Rayman Origins review
If this is a sign of things to come, then just take my money already Ubisoft.


The Introduction:
Releasing a game in October and November of 2011 was considered financial suicide, because you had three monolithic games to deal with - Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 and The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. All three of those games were on the top of many peoples' most wanted and most played lists, so a lot of games were overlooked. Rayman Origins, in particular, was overlooked. At the time, the last good Rayman game was Rayman 3, which was released back in 2003, and all people may have known Rayman for are those godawful Rabbids games. Plus, Origins was originally going to be a game on Xbox Live Arcade or the Playstation Network, and thus a retail selling price of 60-100 dollars was considered a ripoff when it found itself becoming a retail game. Furthermore... there was Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim to consider! Aww hell, there was Assassin's Creed: Revelations to consider... Nevertheless, Rayman Origins is a fantastic game that is certainly worth your time... and just putting this out there - I was at a point where I was going to boycott video games because with a few exceptions, this generation has been a constant disappointment. Thank your lucky stars Rayman Origins got me enthusiastic about gaming again! But anyway, onto the review.

The Story:
Although it's not really heavy on story, it's one that works as a good enough setup. Basically, Rayman and his friends were sleeping on a tree in the Glade Of Dreams one day... in fact, they were snoring so loudly that the denizens of the underworld could hear him, so at the signal, they attacked the Glade Of Dreams, took all of the Electoons and Faeries, and plunged the world into darkness. Never fear, however, for Rayman, Globox and the Teensies are on the case! There is a twist at the end and I've probably ruined the surprise for you by mentioning that (you're welcome), but beyond that, there's really not much here.

The Graphics:
This game looks beautiful. I mean really beautiful! Each of the stages are vibrant with color, style and scope. Everything is drawn with such attention to detail that it's very impressive, and how they're drawn is what gives it some style, which is very rare in this generation, even amongst other 2D games (sorry Shank, but all you really have is cartoon blood and smooth animation - you still look good, though). Above all else, everything is very well animated. This is on par with the likes of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, The Lion King and - oh yes, dare I say it - the original Fantasia. Everything moves so smoothly that it feels like each individual frame moves along like a blur, but it also moves at paces that feel appropriate. Nothing is too fast or too slow. In short, I can't get enough of looking at it. Everything looks and feels right here.

The Sound:
The soundtrack is like the graphics - it's vibrant and it's stylish. It manages to fit well with the scenery and immerses you into it as a result. Not only that, but these are some very infectious grooves... the upbeat, funky, ambient and sometimes downright weird songs are all constructed in ways that not only suit the scenery and the visual style, but are also constructed in ways that ensures that you'll find yourself humming them well after you've played the game. Extra points goes towards the song played during the Treasure Challenges... the fast riffs from the banjo really inspires you to move as fast as possible to not only get the treasure chest as it runs away, but to also avoid dying of falling behind... and down a pit or chasm... yeah, it gets hectic, trust me on that much. As for the sound effects, they're equally wacky and go really well with the visual style, and they're not distracting to the point of you wanting to kill everyone who was even remotely involved, so that's a very definite plus. The voice acting, when there is some, is gibberish, which also goes with the wacky style... so basically, the sound design is perfect for this game.

The Gameplay:
Ah yes, the gameplay... I remember looking at the graphics and how they functioned, and I was thinking to myself "god this won't work". Surprisingly, Rayman Origins has some of the smoothest controls one could ever encounter! No, I'm not kidding - this game has some *bleep*ing excellent controls! Each command responds immediately to the push of the button, and Rayman and friends move very smoothly, just like their animations. Jumping is especially impressive, as you jump immediately as you press the button and can move in mid air with ease. As you earn new moves, you'll find that they are easy to use as you'll integrate them into your runs through each level.

That's a good thing too, because this game is based around flow and momentum. Each stage, at their core, is designed to get you to find ways to go through them as fast as possible and without stopping. The best way to prove this is to finish a few levels and try out their time trial modes (as you must complete a level before attempting the time trial for it). The time required to get the time trial medal may seem ridiculous at first, but once you get the idea that it's all about the flow of your actions, you'll get those times, lickity split. But don't think that these levels are 100% linear, because while there is a main path, there are also nooks to the side that hide extra collectibles. See, while the idea is to keep moving, the idea of the game is to collect as many yellow lums (or glowing dots) as possible. The game even rewards you for doing so, and I don't just mean with pointless trophies, but also with Electoons - collecting about 300 of them per level will earn you two Electoons, while 350 earns you a medal... keep in mind that these numbers are rough estimates and you may need to collect more or less, depending on the level, but that's usually what I encountered for most of the levels in the first few worlds. Also, it's best that you get into the habit of gathering as many Electoons as possible, because progressing through the game will require you to collect at least a certain amount. So basically, the initial run through a level should focus on gathering enough lums to get both Electoons and finding and smashing the hidden cages to get both of those Electoons... can't just rely on the one you get at the end of each level.

