Even now, I can still remember the first time I played Super Mario Bros. I have vivid recollections of my first time playing Sonic the Hedgehog. I will never forget my first experience with Prince of Persia. Earthworm Jim, Aladdin, and, for nostalgic reasons specific to my own life, Yo! Noid all made indelible impressions on me that will be with me until time starts erasing all of my memories. I have a particular love for platformers as one of the absolute classic gameplay elements of my life. Four days ago, I played Rayman Origins for the first time, and a new memory was born.
For the last couple of days, I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t be able to do the game justice using mere human words. I toyed with the idea of reviewing the game using the transcendent language of interpretive dance, but swiftly realized that I was actually a pretty crap dancer, so words are what you will be getting, and I hope you will excuse my inadequacy.
The first thing you notice when loading up Rayman Origins is the stunning, beautifully drawn art of the game. Rayman Origins is unique as it is the first game to use the new UbiArt Framework engine, which allows the developers to place more focus on the art by automating parts of the process, giving them more time to improve the visual appeal of the game. In its first outing, UbiArt Framework seems to have been a very good investment of time and effort on Ubisoft’s part, because it is at least partially responsible for the beautiful world of the Glade of Dreams. The next thing you will notice is the wonderfully cute and quirky audio, from the soundtrack to the voice acting and every sound effect in between. Perhaps the best example of this is the first underwater world, whose soundtrack is eerily reminiscent of a group of shrimp in lounge suits singing in a 1950’s gentleman’s club. I’m a 29 year old man with a beard that is the stuff of legend, and I found myself saying, “Awww, that’s so CUTE!” The voice acting of the dialogue, be it instructional characters or the busty and voluptuous fairies and nymphs that you rescue throughout the game, is a weird mix of pig latin and pure gibberish that does a great job of making you think you’re always so close to understanding them without the subtitles.
The core of any platformer is twofold: level design and physics. All of the classic platformer level types are represented, from water, ice, and fire, to earth, wind, and even flight. Not only is there a great variety in the environments, but the levels are deliberately designed to fully test your skills and abilities while maintaining a wonderful sense of fluid motion. On top of that, each level contains hidden objectives and score goals which promote replaying the levels, exploring the environments, and even time trialing your way through. Level design: check. The game’s mechanics are just as fluid and perfect as the rest of the game’s elements, and take full advantage of the level design to provide an unmarred experience across the board. Acceleration and deceleration, combat, jumping, and the rest are all fluid and provide an absolute joy of movement throughout the Glade of Dreams and the Land of the Livid Dead. With the success of the level design and of the physics and mechanics, Rayman Origins provides absolutely perfect platformer gameplay.
And what is perfect platformer gameplay without a little soul-crushingly frustrating difficulty? Rayman provides a very high level of difficulty in certain areas, but with the great checkpoint system and a little practice, nothing is insurmountable. The difficulty becomes most apparent in the Tricky Treasure races, where Rayman chases a sentient treasure chest with an understandable aversion to having his body broken and his innards rummaged through for loot through a scrolling level. The tiniest mistake of timing in a Tricky Treasure race will result in your inevitable demise, and resurrection at the beginning of the stage. They are unforgiving and brutal, but the pure satisfaction and relief that you achieve when successfully beating open that bastard treasure chest makes the time and effort spent perfecting the pattern and timing of the chase more than worthwhile. This is something that many games have lost over the decades: the pure joy of overcoming difficulty.
Aside from the Tricky Treasure, there are twelve character variants you can unlock for the four main characters through your performance in the campaign. Most of the game’s levels feature six objectives that can earn you additional electoons. One of these objectives is at the end of the level, and unavoidable, while two are hidden and require exploration, one requires speed, and two require strategy and skill. Replaying the levels in various ways for your various objectives results in a different experience each time, whether you’re learning the fastest, most fluid route through the Glade of Dreams or nitpicking over every inch of the level for secrets and strategies. Multiplayer exists, but like a classic platformer, it is local only. It does allow up to four players, drop-in/drop-out, and functions similarly to New Super Mario Bros. Wii. If a comrade falls, they appear in a bubble and can be popped by another player to rejoin the effort, making it not only a great single player platformer, but a fun party platformer as well.
Rayman Origins is a classic platformer in almost every sense of the word. Everything about it reminds me of the games I loved as a child, while simultaneously providing me with a superior experience in nearly every way. Its beautifully drawn graphics and wonderful animations, incredibly cute and addictive music and dialogue, impeccably designed levels, untouchably perfect platforming physics, classic difficulty, hearty length and replay value, and its bonus levels are all perfect components of a perfect whole. I have no compunction in saying that Rayman Origins is easily one of the best platformers of this generation, and I have a hard time imagining anything coming along to beat it.
|Sublime visual and audio design|
Perfect platforming physics and level design
Great length and replay value
|Cons are for games with problems.|