Ubisoft’s earliest works included their platformer ‘Rayman’ which had long been only remembered for it’s Rabbids… not anymore! Rayman: Origins returns Rayman to the center stage with a truly old-school platformer for a new era.
Pretty for a Platformer
When you hear ‘platformer’ your mind doesn’t first jump to ‘pretty’ or ‘good graphics’. But Rayman: Origins looks fantastic. It’s graphics aren’t up to the same par as say… Uncharted 3… but they are very good. Every environment looks clean, the character animations and models are very polished and everything just looks good. The framerate is consistent, I noticed no lag or glitching or freezing that would be normally associated with lag or processing issues. I didn’t run into any terrain issues or any problems of any sort with the visuals except that one or two of the harmful obstacles weren’t perfectly indicative of where they were. In other words, some of the flames and the spiky tentacles will either not hit you when it looks like they should, or will hit you when it looks like they shouldn’t. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen enough to be noticeable and could get a bit frustrating.
The other aspects of this game’s presentation were just as polished. The sound effects are humourous and fitting. The soundtrack is high paced, so interesting, and so catchy that it just fits the mood and the pace of the game absolutely perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that even though on some of the challenge levels I was failing within the first 15 seconds every time and replaying it, restarting the soundtrack for the level – I never grew sick of it. And, even after having finished it a few days ago, I still have one of the tracks in my head. It’s not the type of soundtrack that you’re likely to want to listen to on its own, and it wouldn’t have fit in almost any other game… but for the high-paced platformer that it is, it is absolutely perfect.
There isn’t a lot of voicework in it, but what there is is really interesting. It’s all done in a sort of fast-forwarded pig latin that just sounds so interesting. For a game that is as insane as this game, it fits so perfectly, and just sounded so cool.
Jumping for Joy
As with all platformers, this game is about jumping. Jumping is the core of almost any platformer, and how reliable, responsive, and fun the jumping is really makes or breaks the game. And, luckily for us all, Rayman Origins does it just right. Controlling your character, regardless of which character you choose, is very accurate. In addition, all of the other special abilities – from floating and running on walls to swimming and punching – work just as well. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll need every skill to be able to beat some of the game’s more interesting levels. I never once felt like I was struggling against the controls – not that I wasn’t struggling, of course!
The game is, indeed, quite a challenge – but it’s a scalable challenge. In each level you strive to collect Lums, little yellow lights chattering away, and depending on how many you get you get rewards that help you unlock challenge levels. So based off of how perfect you strive to be you can make the normal levels be quite reasonable to amazingly difficult, all based off of how much of a perfectionist and how challenging you like it. And then, when you unlock the challenge levels – known as ‘Chest Chases’ – you get an extraordinarily difficult high-paced stage that really puts everything to the test. And then, to make it even more of a scalable challenge – completing all of the Chest Chases unlocks the ‘true’ final level, which is a level with difficulty far beyond anything found elsewhere in the game. To counterbalance this, the checkpoint/autosave system works really well, autosaving after each level with checkpoints occurring at major points during each level, making it very forgiving to die multiple times during a level. The exception to this are the chest chase levels which have no checkpoints but are usually fairly short.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Variety is one of this game’s key elements. It really sings through in every aspect of this game. The soundtrack features dramatically differing tracks depending not only on the area you’re in but also the style of level you’re doing. The graphics are so wildly different from region to region, and even sometimes within the region, that it really makes it feel like you’re looking at something new each time. In addition, there’re a wide variety of different characters and skins you can use in the game.
But it isn’t just the visual aspects of the game that have great variety – the gameplay also has a lot of variety. You have a number of different ‘abilities’ you can use, such as the ability to run on walls, bounce off certain objects, shrink, and more – and all of which combine to make some truly varied strategies. But the biggest variety in the gameplay comes from the different styles of levels. You have levels which feature high-pace elements such as falling objects you have to climb up or moving platforms; levels that are more about control with air currents in various directions that you have to use to float to places; levels that involve sudden changes such as burning structures or firewalls that force you to react quickly, and more. Each level is a new journey of wonder and creativity, forcing you to think on your feet but still leaving you able to appreciate the variety.
