I am known for the constant, frenetic pace at which I go about my business. Rayman Origins is the perfect game for people like me, who work hard, player harder, and ceaselessly radiate energy. It’s hard not to crack a smile at this charming game or get caught up in the rhythm of gameplay or the up-beat soundtrack. After a particularly stressful month, I crashed on my couch, weary and brow-beaten, and thought I’d wipe away my woes with Rayman.
2D platformers have not gone the way of the dodo just yet, and with the eye candy sported by Rayman and pals it’s impossible to tear yourself away from the screen. There are over 60 levels to cruise through, and learning new skills like flying or high-jumps take no time at all. I was beasting through levels by the second stage, and I had sunk comfortably into the rhythm of bouncing and slapping that only Rayman could ever provide.
The premise of Rayman Origins is clean and simple: Rayman and company made enough noise to piss off the denizens of the underworld, who have now flooded the surface and are plaguing our hero and his friends. Rayman must save the well-endowed Nymphs that guard his world as well as Electoons and defeat the dark creatures that threaten to take over the Glade of Dreams.
Moving forward in the game is also pretty straightforward. Each Nymph Rayman rescues grants him another ability, like gliding for example. The more glowing firefly-like Lums you collect, the more Electoons you will unlock. Electoon can also be found by discovering hidden cages where they are kept. Once you have enough Electoons you will be able to progress through a level to the final boss. Defeating a boss means opening a new map. This kind of straightforward, no-nonsense progression pattern makes flying through levels a comforting breeze — there’s nothing quite like pounding out a few stages of a game to clear your head of the day’s trials. The kinetic energy of the game is addicting.
Player momentum is the name of the game here, and as you guide Rayman through each stage the environment will often change as you move or after you move. Stones or wood will crumble, enemies will fall into you or sneak after you, and players must follow the game’s accelerated rhythm to narrowly avoid defeat. Staying ahead of the learning curve isn’t difficult if you are paying attention, and later levels that are visually stunning, perilous death traps will present some truly satisfying challenges. Thankfully the game is also generous with its checkpoints, so unless you really want to you, starting a level from the beginning is unnecessary.
The beautiful thing about Rayman Origins is that each stage in different, lovingly crafted with different environments and a smattering of vivid colors. Sore fingers be damned, you’ll find yourself thinking, Just one more level and then I’ll get back to work, maybe just one more… It’s a hand-drawn wonderland and the attention paid to every last detail is mind-blowing. The sheer love the development team must have for this title is practically screaming at you; from Rayman’s goofy smile to every last leaf on every last plant, it’s as though the Glade of Dreams is a purely natural environment in our own world, as though it was simply birthed into existence with soil and water rather than ink and paper.
If you purchase only one platformer this holiday season — this year, even — let it be this one. Levels have astounding replay value. If you’re the type of gamer who is only satisfied with perfect runs, there is always a challenge ahead of you — meaning you won’t get that perfect run the first time you barrel though, and there are multiple paths you can guide Rayman and friends through these levels. On occasion a level is too difficult, the game will actually allow you to skip again to the next one. So for all you beginners out there who are dying to see how the story goes, you won’t be left in the dust or have to call in your much more skilled older sibling/significant other to finish it for you.
Added to the already bountiful package is four-player co-op, speed run and treasure challenges for each level, and a score of hidden chests and cages with Electoons. The game also offers unlockable alternate costumes for the characters, which adds a cute touch to an already visually rich experience.
On two points only did the game ever frustrate me: firstly, on occassion (read: not all the time) the controls are a little on the loose side, and for the more knife’s-edge segments of the game this often results in a just-plain-stupid death. The second is that though each boss battle is superbly crafted to be striking and ominous, under the beauty lies the beast of inconsistency. The bosses seemingly have no correlation to each other or the sequence in which you unlock them, and at times it will take you several lives to adapt to the schema, but once you do it’s just as much of a breeze as the stages preceding it. However, I can’t fault the game too terribly for it: the bravery with which Rayman Origins establishes itself on the simple nature and pure fun of the classic 2D platformer is commendable, and should be rewarded.
While the bosses may be fundamentally inconsistent, they and the more difficult sections of the stages never felt cheap. Whereas some games up the stakes without actually raising the difficulty — such as piling on the HP or immunities, or number of intricacies you must follow to disarm a boss — Rayman Origins does not subscribe to the filler-type boss battle. The sense of unforgiving batterings wears off once you realize this — no boss is there just to be a boss. There are no fluffy pit-stops, and the reward you get for beating them is well worth it.
Rayman‘s multiplayer mode is buckets of fun. Buckets. Players can drop in or out on a whim, and having a companion along for the ride is sometimes a major help in the more difficult levels. Nothing, of course, is quite as fun as being able to give your companions a hearty gut-busting slap. That’s right. You can whack your teammates upside the head with your white-gloved (or stretchy-sticky) pimp hand.
Rayman Origins draws heavily from the series’ past, and yet the overall experience feels bright and fresh in ways that stimulates both your gaming senses and your visual ones. Whether you forage ahead alone or wrangle your friends in for the ride, this is one 2D platformer you shouldn’t turn up your nose at. The journey itself is pure fun, plain and simple, and the rocking rhythm of the soundtrack and gameplay coupled with the stunning artwork creates a package that will keep you entertained for hours — days, weeks, months — from the moment you purchase it.