Review: Rayman Origins (Vita)

Review: Rayman Origins (Vita)

Late last year, I had a chance to review Rayman Origins on my Xbox 360. I found it to be the best platformer of this generation of gaming, and one of the best platformers I’ve ever had the sheer, unadulterated, so good it should be illegal joy of playing. It has become one of the games I recommend most to people, and the first game that comes to mind when talking about its genre. Now, it has become the first game I’ll recommend to anyone asking about getting a Vita. It is a perfect example of how the Vita is poised to redefine mobile gaming. Interspersed among the original content for this review, you’ll find paragraphs from the original review for those of you who are unfamiliar with the title’s true brilliance.

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.

I guess the best place to start is in the differences between the Xbox 360 version and the PlayStation Vita version. In the PlayStation Vita version of Rayman Origins, you get the same story, the same game, the same levels, etc. Each level has Lums to collect, and each level has an award, timer, etc. In addition to these level specific awards, you now have the ability to find one relic in each stage. Relics are paisley shaped objects hidden in plain sight somewhere in each level. A sharp eye paired with musical cues will guide you to finding each of these relics, which unlock two 30-piece frescos piece by piece. So now, on top of the replay value Rayman Origins offered by racing through each level for a time award and methodically gathering every Lum available for the medal, you can go back in and meticulously examine the landscape and environment for relics.

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.

Outside of the main campaign, you now have Ghost Mode. In Ghost Mode, you find a few levels of each major area of the game. These levels become unlocked in Ghost Mode as you beat them in the normal story mode. Once you’ve unlocked it, you race against a doppelganger in a slightly modified version of the level (modified in that you don’t go all the way to the end of the level, necessarily, but to a checkered flag stopping point). Your time and your doppelganger’s time will be saved on the preview screen of each Ghost Mode level, and you can go back and keep improving your time. Beating the doppelganger makes that time available as a Gift using the Vita’s “Near” system. Gifts can be sent and received depending on how you play, and how the people in your “Near” area play.

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.

Finally, Rayman Origins takes advantage of the Vita’s front touchscreen. Relics are gathered by touching them on the screen when they are located, but more than that, Rayman Origins lets you pinch to zoom. There are certain areas that may give you too zoomed out of a view, and it makes it difficult to see where you’re going or what you’re doing, depending on your eyesight. To solve that, you can zoom in on your character, and simply reduce the visible area of the level in order to maximize your own size. I didn’t use it often, since I enjoy seeing more of an area than less of an area, but it’s a very handy feature for those who may need a closer look at the game.

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Rayman Origins on the Vita is everything Rayman Origins on consoles was, and more. You get the same game with the same stunning visuals on the handheld that you do on the console, but you get it mobile, and you get extra content. From the hidden relics that unlock two giant frescos to the new Ghost mode, Rayman Origins on the Vita has, in my opinion, become the definitive version of Rayman Origins. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s an even better game on a portable device than it was on a console, and it was already perfect on the console! Come on, Ubisoft. You’re just making everyone else look bad, now.

Just so you know, I copied and pasted the review code from my review of Rayman Origins on the 360, because it is all relevant and accurate for Rayman Origins on the Vita.

Review

ProsCons
Sublime visual and audio design
Perfect platforming physics and level design
Great length and replay value
Cons are for games with problems.
Rating
100 out of 100

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