November 15, 2011

Review – Rayman Origins

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 4:34 pm

review rayman origins
Over the last few days I’ve hovered on the wind along with scattered leaves in order to ascend mountain peaks. I’ve battled a giant electric eel while riding on the back of a spitfire mosquito, and I’ve even quenched the fiery indigestion within the belly of a beast. I’ve experienced all these moments and more within a game that begs for some ridiculous new benchmark in hyperbole to match the bar it raises for the platformer genre.

Perhaps something along the lines of, “and on the eighth day, Michel Ancel and company created Rayman Origins”.

review rayman origins
Whilst tripping through the Glade of Dreams with Rayman and friends, I was reminded of a recent documentary, Walt & El Grupo. The film details the 1941 goodwill trip Walt and a team of artists took to South America, and the primary thread captures the cultural inspiration and artistic influences that would take shape in future Disney creations as a result. I mention this because there were plenty of moments where I wondered where Ubisoft had sent the folks from Montpellier – what cultural exposure might explain the environments and creative madness of Origins.

As pretty as that thought is, the roots likely aren’t so mysterious. Plenty of the environments within the game tread the familiar, from thick jungles to snowy peaks – we’ve just never seen them captured with such vivid detail and organic flow. In many ways, Origins looks the way I remember games from my childhood to look, finally realized in the here and now when so many 2D games offer cheap and dirty visuals with bland palettes.

It only takes a few moments with the game to appreciate what a kick in the teeth this is to an industry largely devoid of color, and certainly short of concerning itself over minute details that gamers might never notice, but are certainly invited to linger with here. Feel free to dive into the water as bright schools of fish scatter for the simple joy of it and tell me I’m wrong. Where the focus of so many games remains the satisfaction drawn from a singular event, achieving X results in Y, Origins takes the road less traveled, layering visual and audio cues that blur against the foreground action, offering a painting in motion one could spend forever picking out details from.

review rayman origins
The worlds Rayman visits range from robot filled factories to a Mexican themed hell, not striking new ground so much as taking familiar templates and then seasoning them with fantastic oddities – sausages that sit in roasting pans as if at the spa and forks with moustaches come to mind. In many ways Origins reminds me most of the bent that made Earthworm Jim and ToeJam & Earl such delightful oddities in their time, particularly when I’m swinging from the beards of meditating monks. As with those two franchises, Origins creates a bold and distinct world of humor and awe that isn’t easily compared to any other title. Black blob creatures with teeth are fashionable occurrences in other titles of course, but there are still more creatures to encounter that look like brilliantly mad sketches come to life.

Looks aren’t everything however, and there has certainly been no shortage of fine looking games that leave plenty wanting in the play of them this year. While the visuals demand attention, Origins’ real achievement is the delivery of controls that convince a sense of tactile fluidity matching the character animation, allowing for an equal share of rewarding platforming and awe struck sight-seeing. The controls are just loose enough to revel in the playfulness of that animation as players jump from vines and stretchy blue hands to jump off walls, but not so loose that you’ll blame them for repeated deaths while trying to accomplish what the game asks – a fine line few games earnestly tackle with the level of success seen here.

review rayman origins
Rayman gains moves after freeing imprisoned fairies, granted the ability to punch, hover on the air, run up and along walls, change size, and dive into those aforementioned blue waters. There’s no great challenge to using these abilities to reach the end of the game, but plenty to master in recovering every medallion by acing stages. That typical two tier level of challenge makes it easy for up to four friends to slap each other in local play, and leaves plenty for single players to pull their hair out over.

Enemies are a great example of two tier challenge. Whenever an enemy is hit or crushed, their body balloons (bubblize’s), at which point they are harmless and can be ignored or hit once more to cause them to explode, or they can also be used as leverage for gaining a bit more altitude on a jump to reach tricky peaks.

While Origins isn’t an especially hard game, you can expect to die plenty during speedier sequences, because there’s very much something to needing to know where the game wants you to be at points – driven home by a borderline infuriating final chase sequence of falling debris where the slightest delay of timing will see you trying again – perhaps fifty times before the credits finally rolled in my case. There’s a strange sort of trust you need to have in the game, particularly during chase sequences, where you simply sprint, shut your brain off, and tap the jump button, trusting that some helpful arms will grab you and hurl you toward the next landing, which they will. But there’s also a frustration, because Origins hasn’t resolved how to continually capture the seamless action it strives for hand-in-hand with the player.

Origins also subscribes to a one hit equals death equation, save for a heart Rayman can pick up that will allow him to take one more. The game liberally spreads hearts throughout areas, which comes in handy because I got pretty antsy whenever I didn’t have one for insurance.

review rayman origins
The primary platforming concern is collecting Electoons, happy pink dudes that have been caged up throughout the various worlds. They tend to sing and dance excitedly when set free, and also need to be collected to unlock extra features. Finishing stages rewards an Electoon, and several hidden areas within stages offer the chance to free additional ones – you can hear them calling for help when you are near their hiding spot. Players also collect gold Lums throughout stages – just think of them as coins that have a penchant for swaying and humming happily. At the end of each stage, those Lums are tallied up to offer the chance for more Electoons as well as a completion medallion to signify the player’s domination of a stage. A special larger Lum will even temporarily turn others pink and double their value. Treasure chest chase sequences found throughout the various worlds require a certain amount of Electoons for access, but the game itself isn’t too demanding about progression.

When players aren’t chasing treasure chests or jumping for Lums, the gameplay is broken up by a series of side-scrolling shooter stages where Rayman rides on the back of a mosquito, which can fire shots but also suck in enemies to spit them back out at others. There’s a basic shooter structure at work, elevated at later points by skies of debris and intense projectiles, and yet the shooter by numbers approach yields a better experience than I’ve had recently with some full-scale efforts in that genre.

review rayman origins
Rayman Origins delivers six worlds of stages along with four additional worlds where players will face some formidable bosses to open the pathway to the finale. By the time the game asks you to accept that challenge, you’ll have seen the bulk of what the game has to offer and be familiar with the formula on hand. That said, the remixing never left me feeling like I was making that final grinding push to complete the game for the sake of doing so, with the scenery, action and challenges maintaining the wildly organic and chaotic rhythm that makes me ridiculously happy this game exists, because it’s just the refresh of color and bizarre creativity needed from studios like Ubisoft.

Aside from the slight repetition that can set in and the absence of any sort of online play features, my only earnest complaint about Rayman Origins is that the ride inevitably comes to an end.

Ubisoft Montpellier


Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii (Xbox 360 Reviewed) (Nintendo 3DS / PlayStation Vita TBD)

Singleplayer, Local Multiplayer

Release Date
November 15, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review


  1. Now to decide between Wii/PS3/3DS…

    Comment by EdEN — November 19, 2011 @ 3:17 am

  2. of those options I’d go with PS3. Needs more screen for the shiny.

    Comment by Jamie Love — November 20, 2011 @ 2:14 am

  3. Taking that into consideration. Just 2 more weeks for the PS3 to be back!

    Comment by EdEN — November 20, 2011 @ 5:21 am

  4. Someone buy this man an Xbox 360 for Christmas! Then he won’t have to make such difficult decisions! ;)

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — November 22, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

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