It is a sad day when supporting characters get more exposure than the leading role. That seems to be what happened with Rayman, Ubisoft’s platforming hero. One minute he was happily saving his friends in one game after another, the next he was seemingly dropped for a bunch of crazy white rabbits that began their existence as his enemies. Whereas the Rabbids got new game after new game, poor old Rayman was sent into retirement.
But now, with quality platforming appearing to be making a come back, Ubisoft have dusted off Rayman and brought him out of retirement for a game that oozes quality and is truly worthy of bearing his name. And there isn’t a pesky Rabbid in sight…
Beginning with Rayman and his buddies catching some “z’s” in the forest, it is difficult to escape the fact that this game looks cheerful. Overwhelmingly cheerful in fact. The colours are bright, a perfect antidote to the miserable weather, and everything is bathed in a feeling of security, enough to convince even the most sceptical player that this is a game that will be enjoyed.
Even when the game reveals its story, things don’t really get any more threatening. It seems that the sleep induced noises created by Rayman and his friends, a harmonic little tune, have annoyed the Livid Dead who live underground beneath Rayman’s chosen sleeping spot. So far as bad guys go, even the Livid Dead are pretty cute and cheery.
But as cute and cheery as they are, they have still managed to make our hero’s life that bit more difficult by forcing him to work his way through one brilliantly designed level after another. The levels are short enough to be enjoyed in quick bursts, whilst long enough to offer a challenge to most players, especially with the variety of different traps and enemies that Rayman has to overcome. What the game does really well is keep frustration levels to a minimum, ensuring that when the player makes a mistake, it is easy to see why that mistake has been made and how to resolve it. It also does a great job of combining slow and thoughtful levels with the more frantic speed levels, keeping everything fresh.
Also keeping things fresh are the variety of different mechanics that the player will encounter. The standard platforming moves of running and jumping play a large role, of course. But there are also areas that will require swimming, sliding and even flying that the player will have to master.
Then there are the collectibles, which are more important to progression than would at first seem. It wouldn’t be a Rayman game without Lums to collect, but there are also coins and Electoons to gather this time around. Gamers who pride themselves on finding every hidden object in a game will be sorely tested in Rayman Origins, with tons to collect and much of it very well hidden.
However, it is the way the game looks and feels that will have the most impact on the player. The majority of the mechanics are standard fare for a platforming game, but the fact that they are all wrapped in such cheeriness makes the game a joy to play. Even with the co-op multiplayer, where players can wreak absolute chaos upon their friends if they wish, it is difficult not to come away feeling happy. It may not be groundbreaking stuff, but it is so well polished and so happiness-inducing that Rayman Origins can compete quite happily with the few other big-name platformers from this season.
At this time of the year, emphasis always falls to “family gaming”, games which can be enjoyed by all members of the family during the holiday season. Rayman Origins may not be a party game, or a compilation of mini-games, and it may not have fancy motion controls. But what it does have is family appeal, and it has this in bucket-loads. It is the sort of game that is enjoyable to watch someone else play, perhaps stepping in to try out a difficult level and such. And the co-op supports four players, ensuring that more people can get in on the action if they wish. Rayman Origins is an ideal holiday title.
Rayman Origins looks gorgeous and plays really well, making it an easily recommended platforming title for gamers who are looking for fun, no matter what their age. The absence of those damned Rabbids is just the icing on the cake.