Rayman Origins is a gorgeous 2D platformer that always offers a challenge and represents a reinvention for the series.
Forget everything you know about Rayman. The series has been around for a while, but it hasn’t stayed relevant like other 3D platformers (such as Super Mario Bros, Banjo-Kazooie or Ratchet & Clank, to name a few.) So if you were in charge of developing a new Rayman, what should you do with it? Ubisoft’s solution to that issue was radical yet effective: go back basics. Thanks to such drastic approach, Rayman: Origins is an entertaining, great-looking and most importantly, relevant platformer that you shouldn’t miss.
Unlike its predecessors, Origins plays in two dimensions and instead of restricting it, this style gives Rayman and its developer limitless possibilities. You might move on two planes, but you have several tools at your disposal: Rayman can jump over obstacles, glide, attack, swim, shrink in size and sprint and the more you play the game, the more abilities you unlock. Also, the fact that the levels are bite-sized and divided into small chunks make the process of playing less monotonous or repetitive. When you die, for instance, the game usually takes you to the beginning of the level almost instantly, but since you never lose too much progress, replaying levels is delightful rather than tedious.
Like in most platformers, the story’s bare bones, but that shouldn’t keep anyone from playing Rayman Origins.
Rayman and his buddies are sleeping in the Snoring Tree forest, but their incessant snoring disturbs other creatures resting at the Land of the Livid Dead who sends an army of monsters, capturing Electoons and imprisoning the Nymphs in the process. There are different ways to complete each level: you can reach a finish line, find hidden cages, collect as many yellow bugs as possible and that gets you Electoons that you need to unlock some of the latter levels. If you don’t meet that requirement, you need to replay levels until you get the necessary Electoons. Sadly, this process feels more like a chore rather than an organic way to play the game.
As soon as you start playing, the vibrant graphics and terrific sense of humor will definitely stand out. Rayman Origins is one of the best-looking side-scrolling platformers ever made because of the UbiArt Framework graphics engine that brings the gleefully silly and ridiculous cartoony characters to life. This game is so charming that I couldn’t help but to chuckle several times during my playthrough even if there’s no voice acting and most of the humor relies on physical jokes or puns. The same cheerful and carefree approach goes to the fantastic soundtrack that while reminiscent of Mario games, manages to feel unique and catchy thanks to mariachi guitars and silly vocal arrangements. Some songs and ditties remained in my head long after I had put the controller down.
Apart from the more traditional levels, there are levels where you command a mosquito that can suck enemies and shoot them, so the game becomes a 2D shoot ‘em up. These sequences offer a nice change of pace and are a blast to play. There are also chase levels where you follow a chest as fast as you can and these levels are orchestrated which means that they are full of small-scale setpieces (with falling or exploding platforms or enemies that attack on a specific pattern) and you need to memorize them to complete them. These are some of the most thrilling, challenging and memorable parts of Rayman Origins, since you’re trying to make it to the end of the level without making a single mistake.
Similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Rayman Origins has four-player local multiplayer mode (not online multiplayer though.) The only difference with the single-player is that whenever a player dies, they blow up into a bubble and another player needs to pop it up. Should all players be in bubbles at the same time, they are all sent to the nearest checkpoints.
I’d like to call Rayman Origins a return to form for the series, but the franchise has never had two-dimensional gameplay before. This is more of a reinvention and the game achieves that with charming aesthetics, sharp visuals, solid platforming, a variety of well-designed levels that are a blast to play. The two-dimensions suit the series quite well and in this regard, I hope Rayman stays old-fashioned for quite some time.