The level designs are brilliant. Each one feels different from the other as they change the structure and the placements of various things like springs and pits, and everything is placed in ways that force you to think on your feet and associate them with an action, like jumping or running, and in conjunction with the placement of lums, you'll be required to not just associate them with actions, but the timing and even sequence of said actions. There is a lot of care put into each design as well. Each object is placed in locations that not just make sense, but are also perfect. The level designers clearly know what would make the game flow very well, given the structure of said level's design. While the basics are never all that different (besides their visual, depending on what kind of level you're in), everything else is. Distinct flavors are one thing; care and attention to detail is another.

When you're not platforming, you'll be placed in a shoot em up situation where you'll either shoot enemies down, or suck them up and fire them at other enemies. Oh no, you're not using a spaceship with a suck cannon; you're riding on what appears to be a giant mosquito that can not only suck things up, but also fire deadly snot out of its mouth. These sections are surprisingly fun - like any good shoot em up, it gives you enough things to shoot and collect to keep you engaged, but it never feels like there's too much to focus on. It becomes a process of recognizing patterns, which goes well with the fact that it's about flow and timing in an effort to collect everything... oh yeah, don't think you're getting out of collecting lums! If anything, you'll find that you'll really have to keep on your toes because either they may disappear, or you may find yourself dying just to collect a bunch! Ahh, tricky game design, you sly devil...

I must say, this game is deceptively challenging. Unlike a lot of modern games where it's either easy or frustratingly hard, Rayman Origins starts off fairly easy, giving you a power in the first or second stage of the first five worlds, and then giving you the rest of the world to get some practice with that power before you go through the rest of the game having to associate the use of them with an object or scenario. The later levels will include more devious designs and twisted platforming segments that'll really put you to the test. But unlike that piece of shit Super Meat Boy game, you're always in control and every death is a result of you screwing up. It's always up to you to pick yourself up and try again, and before you know it, you've beaten the section and proceeded to pat yourself in the back for a job well done. The checkpoint system is lenient enough, with you restarting the section from square 1 so that it never feels frustrating... you know, unless you hate losing. I cannot really say the same for the bosses, because their difficulty is all over the place. Some are cheap (which is rather out of place in this game) and others are actually quite easy, and it's never obvious which ones are easy and which ones aren't, but the main issue is that it shouldn't be so inconsistent in an otherwise well paced and consistent game!

Some of the difficulty is alleviated by the multiplayer. Oh yes, having 2-4 people going through levels is where the fun really begins... that's not to say that single player isn't fun, because playing this game alone is a lot of fun, but playing with friends is even more fun. There's just something about playing with your friends on the couch that really gets you going. To say that I was surprised with the results is an understatement - it never feels like a mess, which I believe was New Super Mario Brothers Wii's biggest issue. The levels and characters feel like they're the right size for this kind of thing, and if there are any problems, well, your friend clearly sucks at this game. But not to worry, because if any of you die, one of the others can revive them by jumping on their bubble! It's just if all of you die, then you'll all restart back at the beginning of the section, which is more forgiving than when you're playing alone. While the lack of online multiplayer can be a bit of a buzzkill for the modern generation of gamers, given that this is a game about flow and timing, and online lag can ruin that, I can live without it.

The Stats:
Story: Although it doesn't exist as more than a mere setup, it works well as such. Would want more, but I'm content with what's there. 4/5
Graphics: It looks very colorful and stylish, and the animation is very smooth. 5/5
Sound: The soundtrack is varied, but it sounds excellent and fits the graphics. 5/5
Gameplay: A great platformer with tight controls, fantastic level designs and mostly spot on difficulty pacing... curse you, inconsistent bosses! 9/10

The Conclusion:
Rayman Origins is a truly brilliant game that was unfortunately overlooked due to its origins and what was coming out at the time. It's a shame that it had so much to compete with, because at its core, it is a game that is a lot of fun to play and is very well made. There is plenty of charm, style and enjoyability to be found, and at the end of the day, that's what a game should aspire to have. It should have a personality to match its style. It should be a fun game to play. It should go the extra mile instead of being content with the bare minimum. It should... be an experience that you'll remember for years to come! This generation is full of mediocre games that you'll forget within the next few months, but whenever something like Rayman Origins comes by, my faith is renewed and I eargerly anticipate another game that makes me want to love gaming like this...

...I'm still looking, by the way... come on, just get the game already!

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