Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rayman Origins - Rayman's Great Comeback

Despite never actually beating one of his main games before, I have been a fan of Rayman for a good portion of my life. I fell in love with the idea of the limbless wonder and had pursued playing each of his games since I got my hands on Rayman 2: The Great Escape as a child. Around Rayman Raving Rabbids however, I became more disinterested as the titular rabbids hijacked the franchise and turned it into a series of mini-game collections.  This lead to my surprise and imminent joy when I had heard about Rayman Origins early last year and its return to his 2D roots. Based on various magazine articles I had read on the subject, it seemed that they would be combining new and old ideas into the project in order to deliver a new platforming experience on current generation systems. When I finally obtained this game as a Christmas present, which explains why this review is late, I felt it would be best to see immediately if everything I had hoped for out of this title would be reality. In the end, it was more than I could have ever dreamed of.

First and foremost, this game is absolutely gorgeous. Thanks to the new UbiArt Framework used to create the visuals by scanning in real art, everything ends up looking simply amazing to look at. This helps make the graphics not only very consistent, but it also makes it fun to try and spot the tiny details in the characters and backgrounds, as well as the subtle actions created by interacting with the environment, such as kicking up grass when landing on that surface. The backgrounds in particular also help to establish an interesting sense of depth for a 2D game, helping the important details stand out in either visual plane.

Besides being beautiful, the game is also a very expertly designed platformer. The controls are tight and responsive, helped by the intricate character animations being designed in a way that they don't make the game more difficult than it already is. On top of this, the level design is fantastic, with some interesting and humorous twists on old level themes to help keep things fun and exciting. I also appreciated the gameplay variety within the worlds, such as having entire sections consist of flying around on a mosquito's back. One thing to point out however is how the difficulty seems to spike within the later sections, with some of these requiring a perfect rhythmic jump timing to be able to pass through. Despite this, most of the deaths I encountered, of which there were plenty, helped me to learn where I went wrong and enable me to overcome it. It's very difficult overall, but also fair for the most part. 

What may ease some of this difficulty is the drop-in drop-out Co-op that supports up to four local players simultaneously. The ease of difficulty comes form the fact that when a player would die, a friend can smack them back into the game, although just smacking other players around in general proved to be very fun on its own as well. The biggest advantage to this though is that it makes the game more fun when working together to get through a tough section or boss fight, among of course all the aforementioned smacking.

One item of note that should be taken into consideration is how the game doesn't stop throwing new things at you. In practice, this felt not only fun, but also kept the game very refreshing as it went along even if it's not directly explained. It could be a new gameplay mechanic, powerup, costume, or level, Rayman is always doing something new. Even the introduction of water levels to the mix is exciting, especially considering how well they handled the diving controls compared to most other games out there today.

Another smaller item of praise I can give this game is the music. Every level has a different theme of music to suit the style of the game perfectly and most importantly not get annoying. In fact, I found myself returning to specific worlds or levels on occasion just to hear the background music even more.

If I could only have one real complaint with this game, it would be the emphasis on gathering Electoons. Electoons are not only scattered in cages around the world, but are also gathered by collecting enough lums in a level or speeding through as fast as possible. You need to collect a certain number of them to to go to specific areas, and this can be a little frustrating given where some of these cages are placed and what obstacles you need to overcome in order to even get to them in the first place. While I did put priority into finding them right off the bat, I have a feeling that I'll be returning to the game again in the future just to see what happens when you get all of them, a revelation I am a little afraid to find out about, if only due to the fear that it may not be worth it in the end.

As the only Rayman game I have been able to beat so far, Rayman Origins is a very solid platforming experience that shouldn't be passed up with those that have a passing or long-term interest in the character and want to see what he can do now that the Rabbids are nowhere in sight. This is definitely a title that can help him stand up now against other heavy hitters out there now and I can't wait to see more from him in the future.

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