the visual overhaul resulted in gameplay improvements, or is the limbless one’s latest outing a case of all style and no substance? Read on to find out.
Game: Rayman Origins
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
When Rayman, Globox, and friends disturb an old granny residing in the Land of the Livid Dead thanks to their loud snoring, she retaliates by sending Darktoons and other nasty creatures across the world. As you’d expect, chaos ensues, resulting in the Electoons and Nymphs that inhabit the world being captured. Enter Rayman and his friends, it’s up to them to defeat the terror that has been unleashed and restore the world to a peaceful state.
Whilst it teaches you a valuable life lesson – don’t upset an old granny living near you – the story isn’t exactly Shakespeare. However, the overall tone of the tale compliments the gameplay and visual style of Rayman Origins extremely well. The story is everything you’d expect from a good cartoon or animated movie, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour thrown into the mix to keep older players interested.
It might not be pushing the current consoles to their limits, but Rayman Origins is without a doubt one of the most visually attractive games to be released this generation. Making great use of the UbiArt Framework engine, the vibrant 2D visuals bring the characters and universe to life more than the majority of supposedly technically advanced titles released this year.
Supplemented by varied, colourful backdrops and superb animations that will genuinely bring a smile to your face as you play the game, the hand-drawn visuals literally ooze charm. The only downside, if any, is that you don’t get much time to take in the beauty during the hustle and bustle of the on-screen action. However, that’s a very minor criticism of an utterly gorgeous game.
Sadly, the audio in Rayman Origins doesn’t impress as much the visuals, but that’s not to say it’s awful. The background music is quite good and compliments the different areas well enough, but some of the tunes can get a little annoying, especially when you’re going through a level for sixth or seventh time. Sound effects and character voices, however, do not suffer from the same problem. Whilst Rayman and his friends aren’t fully voiced, the on-screen text that pops up when they speak is accompanied by squeaks and squeals that almost sounds like they are. These short bits of audio are fantastic, and are sure to get a laugh or two out of you when you hear them.
Looking at Rayman Origins from the outside, it might seem like a simple, cutesy platform game, but spend a few hours with and you’ll soon realise it is anything but. Sure, it might not do anything particularly new or innovative, but it delivers a highly enjoyable platforming experience built upon tried and tested, solid mechanics. As you’d expect, you have you’re standard jump button, which is the only ability you start off with, and you unlock new ones as you progress through the various different areas in the game. The abilities unlock at a steady rate, and you get time to use them, so you never feel overwhelmed. Once you have unlocked all the abilities, and had time to get comfortable, you’re eventually tasked with using all of them during the latter half of the game. For instance, at a certain point in the game you get access to a glide ability, and you’ll have to use this in a manner of different ways. In one level you might use it to glide across a long gap between platforms, whereas in another you’ll use in conjunction with the wind to fly up to a ledge. The gameplay is always kept fresh, and mechanics aside, that’s mostly down to the incredible level design.
Keeping with traditional platforming games design, Rayman Origins consists of different themed areas, which are broken down into a number of brilliantly though out levels. From ice themed levels with giant watermelons to side scrolling shooter sections where you ride a mosquito, there’s always something new to experience. Starting out with simple levels and then moving onto much more challenging (occasionally frustrating) ones, the goal always remains the same – rescue Electoons. Each level has a certain number of Electoon cages, and you’ll always be able to break one as long as you reach the end. However, the others are hidden away and must be found simply searching a level thoroughly, which during the latter half of the game requires some decent platforming skills. For every cage you break, you’ll be rewarded with one Electoon point, and how many of these you have determines if you are allowed to progress to the next level. No need to worry though, only during the final quarter of the game are you required to have a high number of Electoons, so it’s very unlikely your progression will be hindered until that point.
In the rare event that you are caught short of an Electoon point or two, there are other ways you can gather them up. The first is by a collecting certain number of Lums, and the second is replaying a level and completing it within a set time. As stated very briefly earlier, you’re never forced to chase after Electoon points, it just comes naturally as you progress through the game, which is testament to the fantastic level design and the addictive nature of the gameplay. The final optional challenge (this doesn’t earn you Electoon points) relates to levels where you chase a treasure chest that houses a red gem. Unlocked when you reach a certain number of Electoon points, these levels are an ultimate test of your platforming skills, and if you fail you’re sent right back to the beginning. Sure, like some of the main levels, this might frustrate some, but Rayman Origins should be applauded as it sticks to its traditional design principles, forcing you to learn and improve from every mistake made.
That’s the single player side of things, which is fantastic, but Rayman Origins also features up to four player local co-op play. If you have members of your family or friends that are willing to play with you, then you would be a fool not to give this a try, as it is so much fun. The core gameplay mechanics and level design remains the same, but during co-op play you are able to pick up your allies so you can easily reach hidden areas, and bring them back to life if they die by popping their bubble shaped body. However, the most important co-op feature of all has to be the ability to slap each others characters. It’s always fun to get a slap or two in on your friend’s character, even during the most challenging or critical part of a level. On a more serious note, the co-operative play can get a little hectic at times, but if you work together as a team well, you’ll find the gameplay experience immensely satisfying and rewarding.
Clocking in at around 12-15 hours, Rayman Origins is surprisingly lengthy for a platformer. Just when you think you’ve finished, you’ll be greeted by another section, almost doubling the length of the game. It’s unexpected, but in a good way, as it means you get to experience the platforming goodness for that little bit longer.
Completing the game doesn’t mean the end of the content though, far from it in fact. When you throw the various secrets, additional levels and immensely fun co-op play into the mix, you could easily add another 10-15 hours to figure mentioned above. If Rayman Origins sucks you in, and chances of that are high, then ejecting the disc from your console might prove to be very difficult indeed.
It might not reinvent the genre, but a combination of solid gameplay mechanics, great level design and stunning 2D visuals, make Rayman Origins one of the best platforming games to be released on any of the current generation consoles. If you’re looking for a fun platformer filled with content, both single player and co-op, then consider Rayman’s latest outing an essential purchase.