Rayman is a character that I and I’m sure others have missed greatly. I loved numbers 2 and 3 and found his near disappearance a disappointment, especially in the face of the raving rabbids, good but overused characters. Rayman Origins is a huge return to form, a loveable ode to the supposedly dead 2-d platformer and could happily walk hand in hand with super meat boy to prove that there’s life in this old genre yet. Rayman Origins is so stereotypical in its themes and locations that recommending it almost seems wrong. Water world? Ice world? Both feature heavily as do colourful, cheery characters and a jolly world of lovable, creatures grinning inanely, as cheerful music plays in the background. Along with as relatively cutesy, near non-existent plot that is barely there, it should make me want roll my eyes, so clichéd and boring that it shouldn’t work but by god it does. A combination of stunning visuals and excellent gameplay making clichéd worlds fresh and original again.
For the 3ds the visuals are achingly beautiful, a living cartoon world that feels lived in and personable. Calling on old French cartoons it makes the dull 3ds come to life, inviting you to sit there and stare at the beautiful backgrounds. The 3d effect helps here, with the added depth making the landscapes easier to appreciate. Does it really add anything? No, it is a bog standard, facile addition that isn’t really necessary and doesn’t make the 3ds version worthwhile but it is nice.
The level design is superb, making the old clichés dance and work with addictive level design and a perfectly worked challenge level that requires concentration but does not punish too much. Dying sends you back a small way, the beginning of a little checkpoint, no lives system you simply go back a small way. It encourages ambitious play and makes the feeling of dying annoying but in a moreish way, a feeling that you won’t let the game beat you. In short it is a near perfect system that kept me playing with a learning curve that introduced new elements gently and subtly, upping the difficulty in line with my general standard of play. A huge part of this has to be down to the control which is effortless; with Rayman walking, running, jumping, hovering and swimming in a natural way that makes manoeuvring him through the various levels a joy. Smooth animation combined with responsiveness is exactly what a good platformer needs and Rayman delivers both in style.
The games length is perhaps the largest criticism. It is not all that long and can be completed in a few hours, particularly if you do not go out of your way to collect everything. However you are really denying yourself a large part of the experience doing this and the joy of completing each level 100% is similar to the Lego games, a time sink that feels you with joy and increases the challenge immensely. This is compounded further with the levels that see you chasing down a treasure chest that runs away from Rayman in fear, catching which unlocks a variety of characters and extras that help get you closer to that magic 100% mark. These levels are some of the most difficult and frustrating, but keep you playing the game, desperate to see what’s in the chest when you finally master the level and break the chest open. One reason to criticise the game is its multiplayer component, a key part of the game on home consoles it is absent here, something which might be a problem but didn’t bother me. As someone who only really enjoys multiplayer in person the lack of this was no problem.
Rayman Origins is a game that oozes love and quality on all platforms, it is one suited to the handheld and will brighten anyone’s day. It can be picked up relatively cheaply already and is an ideal way of spending a few bus rides or evenings for everyone. Everything that makes platformers playable is packed into this small but perfectly formed game that reminded me why I used to enjoy them. Whether the recently announced Rayman: Legends can live up to its big brothers achievements remains to be seen.