Rayman Origins (360 & Vita)

Grab the things, grab all the things.

The first game I remember really getting into and understanding what I was doing (sorry, Elite) was Super Mario World. I loved the world that felt coherent, the crazy inhabitants, the colours, and the gameplay that rewarded a number of different skill. No game had replicated that kind of feeling, until now.

I bought Rayman Origins on the 360 originally, it was surprisingly cheap and I have a soft spot for interesting art styles and any games that let you play multiplayer on a single screen. When I got it home, me and Kimkylet loaded up the multiplayer (as simple as pressing start on a second controller at any point in the game) and set off to complete the game.

The graphics are incredible. I would say they are easily up there with Uncharted, Mass Effect 3, and Battlefield 3 in terms of the most impressive graphics this generation. I’ve had a problem with games developers for a long while and the way they insist on creating graphics engines that don’t run well. Because they are always pushing the boundaries, they’re always failing in some respect. Mass Effect 3 has incredible vistas but boring repeated textures, Battlefield 3 has weird clipping issues and things don’t look right as they explode, and Uncharted has some ugly textures hidden away when you least expect them. True Rayman may not be as technically accomplished as these games, but it’s not trying to do something it couldn’t succeed in. Instead they have attempted to perfect a graphics style from the 90s, now having access to technology that can do it justice. It really works.

The world is vibrant with little details spread about, variety in between levels, even clever lighting affects altering the way everything looks. Things move smoothly, no matter what is going on, and every new world provides gasps of wonder because as gamers we are just not used to seeing graphics this ‘complete’.

Kimkylet and me ploughed through the starting worlds. You can’t run into each other, which avoids the murderous frustrations caused by New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and really there’s no way to help each other in any meaningful way. You just play at the same time, which makes the whole experience much calmer, if not a little less interesting. Each level last around 2-3 minutes if you are rushing through, and at the end you get pink token like creatures for finding secrets, beating a time, or collecting lots of ‘lums’ (more on these later). Once you have enough of these tokens you unlocked new characters to play (aesthetic differences only) and new bonus levels.

Due to a bizarrely good offer that I still think may have been a mistake I ended up getting a copy for the Vita when it launched. Impressively for the system, the Vita version looks a plays identically to the Xbox. There is no multiplayer (you can download other peoples’ ghosts to race them through lessons) and there’s some new hidden items, but other than that it’s the same.

The game isn’t really challenging, so it’s easy to play a few levels and then quit. It also last for a long while, if you wanted to find everything yourself I can see the game easily eating up 20-30 hours. Long stretches of play are not really an option. Although new mechanics are regularly introduced they tend to not change the gameplay drastically, and each level becomes similar once the novelty of the art style wears off. I enjoyed playing half an hour chunks, alone or with friends, but then grew bored and would switch if off, often not returning to it for days.

When I did play, I found the main draw was often the ‘lums’. These are little light creatures that are spread around the levels. There’s some interesting mechanics surrounding how to get the best possible score out of them. Sometimes you can make them worth more for a limited time, and when to trigger things is quite tricky to work out. Collecting mostly meaningless shiny things seems to be a primal part of gamers’ brains. We collected pills and fruit in Pac-Man, coins in Mario, rings in Sonic, and orbs in God of War. It’s a testament to our willpower as our that we’re not all behaviourally conditioned kleptomaniacs. They’re addictive to collect and encourage you to explore the levels. I wish things like this were included in MMOs to force you to explore and approach things in different ways. I kept sitting down to try and progress through the game, but ended up being obsessed with finding the tiny creatures in every nook and cranny.

But still it took me a long while to progress, and I regularly stopped for days on end; I really enjoyed this game, so why didn’t I want to play it? I think the answer is simply that it’s not very interesting. While it’s a fantastic bit of nostalgia to blast through simple 2D levels again, I’ve been spoilt by complex 3d gaming and all of the intricacies that it entails. Rayman is painfully simple, and it could be amazing for children;for an adult it fails to hold your attention. I see it now as more of a masterpiece in art design, with some fun platforming. As a game, it’s not exceptional, it’s just exceptionally competent.

Verdict: 7/10

+Incredible Art style, worth playing for this alone
+Responsive controls, fun platforming
+Vita version showcases how powerful that little system is
-Lacks long-term appeal
-Gets boring surprisingly quickly
-The songs will be stuck in your head forever
-Little purpose to the co-op mode


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