There was a time when the platformer was king and no other genre could touch it, due to its fast paced fun and easy going nature. Things move on though and now the FPS rules the roost, while the platformer, like most other genres, has been left lagging behind, hoping for the one game that will turn its fortunes around.
Thankfully there are plenty of titles out there giving it a go. LittleBigPlanet has helped revive the falling giant thanks to its blend of old and new, while Nintendo’s Mario continues to innovate where his brother from another mother, Sonic, has failed. Now it’s Ubisoft’s turn to step up to the plate with its popular Rayman franchise and I’m pleased to say that this little gem will once again remind you why at one time the platformer was king.
The first thing you will notice about Rayman is just how amazing it looks. The art direction here is quite incredible, almost like a sketch coming to life inside your TV screen. Seeing Origins, with its stunning looks, wide variety of environments and clever gameplay mechanics, you will instantly been thankful that there is some originality left in gaming after all. There will be points where both you and your friends can’t help but stop to take it all in, which will no doubt result in your characters demise. But that doesn’t matter. Because it really is worth taking in as much of the beauty as you can; besides you’ll be thrown back to the last checkpoint anyway, so no harm done.
Even though platformers are renowned for their frustration causing levels, Rayman Origins practically bypasses this. Sure, there are moments where you will be cursing certain parts of the game and will probably lose some hair, however there are no limited lives here. Therefore if you fail you just find yourself back at the checkpoint and you can keep playing for as long as you like, with no worries that you will have to start from the very beginning again.
As for the story, well, the plot is quite a simple one. One day Rayman and his friends are lying about, snoring their heads off, when they happen to disturb an old granny from the Underworld, who retaliates by sending an evil army to capture the Electoons and turn your peaceful world upside down. Once Rayman and his friends discover this, they set out to rescue the Electoons and defeat the evil creatures so that things can go back to the way they where. Perhaps not groundbreaking stuff, but that’s the whole point; this game isn’t about the plot and impressive cutscenes, it’s about the uninterrupted fun you will have when playing through.
One of the best features of Rayman Origins is the ability to play through with up to four local players using a drop in/out system. Players can choose between Rayman, Globox or two Teensies, with additional costumes unlocking as you rescue the imprisoned Electoons. Much like in LittleBigPlanet, you can also slap each other silly. What’s not to love about that?
On a more serious note, as you play through the game you will unlock new abilities. These range from running up walls, gliding in mid-air after jumping and shrinking in size, all of which come in handy as you progress. Thankfully, level design is wonderfully varied. In one level, you will find yourself being lifted into the air by wind, while using your glide skill to avoid the various (e.g spiky birds) hazards. You will also find yourself riding a mosquito and flying along the screen in an R-Type style shoot-em up; bouncing off flowers and jumping on top of makeshift platforms (e.g bird beaks) to get to across hazardous drops and also deep sea diving.
Level backdrops range from Jungle, Desert and Ice covered landscapes, to Underwater Caverns. There are even treasure chest levels which can be unlocked once you have collected a set amount of Electoons; these sections see you chasing a treasure chest through the level in order to capture it and gain a special ruby; collect enough of these rubies and you will gain access to yet another level known as The Stars of the Livid Dead Tour.
Freeing the Electoons is obviously the main aim of the game and much like in other classic platformers, they are not always easy to find. Every level has hidden segments where you must complete a certain task, such as defeating enemy creatures in order to break the spell on the cage, therefore allowing you to destroy the locks. Some of these levels provide puzzles, while others will just see you cracking skulls to progress. As well as finding cages, you will also need to collect the gold coloured Lums (the alternative to coins) as you make your way through each level. Collecting enough of Lums will gain you an extra Electoon at the end. Collect a King Lum and the golden Lums will turn red, doubling their value for a limited time.
Another way to collect Electoons is to replay a completed level and race through it in a time-trial. If you manage to get through a level quickly then you will get your reward, although it seems a shame to rush through a game which has been designed to be savoured.
Speaking of the design, a special mention is reserved for the soundtrack because it’s wonderful. Music is often taken for granted but it just fits in so well in each level you play through. One of my favourite moments in this respect was during a treasure chest chase level, when I was trying to catch the treasure in a banjo filled frenzy while everything was falling to bits around me. The music here certainly added to the frantic nature of the chase, as well as providing a bit of comedy too. It was a wonderful moment and even though I had to play the level about twenty times before I finally caught the treasure, part of me thinks I failed on purpose just so I could hear the music again.
Rayman Origins really is incredible fun and thanks to the ability to unlock character skins, hidden stages and take part in massive boss fights, the fun never really stops. Completing the game will take you quite a while, as it’s highly unlikely you will collect all the 200+ Electoons in one playthrough and even if do you complete the game 100 percent, it’ll still have you coming back for more thanks to its drop in/out co-op gameplay.
Platformers such as Rayman Origins come along far less often than they should, but if this game proves anything it’s that this genre is very much alive and is more than capable of stealing play time off the big boys of the videogame world. Origins is one of the most fun multiplayer experiences of the year, its beautiful, captivating and well designed levels see to that.
Rating: OutstandingReview Policy
Rayman is available now on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, click the links to order.