Rayman Origins (XBOX 360)
Rayman Origins from UBISOFT sees us catapulted into the Rayman universe once again in a whimsical 2D side-scrolling platform; the latest in a unique series of games that started with the release of Rayman in 1995.
This game is a prequel to the earlier Rayman titles, set in the Glade of Dreams where Rayman and his friends, Globox, Bubble Dreamer and the Teensies accidentally start a war with their neighbours from the Land of the Livid Dead by snoring too loudly.
When the Glade of Dreams is overrun by Darktoons, the Fairy Council tasks Rayman to fend off the foes. Having escaped capture, Rayman and friends must work their way through a series of themed stages, as they fight Darktoons and other evil creatures that have infected the Glade of Dreams. Along the way we discover the roots of Rayman by collecting pieces of the Glade's history and assemble them to reveal the truth behind Rayman's origins.
Rayman Origins is simultaneously playable by up to 4-Players who Jump-In or Jump-Out any time without affecting the others' progression. We can choose to control Rayman, Globox or two Teensies, with additional costumes available as the game progresses and the game takes place through 12 unique environments with over 60 levels. As well as the standard platform levels, we are also treated to scrolling shoot-'em-up challenges, end-of-level bosses and underwater exploration.
Looking a little deeper into the gameplay we spend our time collecting floating objects called Lums. Collecting the King Lum doubles the value of other nearby Lums and once we have reached a certain amount of Lum targets we earn extra Electoons and in order to progress through certain parts of the story we need to free toons. Then as the game progresses we gain new abilities that stay with us for the rest of the game allowing us plenty of opportunity to go back and replay previous levels in a different way.
Each level has hidden areas where we have to solve a puzzle in order to free the caged Electoons and after certain levels are completed we are able to access a time trial mode in which we must race through the level as quickly as possible to earn more rewards. We can also unlock special treasure chest levels, in which players must chase a runaway treasure chest across various hazards.
The environments are fairly typical in nature, for example we play through desert, jungle, ice, underwater, and even underground. However, every environment is crammed full of graphic whimsy, every scene is a visual feast of idiosyncratic silliness. Additionally the levels are compact and challenging demanding split second timing and dexterity which offers a decent challenge.
Graphics and Audio
This is without a doubt one of the best looking games we have ever seen, it is a cohesive work of art. Origins always made us smile and this is due mainly to the graphics, the eccentric environments and characters that are goofy but drawn fantastically, the animation is without lag or judder as we move through the world and new visual delights unfold smoothly in front of us. Each area is rich in colour and depth and the landscapes have a huge amount of detail which delicately fades into the background.
And the visual equivalent of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory is accompanied by an equally bizarre but well-crafted soundtrack. We are slightly taken aback to admit that a soundtrack which uses such a wide range of unusual instruments from mouth harp to banjo, bongos, chimes and everything in between, actually works very well.
Rayman Origins is a game that made us laugh out loud with joy. It is beautifully and amusingly rendered, in an industry that is focused on the ultra-realistic war and various types of dystopia, this games offers a breath of fresh air giving us only whimsical fun.
That said it does have a couple of minor issues... it can be a little too challenging for novice gamers in places but with a little help they will soon be on their way again. The spectacular graphics can also be misleading as at times we were uncertain as to what was bizarre scenery and what was malicious foe. Other than these very minor points though the game plays exceptionally well.
With a huge number of levels, shoot-'em-up challenges, epic boss fights, unlockable skins, moves, and a plethora of hidden treats, this games offer hours of good clean fun. Couple that with Jump-In or Jump-Out co-op play and imaginative visuals and Rayman Origins turns out to be a game that we just keep playing.
Rayman Origins is a work of genius, platform gaming at its best. 95%