However, that isn’t all, there are also some special levels, 4 kinds of them specifically. First you have your ‘chest chase’ challenges where you have to chase a moving chest who will lead you through a no-mistakes level that forces you to react quickly and take advantage of every ability you have access to if you want to succeed. As a sharp contrast to those, you also have the much easier bonus levels as you travel from region to region in which the only real challenge is in trying to get as many of the lums as possible. The third kind of specialty level are the boss levels. During these, you’re usually getting chased by the boss, and then at the end you have to ‘fight’ the boss by avoiding him until these weak spots appear and then you need to attack them. The fourth, and most unique, kind of specialty level are the mosquito levels. These levels perform like a sidescrolling shooter where you ride on a mosquito. The mechanics work really well, and at no point does it feel tacked on. The game also features a party-style multiplayer in which each player controls their own character and have to cooperate to complete the level but also compete to see who gets the most lums. The duality makes for a very interesting addition to the gameplay.
I did run into a few places where some of the game’s ‘death traps’ acted in weird ways. For example, I got crushed by an obstacle that was moving away from me at one point. This wasn’t frequent, and only happened when I was already in places I probably shouldn’t have gone, but it definitely did happen. Also, I noticed a few places where it was inexplicably hard to hit enemies I was trying to attack, but again, this was quite rare and didn’t do anything to detract from the game. I could see the difficulty of some of the harder levels, especially the challenge levels and the true ending, taking away from some peoples’ enjoyment – especially if you do the challenges as soon as you have access to them since some of them are pretty early, but are no less difficult.
When doing one of the really difficult levels, such as the chest chases, I found myself getting both a good and a bad feeling. The good was that I had just accomplished something that really pushed my limits… the bad was that I just felt tired. Not tired of the game, not tired of dying… just tired. I often found myself overcoming a huge obstacle and then wanting to take a break.
As with most platformers, the game really lacks anything that could be called a strong story, but again as with most platformers I never really found myself wishing there was one. The basic premise is that you have to free these nymphs, I believe they’re called, who grant you new powers. After freeing them, you then have to use the new powers to free the world’s rulers from their nightmares. And following that you have to track down the true culprit of this.
One other neat little thing to mention is that even the credits are fun, since you can destroy the letters of them as they’re scrolling through the screen. Silly, but still fun.
I think really two things can be said in summary about this game. First and foremost, this game is phenomenally fun. The game was clearly a labour of love, and it shines through in every aspect of the game, but most of all in the joy you get while playing it. It is just pure, refined fun. The second, congratulations Ubisoft – if Rayman didn’t have a spot next to Mario in gaming history before, he has earned it now with this game. This is the best platformer I’ve played in at least a decade, and is among the best platformers of all time. And that says a lot. Anyone who thinks platformers are dead needs to play this game to prove just how wrong they are.
- The game is incredibly fun.
- Controls work very well.
- Graphics are crisp, clean, and very high quality.
- Variety of graphical environments and the detail and love put into these environments are incredible.
- Soundtrack is one of the most perfectly fitting I’ve ever heard in a game.
- Music is high-paced and really builds the excitement.
- Sped up pig latin used for the conversation is really unique and fits the atmosphere of the game.
- Incredible variety of gameplay provided.
- Game has a good difficulty level, allowing people to pick how much of a challenge they really want.
- Checkpoint system makes the game very forgiving which is good considering the insane challenge in some of the harder levels.
- Mosquito levels are incredibly well done and fun.
- Feeling of satisfaction when completing harder levels is immense.
- Story is weak.
- Difficulty of harder levels can be off-putting.
- Some minor ‘behaviour’ issues in certain parts of certain stages where objects and enemies don’t act quite perfectly.
- Some of the dangerous obstacles appearance isn’t indicative of actual danger area.
- Some levels can be so difficult that they are actually tiring.