It’s a shame when good games don’t sell. Upon Rayman Origins’ release late last year on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, our review described it as “an absolute gem,” “a breath of fresh air” and “a very special package”. So, pretty good then.
Then nobody bought it. Shame on you.
What probably happened was that people thought it was like the Rayman games of old, back when they were horrible to play and Ubisoft was far from the powerful publisher it is today. Nothing could be more from the truth. The truth is that the original Rayman games were terrible but sold very well, whereas Rayman Origins is bloody brilliant and sold like crap on a stick.
Well, here’s a second chance to indulge in the magic and take the guy with a dodgy haircut and a complete lack of arms and legs on a charge through one of the best platformers in years.
Immediately, the Vita seems like a great fit for Rayman Origins. More than that, it might even be the perfect fit. The screen on Sony’s new handheld brings to life the vivid colour palettes and diverse visual styles that exist within each of the game’s primary areas. From the shiny blues of ice worlds, to the sandy yellow/greys of the desert and the warming reds of underground caverns, everything looks beautifully enticing and never feels rehashed or rushed.
By concentrating on the art design rather than technical prowess, Rayman’s original creator Michel Ancel has forged a style with Origins that is unique, powerful and will not go out of date quickly. In this time of controller-less motion sensors, 3D TVs and voice commands, it’s nice to enjoy something that’s intriguing because of its style and aesthetic rather than its incorporation of gadgets.
The gameplay is like something of yesterday, more concerned with the perfect jump across a chasm than online functionality or awkwardly bolting on RPG/stat-boosting elements – two things every other game seems to have nowadays. Rayman’s moves are limited to jumping, swimming, swinging from ropes, punching and gliding.
Levels have been designed to test your prowess in all of the above, but it’s done in a way that feels organic and in no way forced. Only once you play through a level for a second or third time will you realise that it is heavily focused on a specific skill. Of course, that can make certain levels more difficult than others – but the uncompromising nature all adds to the charm.
There are some backhanders to modern game design, most obviously in the fact that there is no limited life system. When you die you’ll be transported back to the beginning of the level section you failed, meaning you’re normally back to the location of your destruction within 15 seconds or so.
Some of the best levels are those that break away from normal rules and have you running to stay ahead of the constantly progressing screen, commandeering a giant mosquito or embarking on a race to collect all of a level’s pick-ups. The giant mosquito levels in particular offer a significant change of pace, turning the platformer into a side-scroller shooter with your bug-friend shooting at enemies trying to knock you off. These moments are reserved for the finale of each world and provide a nice distraction before you set off on another bout of running and jumping.
The Vita’s unique input options (touch screen, rear touch pad, gyroscopic motions, cameras) are hardly used at all. When you’re navigating the world screen you can tap locations to have Rayman move to them, pinching the screen while in a level will zoom in and out and tapping on collectables will pick them up. That’s your lot.
I’m inclined to say that Rayman Origins is all the better because of the disregard for the fancier input options – I’ve already said that about Everybody’s Golf and WipEout 2048. However, I hope that this doesn’t become a running theme with the Vita. Yes, I want traditional experiences like Rayman Origins and WipEout 2048, but I also want a developer to show me exactly what the Vita can do when pushed to its limits and using all of its features.
Whatever the case, you can’t really go wrong with Rayman Origins. It’s pretty much the exact same game that has already been released on 360/PS3, but that’s no bad thing. If you’ve already played through the game on one of the home consoles it might still be worth picking up and playing on the go. If you’ve yet to play it, it’s definitely worth it.