It was in 1995 when Rayman was first introduced to the gaming world via the PlayStation and he quickly became a household name. Following Hoodlum Havoc, the third game in the series released in 2003, Ubisoft focused on spin-offs and the Raving Rabbids series. Eight years on and Rayman has gone back to its origins, in the appropriately titled Rayman Origins.
In the latest instalment, Rayman and friends are sleeping at the Snoring Tree (a resting ground in the Glade of Dreams) when their snoring disturbs an old granny from the Land of the Livid Dead. In retaliation, the granny sends an evil army of creatures across the world, capturing Electoons and imprisoning Betilla the Nymph and her sisters. It’s Rayman’s task to free the sisters, as well as to gather enough Electoons to restore the Glade of Dreams.
Having had a number of 3D outings, Rayman returns to the 2D side-scrolling platformer we all came to know and love. The levels in Rayman Origins are quite varied. There’s the standard format where players overcome obstacles and fight off enemies until they reach the level’s end. These often require a bit of thought, as well as skill and persistence, something that works to the game’s benefit.
Another level format sees the return of Rayman riding a mosquito from which players can shoot enemies and objects, as well as suck them up and fire them. Whereas these levels get repetitive quickly, they’re frequent enough not to get too tedious.
As with most platformers, Rayman: Origins features boss fights. Each of the boss fights follows the same pattern of avoiding the enemy’s attack then punching the weak spot while it’s down. They’re arguably not particularly relevant to the story and they’re also the weakest level type.
The final level type sees players chasing after a treasure chest, containing a ruby tooth (in a Sonic-esque format) with collapsing environments, forcing players to complete it at pace. There are ten ruby teeth all-in-all, which are part of a subplot involving the toothless guardian of the Dead Door. An in-game reward is unlocked once players collect all ten ruby teeth.
The learning curve in Rayman: Origins is very consistent. As players progress, they unlock new skills and abilities for Rayman to use. These include sprinting, gliding in the air, shrinking in size to reach new areas, running up walls and swimming. It’s only in the later levels where players may struggle but, all-in-all, it’s pretty easy going.
Collectibles is quite an extensive part of Rayman: Origins. Lums (the equivalent to coins) are scattered throughout the game and are totalled up at the end of each level to gain Electoons – the game’s main form of progression. Electoons can also be found at the end of each level, in hidden challenge rooms and unlock additional costumes. Additionally, there are also Skull Coins placed in hard to get to areas. These are worth 25 Lums each.
Another way of gaining Electoons is by completing speed runs, in which players attempt to complete the level at pace and as quickly as possible. Regrettably, this is arguably the game’s biggest problem. While this extends the game’s lifespan, it simply feels as though you’re playing the level again and there’s no real enjoyment to be taken from it.
Rayman Origins doesn’t contain any Xbox Live support, though there is local multiplayer for up to four players. The ‘drop-in drop-out’ system works brilliantly as players go through the single player levels as either Rayman, his best friend – Globox or two Teensies. There are also additional costumes unlockable through collecting Electoons.
Graphically, Rayman Origins has managed to recapture the cartoon environments and colours that the original games contained though have been enhanced to support high definition and the animations are truly fantastic. This is one of the best looking Xbox 360 titles to date, certainly the best in 2D.
Similarly, the game’s audio and the soundtrack are comparable to those of the original titles and match the presentation of the game brilliantly. Ubisoft have done an amazing job on the development front.
Overall, Rayman Origins goes where very few games have been able to go before and has shown that it is possible to revive a classic and to make it even better. It’s excellently developed and is great fun to play from start to finish. Minus a few little problems, Rayman Origins is one of the most underrated games of 2011, which is certainly worth playing through.
David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.