Rayman Origins Review

Rayman Origins (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
Developer: Ubisoft Montipellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
MSRP: $59.99

Finishing a level without collecting everything in any given platformer means I didn’t beat the level; the level beat me. If I decide to continue without nabbing all that’s available, it slowly nags at me in the back of my head until I finally break down and start replaying previously unfinished levels. For Super Mario 3DS Land and Kirby’s Epic Yarn, doing so wasn’t all that difficult. The same is not true for Rayman Origins. After playing through the first few levels without getting enough Lums (adorable fairy-like creatures) I quickly realized that this was a platformer that focused primarily on difficulty, more so than any game in its genre that I’ve played in years.

The initial draw of Origins isn’t its back-to-basics approach to the sidescrolling platformer genre, but rather its meticulously detailed hand drawn aesthetics. Levels ooze charm to the point of saccharine – once you see a talking she-fork holding up a lemon-wedge platform, you’ll realize no idea was considered too curiously delightful. Worlds are rooted in stereotypical settings, but unique twists are implemented that flesh them out. The desert world in particular utilizes wind and an abundance of bouncy drums to generate unique gameplay. Screenshots can be misleading though. If you’re expecting animations on par with your favorite childhood cartoons you’ll be disappointed – Origins instead presents itself as the most detailed flash-based game created. Creatures and objects rotate, squish, and expand rather than actually animate. The effect is still mesmerizing.

Mechanically, Origins is surprisingly basic. Rayman has a simple arsenal of actions, including jumping, attacking, and ground pounding. New abilities are acquired as you progress. Since finishing stages unlocks time trials, each level is designed to be sped through. This design choice creates two problems. First one being that, instead of finding new ways of exploiting Rayman’s abilities, the game instead becomes progressively more demanding. Later levels require keen awareness of what comes ahead, but if you die (which you will), checkpoints are scattered liberally throughout. But these checkpoints often feel like a design crutch, as you’ll learn to rely on them in order to learn how to better proceed. Infinite lives also suggest that perhaps some portions of levels are a bit too difficult to finish the first time through.

Learning to exploit Rayman’s unlimited lives also comes in handy when collecting Lums, and thus the second issue as a result of levels designed for sprinting through. Lums are scattered all over the place, and some of them only appear for a short period of time. The optimal route is often unclear, forcing completionists to kill themselves in order to restart back at the checkpoint. The level design is constantly at odds with Lum placement, which results in a frequently frustrating experience. More of my deaths were on purpose than on accident. And after all my excruciating efforts to collect everything, I received absolutely nothing in return – an unfortunately bittersweet ending. But if you’re not as OCD about this stuff as I am, you’re probably going to have a more enjoyable experience.

In all honesty, I’m glad Rayman Origins kicked my ass as much as it did. Levels can be absolutely devious (especially the hidden final level), but not once did I ever consider any stage impossible, nor did I want to quit. Once you determine the optimal route, performing the correct actions in sequence felt immeasurably satisfying, and then perfecting the routes during the time trials provides a strong sense of closure. I came, I saw, I collected, I conquered. I just wish it rewarded me for conquering it.

 

 

 

Quick tidbits:

– Considering how much I hated New Super Mario Bros. Wii multiplayer, I decided not to touch it. Perhaps Lum collecting would have been easier with more players.

– The moment I realized this game was going to be tough was when I discovered getting hit right after grabbing a coin made you lose it. It’s devious, yes, but makes sense. Not only do you have to be careful when getting it, but you also must be just as cautious escaping whatever hellish placement it’s in.

– Some of the music in this game is unbearably infectious. The two best tunes: Swimming with the Stars and Treasure Chase.

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2 Comments

  1. Great review. I haven’t had the chance to play this yet, but it’s good to see a stylish platformer like this get a major retail release. It’s too bad Ubisoft shipped it out during the middle of an already muddled holiday period, though.

    Reply
  2. Agreed. Very poor timing. The plus side is that it’s constantly on sale at various retailers. It is worth the full MSRP though.

    Reply

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