It has been 8 long years since Rayman has blessed us with a game of his own on the home consoles. Sure, there have been a couple of spinoffs such as the Raving Rabbids series and an outing on the Gameboy Advance back in 2005, but things go back a bit further if we are talking about a full-fledged Rayman console game. That drought is about to come to an end next month when Ubisoft releases Rayman Origins on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii. There are also versions of the game inbound for both the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita but release dates for those versions have yet to be determined. Even though the game isn’t out until November 15, I got a chance to sit down with a preview build of the game recently and have to admit that it left quite an impression on me.
Rayman Origins is about as straight forward of a platformer as they come. The development team has played things safe by using an established formula and honestly, that is a good thing. Just like classic platformers from 15-20 years ago, this game is all about maneuvering through tricky environments and collecting as many of a specified object as possible. In this case, players will be collecting small little insects called lums and the environment just happens to be one of the most beautiful ones I've ever seen in a video game.
The controls are simple, you control either Rayman or one of a large number of unlockable characters through a scenic area collecting lums and avoiding pitfalls. You can run (or sprint), jump, and kick, that is it and honestly, all that the game needs. The simple approach to controls makes the game accessible for even the youngest gamer in your house, which plays right into the game’s addictive drop in / drop out cooperative play. Up to 4 players in total can get involved with the action and sometimes it really helps because you can all work together to reach areas of the stage(s) that you may not be able to reach on your own.
As I mentioned, collecting lums is the “name of the game”. Lums are cheerful little lightning bug-like creatures that are scattered throughout the environment. They can be found in an assortment of styles from single, stationary yellow lums to singing and dancing red lums (which happen to count as 2 normal ones). Each stage has a set of target numbers that you are expected to collect and if you managed to get them all you earn the equivalent of a gold medal which means that you have completed the stage 100%. Usually there are 3 levels of “completion” below the medal marker, which gives you incentive to not only go back to a completed stage to better your score, but to take friends along with you.
Collecting lums also leads to you earning Electoons which you can use to unlock additional levels and playable characters. This is nice because you almost always seem to be unlocking something new. Although the build of the game that I have only includes about 30 stages, the final version of the game will have 60 levels which span across vastly different environments. Most of the stages that I played were jungle or island themed. Rayman and his friends were tasked with swinging from vines and surfing on the waves of fast moving streams of water. It sounds simple because it is, but it is also a ton of fun.
Aside from physical platforming style dangers in the world of Rayman Origins, there are also a number of deadly enemies standing in your way. Perhaps “deadly” is a bit strong but nonetheless there are bad guys and taking care of them will award you with even more lums. You can attach the bad guys by either hitting them or jumping on their head. I say “hitting” because depending on the character that you choose to play as, there method of attack can vary. Rayman packs quite the punch while other characters will kick, shoulder-block, or use magical spells to throw some “force” at the enemy. From what I have experienced, there isn’t a big difference in which character you choose to play as aside from the cosmetic differences. They all appear to “play” the same and are capable of doing the same things. The large cast appears to exist mainly to shake things up a bit rather than having 4 players playing as the exact same character on the screen.
Aside from the different characters, there are also customization options that you can obtain for your characters to give them even more of a unique look. You can end up with multiple skinned Raymans (Raymen?), magicians, or trolls if you happen to want to play as the same character. Again, this is nothing groundbreaking but an element of variety that only goes to strengthen the gameplay experience. The most impressive aspect of the game, without a doubt, is its visuals.
I know that the phrase has been used countless times over the past couple of years but Rayman Origins truly looks like a painting that has come to life. The visuals are bright and colorful and just about every single aspect of the characters and the environment is animated with great detail. As good as the still pictures that you see scattered throughout this article look, you have to see the game in motion to appreciate it. Rayman Origins is downright GORGEOUS. There is detail and character put into even the smallest object in the environment and it all looks alive. This is easily one of the best looking games of 2011, regardless of whether you like the friendly / happy art style or not.
I had a ton of fun with Rayman Origins, especially with the cooperative multiplayer. Even in the scaled down preview version there was a ton to unlock and explore. I keep going back for more and it has become the go-to game to play with my daughter in my house. The final version of the game promises even more stages, more unlockable characters, and plenty of additional customization options. Rayman fans will be very pleased with the new installment in the series and gamers looking for something that they can play with the younger members of their family will have a gem on their hands. This is the sort of game that will make everyone smile; regardless of if you are a diehard or casual gamer, young or old, Rayman Origins is one game that will definitely brighten up your day and deliver you hours of fun. Ubisoft can definitely count me in when the game launches on November 15, 2011.