It must be brutally hard to make a successful platform game in today's gaming age. Much like how every other first-person shooter title gets compared to Modern Warfare, what sidescrolling game that features jumping, puzzle solving and power-ups isn't compared to Mario? Thankfully developers have been up to the challenge, and Rayman: Origins may just represent some of the best that third party publishing has to offer. And that's not just because Rayman successfully manages to emulate all of the best aspects that platforming has to offer, but rather manages to create a unique experience in a genre largely based around jumping and stepping on things.
Rayman: Origins introduces players to a fairly similar layout that most other platforming games adhere to before the action even starts. Stages are broken down into individual levels, with each level having an overall theme guided by the very loosely related plot. As Rayman travels from zone to zone, you will be treated to a fairly wide variety of locations, each one just as exotic and strange at the last. And they're filled with some creative and interactive level design.
Platforming is all about the fine details and its in those details that Ubisoft has made this game really shine. The first thing that you will notice is how well paced all of the levels are, and how much freedom you have in exploring. Though each stage is fairly linear there are plenty of secrets about that require a bit of extra thinking in order to reach. Hidden walls, lowered platforms, and the usual pits that aren't quite bottomless are all featured, and each hidden room holds a short puzzle that unlocks bonuses for the level. The more hidden areas players find, and the faster a level is completed, the higher a score they'll get, which grants access to new costumes and character skins. It's a straightforward setup that's easy enough to explain, but doesn't really become impressive until you've played the title yourself.
From an adult perspective just about every level is easy enough, but Rayman: Origins is clearly a title meant for kids first and foremost.
There can only be so much puzzle solving before anyone gets tired and looks forward to action, and likewise too much action means it may be underperforming as a genre. The balance between both styles of gameplay are handled beautifully. Players will find themselves smashing enemies, jumping from gap to gap and swinging off vines to avoid baddies while at the same time keeping an eye out for anything unusual.
Enemies in the game are a general weak point, as most can be dispatched with a quick punch or a well timed stomp, which is good because attacks in-game are fairly limited. Punches can be charged up to deal quite a bit more knockback with more range, and what's essentially a ground pound gives players a bit to think about when they cross over visibly rickety bridges or weak looking bricks. It's standard fare for most platform games but these are the obvious things that so many gamers take for granted. Coupled with these usual tools players learn how to glide, shrink themselves, and run up walls amongst other tricks.The real treat to any platform game is the sense of discovery that it gives, challenging players to learn about the world enough to explore its every facet and find new and exciting parts of the environment. This is just as powerful a motivator as getting a new move or learning a skill. To that effect Rayman's world is a slave driver. Everything from the foreground to the backdrops are absolutely teeming with life and detail, giving players a visual treat as they move from level to level. Much of the fun in Rayman: Origins is in fact finding new worlds and seeing exactly what the developers will come up with next, and very rarely are there any disappointments. From lush jungles to ocean floors, an undead kingdom or the stomach of a dragon, there's always something new to look forward to.
Even better is that the entire experience is one that's only made more interesting by adding additional players. Enemies become targets for points-hungry players, and though many puzzles and secrets can be easily bested alone, they are made into a frenzied competition once two or more players enters the mix. In a way it also makes the game easier, but if it's challenge players are strictly looking for they're best searching elsewhere. Rayman is fun and its decent collector-based replay value more than makes up for any difficulty curve the game lacks.
The general sound effects in game offer a fairly straightforward engagement, which is disappointment in a way considering how top notch all of the art and design is. There's nothing here that will be making you reach for the volume button in anguish, but given how high the bar was set in every other aspect of the game one would expect something a little more.
Rayman: Origins represents the best of platforming that many other developers have tried and failed to successfully accomplish. It's genuinely fun without feeling as though it's blatantly stealing from the plethora of solid indie and mainstream titles before it, a unique experience that kids (and adults) should have a lot of fun with. It's not the lengthiest ride, nor does it hold much for completionists get excited over, but as a family/multiplayer title Rayman: Origins not only meets expectations, but surpasses them with ease.
|Represents the best of platforming.|
|Level design is fantastic.|
|When playing with other people, this game is a hoot.|
|Sound design isn't the best.|
|Not that great for completionists.|
|There isn't a huge array of attacks.|