2011 has already seen the release of one Rayman game— Rayman 3D for the 3DS. It was good fun, but that is unsurprising, given that it was a 3D port of 1999's Rayman 2: The Great Escape. In Rayman: Origins we have a bona-fide new Rayman game.
Created by the irrepressible French game designer Michel Ancel, Rayman himself is an armless, beguiling little dude who makes his way through colorful cartoon worlds defeating funny bad guys and rescuing other cute little dudes and dudettes.
Rayman: Origins is a 2D side-scroller like many recent XBLA and PSN games, but it's an on-disc, full release. When was the last time we saw one of those on a non-Nintendo system? Are wit and color enough to make this game worth buying? Only one thing to do: gut-check.
Kirk Hamilton, who liked Rayman 3D and also speaks a little French: Hoo, boy. This one is a bit tricky to gut check, since it's a $60 platformer released at the same time as every other gargantuan AAA title this season. On the one hand, it's an odd man out, and we've been conditioned by recent years to expect 2D platformers to be $20 downloads. Many of you have dropped upwards of a couple hundred bucks on games this week, and I don't see you running out to the store to spend $60 on this one. That said, Rayman: Origins a supremely joyful game, and an absolute delight to play.
From the get-go, Rayman: Origins is an orgy of color: vivid greens, iridescent reds, deep blues, all leaping off of the screen in a hand-drawn 2D world that feels like it's constructed out of of living paper cutouts. The whole game is rich with detail and imagination, and never passes up a creative visual gag. The character designs are broadly hilarious and distinctly French, from the cha-cha-singing red Lums to the sleepy blue dudes whose long arms function as swinging vines.
It's hard to describe the feel of playing Raman: Origins, other than to say that it feels "right." There's a float to everything, like the gravity in this world is 3/4ths that of the earth. But it's a good float, as opposed to the "bad float" of, say, LittleBigPlanet. Rayman begins the game with a limited moveset, but quickly gains a number of offensive maneuvers as well as his patented helicopter glide-move. But from the very first time I made Rayman jump in the game, it felt good—each jump with a perfect amount of hangtime, each wall-slide feeling just so. It's a marvelously musical game, too, with a soundtrack that comes close to matching the grooviness of Rayman 2 and loads of fun musical surprises scattered about each level.
Rayman: Origins is family-friendly, and co-op lets up to 4 players leap around one another. Co-op also makes the game significantly easier, since if you die (and you will die often), your teammates can revive you so you won't have to start the level over. I was surprised by how laid-back and fun co-op was, and I've yet to tire of playfully slapping my friends around.
Despite its kid-friendly exterior, Rayman: Origins is difficult. It spans 60 levels, and while I'm not yet halfway through it's already gotten quite tricky. The level design is fantastic, and the worlds colorful and imaginative. It's got so much going for it: inventive challenges, fun mechanics, great feel, and charm that never runs out.
Also, everyone in the game speaks pig-latin. Should I give it an "Essyay?"
Nah, enough shenanigans: Yes.
To my mind, Rayman's always been a second-tier character. He's not in the league of your Marios, your Sonics or your Mega Mans and I never really played the games of his heyday, if he can even be said to have one. So, while I love Rayman creator Michel Ancel's masterpiece Beyond Good & Evil, the limbless hero's never really moved me that much.
Rayman Origins does move me, though. Everything about the whole game's lush presentation creates an immediate curiosity in me, and makes me wonder how much of it I can explore. I can't really parse the story—not that you really need to—but it's hard not to be charmed by Origins' loopy aesthetic and flat-out excellent soundtrack. The action's easy to grasp, too, and isn't quite as hardcore as Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.
This one's for family fun or an addictive party diversion. To Rayman Origins' hand-drawn beauty, I say Yes.
I have not, however, played any of the home console versions. And the main issue I've had with Rayman: Origins was PS Vita centric, I am keen to check out the home console versions.
I love the platforming and the way the game looks, and hope that the shortcomings the Vita version had are a non-starter for the console version. My gut? It tells me...