Rayman is a character I’ve never had much fondness for. The only game I’ve played that bared his name was the original Raving Rabbids game for Wii. But even then, it was all about the Rabbits and Rayman was rarely in the spotlight. In any case, I never thought I’d be head over heals for a Rayman game, but that’s exactly where I’ve found myself after having invested countless hours into this pseudo reboot. Rayman: Origins is a gorgeous, challenging 2D platformer that hits all the right notes, and has left this old school gamer feeling tremendously satisfied. If you grew up with a NES controller in hand, you owe it to yourself to play this game.
It’s quite obvious that Ubisoft set out to not only make a fantastic 2D platforming game, but to make it feel like something that could have come out 20+ years ago; save for the beautiful visuals of course. As far as the story is concerned – bad guys have filled Rayman’s world, some little pink dots with ponytales called Electoons have been captured, there are busty Nymphs to save, plenty of monsters to defeat, shiny things to collect, and red jewels to return to an old skeleton dude. There are a few bits of sub-titled dialogue, but none of it really matters, and often doesn’t even make sense. In other words, there is just enough story for the characters to have a purpose, and everything else weighs on the shoulders of how the game plays.
Thankfully, the game play is exceptional! Simple and responsive controls make this game easy to pick up for anyone who is familiar with the genre. There are a number of abilities standard to 2D platformers that are earned as you progress through the worlds. After a new ability is acquired, the levels that immediately follow are focused on familiarizing you with said ability, so you’re given plenty of opportunity to get the hang of the controls before things get really hairy. And that, they do.
In true old school fashion, you have at most 2 hit points. Much of the game is comprised of perfectly timed jumps and avoiding treacherous objects and enemies, so as much as you have to be quick with your moves, you also need to be quite careful. Checkpoints are some times few and far between, and a good portion of the levels (and especially boss fights) rely heavily on trial-and-error. This can prove to be quite frustrating at times, but it’s never reached the point of me wanting to stop playing all together.
One way Rayman: Origins is set apart from similar games of old, is that you can play it entirely with 3 other players. 4 player co-op in an often fast and fantastic 2D platformer might not sound like the ideal way to play, and depending on who you’re playing with, it might not be. But I had a surprising amount of fun and shared quite a few laughs while playing co-op with my wife. Deaths are handled in such a way that it doesn’t prove too detrimental to a player who is in the lead and doing well. Thus, it’s not as frustrating as it you might think.
I likely pay more attention to the music behind the game than most, and this is yet another area Rayman: Origins shines. I’ve actually found myself walking around the house whistling tunes that I heard while playing, and I can’t say this is something that happens often. My wife caught me one time and knew exactly what I had stuck in my head. We shared a laugh, then she went and fired up the console.
It’s a bit disappointing that Rayman: Origins was released during the holiday onslaught, as I feel like it’s been buried in the pile and hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Especially considering Rayman’s presence over the past few years. It’s likely not what people are expecting, and I’m positive it has been overlooked by many who would thoroughly enjoy it.