Review: Rayman Origins (PSV)

Title: Rayman Origins
Format: PlayStation Network Download (932 MB) / Game Card
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Price: $35.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Rayman Origins is also available on Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation Vita, PC and Nintendo 3DS.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.

The platforming genre represents gaming in its purest form.  Controlling a fun character in a zany world while maneuvering through creative obstacles is how many players began their gaming lives.  Some of us lost faith in the genre when the 3D craze hit the PlayStation as very few development houses were able to pull off 3D platforming in an attractive way.  In recent years, platforming games have retrospectively returned to their 2D roots, proving that side-scrolling is alive and well, and that games do not always benefit from added axes.  The aptly titled Rayman Origins is one such game.  Released around holiday 2011 for just about every console you can think of, it was only right to bring such a beautiful platformer to the most powerful handheld ever created in the Vita.  This game definitively finds its rightful place as a visually stunning, portable masterpiece.

Gameplay:
Rayman Origins has the uncanny ability to make a player an addict within the first few minutes of booting it up.  Right from the beginning, the controls are intuitive, the level design is fun, and the worlds are creative.  I have had only brief experiences with Rayman titles on earlier consoles, yet I was able to pick it up and play like a pro.  There is very little in the way of tutorial segments, and they are spread evenly throughout the game with a short level during which you are expected to perfect your newest power.  You can do little more than jump and punch when you start the game but as you progress, you will be changing size to fit in tiny places, learning to swim so that you can enter water levels, and running up walls to perform amazing acrobatic feats.

There are upwards of 60 levels available in this game if you decide to take the time to painstakingly find all the collectibles.  Exclusive to the Vita is the addition of relics which are very well hidden and camouflaged artifacts that have to be touched for collection.  The average level in Rayman Origins has a total of 5 unlockable Electoons.  Typically, 3 of them are obtained by finding hidden areas and the other 2 are gained through meeting Lum quotas.  Lums are small, bright yellow characters that Rayman can collect.  They are much like Sonic’s rings or Crash Bandicoot’s apples except for the fact that they do not provide 1ups.  In certain levels, especially the ones that involve riding a mosquito, meeting the Lum quota can be very frustrating.  There are no lives in Rayman Origins but do not let this fact misguide you into thinking that the game is easy.  The unlockable levels especially can demand so much skill that only a perfect playthrough is sufficient enough to beat them.  Meticulously timed jumps and unforgiving walk or run decisions are enough to make a player quit.

An element that every great platformer needs is a creative and over the top boss fight system.  Rayman Origins delivers just that.  Players will find themselves using their new powers to run on ceilings while evading an octopus or glide over gusts of wind while fighting birds.  Its as though all of the essentials from platformers of the past have made their way into this game under the supervision of great development.

The story is about as deep as a cartoony platformer’s story can be.  It is very forgettable and not really a focus in the game.  This is part of the reason why it is perfect in the portable form, as it provides the light gaming necessary for a 10-minute session while staying true to difficulty standards for those who want to hunker down and get through it.  The overall feel of the game offers silly fun in a way that everyone can enjoy.  The humor takes after the genius of a Disney-Pixar film as kids and adults alike can appreciate the jokes.

Visuals:
If the extremely refreshing gameplay wasn’t enough to convince you to give Rayman Origins a try, the breathtaking visuals are another selling point.  This game looks unbelievable on both console and PC, but the OLED screen of the Vita really adds an organic element to the jaw dropping characters and environments.  The luscious backgrounds come to life in your hands and the pinch-and-zoom feature exclusive to the Vita version allows you take in depth looks at the beautifully crafted details throughout the game.  There are more than 15 playable characters to choose from that offer nothing more than a new visual representation of your avatar, but each one consists of such vivid color and fresh animation.  I was surprised every time I turned on my Vita as I would forget how great the game looked and immediately be drawn in all over again by the flawless visuals.

This screenshot depicts the beautiful lighting, hand drawn foliage, and attention to detail that came together to produce some of the most top-notch graphics you will find on the Vita.

Audio:
The audio in this game serves to enhance the cartoony feel as some gibberish language is spoken fluently by all of the characters.  Listening to that audio while reading the hilarious innuendos in the short cut scenes is a great break from the gameplay.  Many aspects of the game follow a bubble theme with enemies becoming ‘bubblized’ instead of killed and Rayman ‘bubblizing’ instead of dying.  This creates many opportunities for inflation and popping sound effects that are sharp, timed perfectly, and a great fit for the overall atmosphere of the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
Perhaps the only factor that might cause someone to grab this game on a console is the Vita version’s exclusion of online co-op.  The PS3 version of Rayman Origins features a really fun drop in/out co-op mode that, for some reason, just isn’t in the Vita title either online or local.  The extent of online play for Rayman Origins on the Vita is reached with a relic trade system and a ghost mode during which you can race your friends’ time.

Conclusion:
Although it is a remake, Rayman Origins has not only been rightfully considered one of the best Vita launch titles, but also one of the best Vita games to date.  It is hard to find a flaw in this game, and the most that can be said in terms of negativity is that the advanced levels can be frustrating and the collectibles can be time consuming.  I feel that both of these features are awesome additions that add longevity.  If you’re one of those people that are looking for something to play on your Vita and you don’t already have this title, shame on you.  It is a wonderful addition to any library and it does justice to the coveted, 2D platforming genre.

Score:
9.5

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