Return of the Slap-Happy Hero – Rayman Origins Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
The Rayman series got its start in 1995 with the original 2D platforming game. Since then, the series has dived into the world of 3D with subsequent titles like The Great Escape and Hoodlum Havoc. Now, Rayman Origins (as the title suggests) returns to the series’ roots, offering a crazy adventure across only two dimensions. Is this change to 2D a step back for the series, or does it end up taking a leap forward in the end?
Once upon a time in the Glade of Dreams, Rayman and his pals were enjoying a nice nap. This siesta, however, accidently turned into a blaring beat-boxing breakdown that could be heard all the way to the underworld. The miscreants of the dark place couldn’t stand the noise and decided to take over the Glade to stop this ruckus. Our limbless hero is captured alongside his friends, but quickly breaks free. From here, the game starts and players must free the Glade of Dreams from the control of the underworld and rescue small creatures along the way. It’s at this point that the story takes a backseat to gameplay, appearing only here and there in small text fragments. While this may be problematic to players driven by thick plots and deep character development, the simple and sparse story helps accent the key focal point of the title: gameplay.
The concept of Origins is simple: get your character from the left side of the screen to the right side. Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s not that easy. Along the way are many hazardous obstacles such as pitfalls, spikes, fire, and walls to scale. If things weren’t looking grim enough for our heroes, each level is also littered with the enemy, the Darktoons. These foes come in all shapes and forms and share in the same goal: stopping players from saving the day. Rayman and company must punch, kick, slap, jump, slide, swim, and hover their way through all obstacles in an attempt to restore the Glade back to its former and peaceful glory.
Each level also contains Lums (pronounced “looms”, as the manual is quick to point out) and Electoons to collect. Electoons are sort of like the stars from Super Mario 64, as they’re required to unlock certain levels and other features and are often hidden well. Lums, on the other hand, float around just about anywhere, and if enough are collected per level, awards will be unlocked such as extra Electoons and medals. Upon a player’s initial completion of a level, it can be replayed with an optional time trial tasking the player with reaching a goal before time runs out.
If you’re a social gamer, Origins offers four player co-op as well. To join a game in-session, simply turn on a controller and press any button and you’re in on the wacky, fun-tastic action. Players have four characters at their disposal: the titular hero Rayman, his blue pal Globox, and a pair of Teensies (small cyan-colored characters). These personas also come with a plethora of unlockable alternate costumes, all of which are available in single player mode as well. Unfortunately, even though local play is a blast, there is no online component. While by no means a game-wrecker, the addition of online play would have allowed players to enjoy the title with friends without having to commute.
Origins’ control scheme is very simple and accessible. The left stick moves the character, the A/Cross button jumps, X/Square or B/Circle attacks, and any top button is held to enable sprinting (which is helpful for long play sessions where one finger may get tired from constant holding). Just about any player, be they young or old, new-comer or veteran, should be able to pick up and memorize the controls in a matter of minutes. Overall, the gameplay is an amazing tribute to old-school platformers that is delivered in an impressive, bug- and glitch-free package.
To add to this great gameplay is a lush and vibrant visual experience. The entire title is portrayed in cartoon form, with absolutely no 3D models. This hand-drawn world is stunning to behold with diverse and well-conceived realms for players to explore. From a complex and colorful jungle, to an earth-toned desert filled with over-sized musical instruments, the creative world of Origins is simply brilliant. Add on the constant frame rate of 60FPS , and the entire game is just a privilege for one’s eyes.
For each and every beautiful picture is an equally delightful sound; each is carefully crafted, be it serious or silly. The glitter of collecting Lums , the swoosh of an attack, the whack of a punch or slap, the pitter-patter of each character’s unique step, the buzz of mosquitoes, all are designed perfectly for their visual representation. Voice acting in a strange and wacky game such as this has the potential to be either stylistic and well delivered, or flat-out annoying. Thankfully, the vocal work aims for the former, and is spoken well, albeit in a weird sort of Pig-Latin. However, this language choice allows the actors’ performances to merge perfectly with the wild and casual designs of the rest of the game.
The effects and voice-overs are great, no doubt; however, the soundtrack is in a league of its own. From off-the-wall hillbilly mixtures of didgeridoos, banjos, and ukuleles, to relaxing Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-sounding a cappella choirs, the musical score to Origins is incredibly well written. While it may be as silly as the rest of the game, it’s a pure joy to listen to. Christophe Héral, the title’s composer, is a musical genius, as he has created a truly unique masterpiece.
There is one thing that should be made clear though: this game is not for young children. While it has simple gameplay mechanics and looks like a giant cartoon, Origins is designed for a slightly older crowd. Later levels in the game can become quite difficult, and some of the female characters are wearing only enough to cover certain lady parts. These aspects do not degrade the title, but they are valid reasons to keep it away from the little ones. The game’s rating is 10+, which I believe is right on target.
From left to right, Rayman Origins’ unique blend of cartoony visuals, brilliant musical compositions, and simple yet entertaining gameplay, makes it a wacky romp that the entire family can enjoy. Whether you’re a platforming enthusiast or just looking for a new game for your library, this is an experience that should not be missed.
Final score: 4.75 / 5.0
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