Rayman Origins

Before Origins there was Rabbids. How was I supposed to know a game such as Rayman Origins would come along from the same game that gave us the most annoying things ever? Confused was I when playing the first levels as something became very apparent very quickly: this game is bloody good, eh?

In fact, that’s an understatement; the game is incredible.  Someone involved in the creation of this game is clearly showing off their profound knowledge and comprehension of what constitutes a great platformer.  The levels are so well designed that they seem simple but upon further exploration each level contains secrets and challenges a-plenty. Sometimes the most enjoyable parts are the optional ones: explore the level a bit and you’ll encounter hidden areas sometimes containing a room with an all-important Electoon.  You’re not supposed to simply jump, glide and bash your way to the finish line and despite never being expressly told this it’s implicitly understood.  The game plays as if it is constantly directing you, telling you what to do but the genius here is it does so only by making it so enjoyable.  It is a joy to play.

The main menu is a map divided into genre-staple-themed areas including Ice, Jungle, Fire and Underwater, each containing a series of levels you complete one-by-one to rescue the incredibly curvacious nymphs that bestow upon you new abilities and collect the spherical pink kirby-esque beings that, once you’ve collected enough, build a bridge (itself a brilliant level) to reach new and much harder areas.  Peppered around every level are yellow Lums and the aptly named Skull Coins named thus due to the threat of death that accompanies collecting them. These Lums are needed to gain more Electoons which, in turn, open a Time Attack (Chest) level.  This level is an often fiendishly difficult dash to capture the agile chest to obtain one of the Skull Teeth which are needed to unlock a final area at the end of the game. It all follows a simple Collect and Unlock formula that very quickly becomes not so simple as the difficulty ramps up so fast you barely have time to reminisce about the earlier easy levels.  The challenge along with the eye-melting beauty, the exceptional level design and brilliant controls are what not only sets Rayman Origins apart from other platformers today but make it one of the best ever made.

The art across the majority of levels fulfil a promise conveyed upon the release of each new console since the Mega Drive – that we will have top-quality 2D animation and art in our games.  The colours on the Vita screen jump out at you and feel solid and the animations are beautifully smooth if a little basic throughout. There is something so satisfying about seeing such silky motion in a game while controlling it, no less. Oddly, though, I find some levels such as the Dijiridoo ones visually banal and the design of the bleak brown world map is a real head-scratcher as it’s kind of ugly especially compared to the sumptuous greens and cleverly contrasting reds of the first levels.  They certainly aren’t in-keeping with the calibre of visuals, though, they are but anomalies in an otherwise aesthetically pleasing world.

Unlike the dips in quality of Art the gameplay is spot-on. Once you pick up the rhythm and time your jumps just right the levels begin to make a lot of sense. They are crafted in such a way that upon re-playing them they feel like entirely new levels.  Memorising and zipping through a level is as satisfying as it is enthralling. Nailing a long series of jump, jump, long jump, glide, wall bounce, kick, dash, jump and crush is so much fun it never gets old and you’ll find yourself re-playing levels almost immediately so you can do it again and again.

One more clever aspect is how levels are separated into smaller areas.  Sadly this does seem to negate any sense of distance travelled but it does allow you to fail and immediately retry and because there is no penalty such as losing lives for failing it’s clear that trial-and-error is how the game is meant to be played.  Each hole you travel through to take you to the next part of the level acts as a kind of save-system as it saves the Lums and Electoons you collected in the level up until that point which allows you to explore the next area free from fear.  This is super clever due to increasingly difficult platforming, one-hit-kills and secrets and it acts as a kind of safety net and mitigates almost completely the annoyance of failing.


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