Characters don’t come much more quirky than the esteemed Rayman… a figure who debuted on the original PlayStation back in 1995. With blonde propeller hair perfect for hovering and an ability to throw punches beyond a normal reach, his platform-hopping hijinks became an instant hit among gamers and may even be considered something of a classic. Ever since, he’s been stepping in and out of the limelight with a 3D sequel and a host of newer titles involving those pesky Raving Rabbids. At last, he returns to his roots in Rayman Origins, and believe us when we say that it might just be his most fantastic outing yet.
The title ‘Origins’ implies that the story might actually hold some relevance, but as with most 2D side-scrolling platformers, the premise is almost entirely irrelevant. There is some mumbo-jumbo about saving the Glade of Dreams from the grip of evil, but it’s all a very basic set-up for the adventures that follow. In Rayman Origins, almost one hundred per cent of your time will be spent walking, running, smashing, jumping and grabbing your way from left to right, but to claim that’s all there is to the proceedings would be to do this game a disservice. Exploration plays a major role and as you’ll see after just a few hours of play, collecting the golden lums is every bit as important as reaching the end goal.
The Glade of Dreams consists of a handful of worlds each with a central theme. Initially, it will seem like you’re charging to victory at breakneck speed, unlocking stages with seemingly little effort. Make no mistake however, Origins is very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing; where you were once collecting every lum, smashing every cage to rescue the captive electoons held within, things soon become harder to the point where you might end up cursing under your breath and having to remind yourself that it’s only a game. Some very late stages are so tough that you’ll feel like a snowball going up against a volcano, but the sense of relief upon success is rewarding in itself. There’s no life count and infinite continues, with each door serving as a checkpoint for when Rayman (inevitably) kicks the bucket, making for a stiff challenge as opposed to an insurmountable one.
Each stage features two or three secret areas where electoons are being held captive by a number of enemies. More electoons can be freed depending on how well you did in collecting the lums, directly influencing the amount of stages available to you. The result of this is that you’ll be pushing Rayman to the limit, pulling off all manner of platforming trickery to grab the lums and lum-increasing medallions. The degree of control and fluid movements makes for a fast-paced platformer that will ensure that you stay on your toes and never get bored, plus a mistake early on is usually due to your own failing – it can be very difficult to blame the game, despite a clear emphasis on trial and error. There are a solid number of stages that crib from the R-Type classic shooting genre, where Rayman hitches a ride on a mosquito who can suck enemies and fire them out, or stick to the rapid fire method of attack (which is even more effective if you tap the button rather than hold it).
You would be forgiven for thinking that your adventure is coming to a premature end given the speed at which the worlds unlock. In truth, Rayman makes a sweep around the worlds in order, but later unlocks a second part to each, having to defeat a corrupted boss at the end. You’re certainly getting bang for your buck with Origins, plus the deal is made even sweeter by the co-operative multiplayer mode. Rayman and his pal Globox can join forces with two other characters to make for a four-player journey in the same vein as New Super Mario Bros. Wii, though things can become hectic when other players jump into the fray. Solo adventurers should have no fear, as the game works perfectly well as a single-player experience, despite the zoomed-out camera which was clearly designed with another person in mind.
One of the game’s most noticeable aspects is its whimsical presentation. Those demanding realism and a high polygon count should probably think again, as Rayman Origins sports an excellent cartoon feel that positively thrives on an HD screen. You’ll traipse through forgotten jungles, dodge fiery lava pits and slide a path across icy terrain, with each environment offering a fresh look and unique challenges. It’s no slouch in the sound department either, as the cute noises and amusing vocals all provide an adorable charm, albeit one that might not appeal to everyone. There’s no proper voice work to speak of, but this isn’t much of a failing given the lack of story overall.
Rayman Origins signifies a welcome return to form for the hovering hero, presenting a world bursting with charm and adventure. It’s a title that really shouldn’t be missed, but we have the sneaking suspicion that it’ll be overlooked this season amongst the slew of bigger names (the strange selection of levels offered in the demo probably won’t help either). The gorgeous visuals drip with style and the game play is instantly accessible, making for a solid purchase that anyone up for a challenge will enjoy. Play it alone or play with some friends… whatever you do just play this game!
Have you downloaded the latest issue from GamerZines yet? Check it out here!