Reviews: Rayman Origins

Very old-school, very satisfying

At a time when certain modern gaming trends dominate, and old-school values are in short supply, along comes this charming French 2D platformer.

Rayman Origins is pretty much the perfect blend of old-school ideas and modern ones in a single game. There's practically no plot, and I had no idea what was going on with some of the (very brief and rare) cutscenes due to the lack of exposition. And you know what? I really don't care. It's refreshing to finally have so little story getting in the way.

After a brief cartoony intro that explains nothing, you hop into the game and immediately get accustomed to the basic controls - run, jump, attack. That's it. It's like playing Super Mario in that sense. You can fight, and the combat has depth to it in the form of multi-hit combos, charged up attacks, running spin attacks, upwards attacks and slamming the ground from above. These are fun but also unnecessary, since enemies die in one hit.

The platforming is very frantic, much like the Donkey Kong Country games. You move at a fast clip, and the levels often have moments where you have to keep moving quickly. The levels are all straight-up linear, but with hidden alcoves to search for to find items and hidden cages which contain smiley face-like creatures to rescue. What's more, the "lums" you're collecting are often arranged in ways that require tricky platforming skills to get to them, adding an additional optional challenge.

The collect-a-thon element is totally optional and the game can be won without it. But indulging the collection elements is rewarding and fun. The material rewards are mostly additional outfits for your character, but you can also earn extra-challenging levels. Other modern gameplay elements include drop-in/drop-out multiplayer, infinite lives, and the ability to revive dead players in multiplayer.

The game has a very satisfying difficulty, especially for collectors, and a satisfying length, which is double its initial appearance.

I also have to praise the graphics. Characters look like hand-drawn cartoons, and backgrounds look painted. It looks fantastic in motion, and much like what we all thought video games would look like one day back in the NES days. Some bosses look more like Flash animation, but that can be forgiven.

Ultimately, a great old-school game. Pretty cheap too.

Welcome back, Rayman.

Rayman: Origins is not only one of the finest side-scrollers I have ever played in years, its also one of the most refreshing video games I've played in recent times.

The game gets just about everything right—the level design is superb, the controls and gameplay mechanics are refined and well thought out, the difficulty level is just right, the harder parts of the game rely just as much on skill as trial and error, the boss fights are creative and paced just right, etc. I really cannot find anything truly at fault with this game short of resorting to nitpicks. It takes the original side-scrolling gameplay of the original Rayman and updated it perfectly with breakneck pacing and crazy jumps and sprints, and all without resorting to nostalgia-banking techniques. And the replay value for this game is enormous with all the Electoon Medals and Tricky Treasure gems to collect!

And that's not even counting the splendid hand-drawn art, and the plethora of catchy music ("Lums of the Water" is a particular standout)! The story is very paper thin compared to previous Rayman games, but that's no big deal when everything else is so great.

All in all, one of the best games I've played in years, and its already got me anticipating its sequel, Rayman: Legends. Overall, highly recommended.