Rayman Origins • PS3 (version reviewed), Wii, 360 • Out Now
Released in the gaming deluge of November 2011, Rayman Origins was always going to struggle. Not only did it have to fight of Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim, but was also flanked by genre competitors Super Mario 3D Land and Sonic Generations. And if that wasn’t enough, Ubisoft decided to up the ante, first declaring that Rayman Origins sales would help decide the fate of Beyond Good and Evil 2 and then, as if they didn’t even want to make a sequel to on of last gen’s hideously underplayed games, decided to release Assassains’s Creed: Revelations on the same day, which in my opinion, given its yearly updates that change very little is just as bad as FIFA, CoD and company.
All in all, it looked like Ubisoft wanted to Rayman Origins to die on its arse and it’s no surprise then that it only sold 50,000 in its first month in the US. And for that you can blame the release schedule and any advertising being crappy-to-none, especially given Ubisoft pretty much killed Rayman off when one of gaming’s worst creations, the Rabbids, took over. But the game? It’s exquisite.
As soon as you start playing, you’ll be astounded by the graphics. The 2D artistic stylings compliment the world and gameplay to a tee – the world is bold and bright, a far cry from some of the other releases Rayman was forced to compete with, while the animations flow elegantly with every button press. Generic levels (fire, ice, water, desert and grass) are given a whole new lease of life with clever themes and visuals, whether it’s the Hell’s Kitchen theme of the fire levels, the musical setting for the desert or, my personal favourite, the fruit cocktail ice world. The atmospheric world expands with what might well be one of gaming’s greatest soundtracks, a mish-mash of styles, such as a Hawaiian Luau inspired underwater sequences or the best kazoo-centric videogame music ever conceived each working cohesively with the level at hand. Presentation-wise, no platformer has bettered Rayman Origins.
Of course, this is all for naught if the gameplay isn’t solid, and luckily RO strikes gold in its quest for a challenging but fun game to play. The controls are spot on, to the point where 90% of your deaths – and you will die – you will blame yourself for, rather than blaming the game. The other 10% will be down to your first runs on some of the speed run sections, where you chase a treasure chest across a level and have to sprint like you’ve never sprinted before, execute every jump, punch and wall-run to perfection. 2D Rayman has always been a tough nut to crack difficult-wise and RO is no exception – in fact, I commend it for being so difficult in an era of increasingly easier and less punishing platformers.
The local multiplayer experience also adds another giant tick to the game’s already impressive CV, with each level being a frantic and fun search for lums and hidden areas, and just trying not to die – the game’s sidescrolling shooter segments are where the co-op really shines – though unlike New Super Mario Bros Wii, you’re unlikely to get in each others way, leading to fewer living-room based friendship meltdowns. The fact that the co-op doesn’t encourage competitiveness means you’ll work together a lot more, unlike games such as LittleBigPlanet or NSMBW.
There are a couple of issues to iron out – for a start, there’s no online mode so you’ll have to cater for your three friends when they come over for multiplayer, and those after a coherent story will be disappointed – not that that really matters to Mario or Sonic), although I’m sure you’ll forgive the game as it charms its way to your heart (read ‘black-hole’ if your name is Mike) through its unique design and humour.
Honestly believe me when I tell you this game is worth your time – the fact that it has been buried by November is a dreadful shame, and although handheld markets will get a taste of this when it comes to Vita and 3DS in the next two months, it will look so much better on 360 and PS3. This game deserves your time, especially now it’s been whittled down to £20 nearly everywhere. Shame on you if you don’t give it a go.
+ Stunning visuals
+ Not afraid to challenge you, supplemented with fluid, precise controls
+ Beautiful sountrack
+ Co-op is great fun
– Lack of online co-op
– Isn’t real life