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Rayman Origins

Score: 98%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (2D)/ Action


Graphics & Sound:

Rayman Origins was drop dead gorgeous on next-gen consoles, and it's drop dead gorgeous on Vita. You just don't see games that look like this anymore. This is an interactive cartoon in the fullest sense of the term. Rayman's world is positively alive with personality, atmosphere, and color. My God, the colors! They are rich, vibrant, and positively bursting out of every inch of the OLED screen. It's admittedly not the same as playing the game on a high-definition television, but at least the developers give us the option to zoom in and admire the incredible artistry that went into the production of this intoxicatingly beautiful world. Of course, Rayman Origins is more than a pretty face, and you likely won't be able to play the game to the best of your ability while zoomed in. From the limbless wonder himself to the wildly varied (and often demented) friendly and enemy character designs, everything in this world is full of energy and life. Even the currency dances when the situation requires.

Every single part of Rayman Origins contributes to a wonderful sense of identity that is firmly established even before you see the title screen. The sound design is very much a part of that. Musical instruments that range from strumming lutes, vivacious horn sections, jew's harps, and adorable high-pitched singing voices assault your ears with joy at almost every turn, and not much remains the same across the game's several worlds. The voice acting is all gibberish and pig latin; it's hard to hold back a grin when a nymph blesses you with the "ower-pay oo-tay eye-flay!" You really get the sense that Michel Ancel and his team were having the time of their lives making this game, and don't be surprised if the mere act of playing the game fills you with an infectious and childlike exuberance.


Gameplay:

Ubisoft Montpellier has finally let go of those annoying Rabbids and returned to their venerable roots. Rayman Origins is a traditional two-dimensional platformer that places heavy emphasis on momentum and timing. Level design is ingenious and allows Rayman to use all of his abilities in tandem as he earns them. You'll run, jump, swing, glide, swim, and slap your way through worlds that are as diverse as they are distinctly beautiful.

The obvious goal is to get from the beginning of the level to the end, but there's more to it than that. The ultimate goal is to free all the captive Electoons and collect as many Lums as possible. Think of Electoons as Stars from the three-dimensional Mario games and think of Lums as Coins. Each level is marked with a special medallion containing a number of Electoon Challenges. By finding hidden areas, you are given the opportunity to free Electoons by eliminating all the enemies and smashing the cages. Electoons are also earned by reaching certain Lum milestones for each level. By earning enough, you unlock the way forward and open new levels and worlds. Finally, there are Time Trials. If you choose to make an attempt on the required time, you must forego all other objectives and simply try to reach the end of the level in time. These start off difficult and only get rougher as you progress.


Difficulty:

It may not be immediately apparent, but Rayman Origins eventually bares some extremely sharp teeth. This might belong to one of the oldest gaming genres, but in no way is it an easy game. It asks a lot of you, especially towards the end of the game. However, it certainly gives you everything you need to survive the challenges. That being said, it can get frustrating at times. You will die, and often at that. However, if you die, you have nobody to blame but yourself. The nectar of victory is extremely sweet, though -- at least it is until you realize that the next level is even harder.

The Tricky Treasure chases are some of the hardest sequences in Rayman Origins, and by extension, any platforming game. These are levels that take the phrase "trial-and-error" to a whole new level. None of them allow room for any error, and your timing must be perfect if you want to snag the teeth within.


Game Mechanics:

All of the mechanics present in Rayman Origins are consistent and make perfect sense. Take combat, for example. When you land a hit on an enemy (by punching or jumping on it), the enemy will balloon up and start floating away. The initial hit earns you a Lum (or two, depending on if you recently snagged a Lum King), but if you hit it again, you'll earn even more. Of course, you can use ballooned enemies as stepping stones to higher places if you have the proper timing.

As Rayman makes his way through the Glade of Dreams, he earns several amazing powers from his friends the Nymphs. Before the end, you'll be able to glide (by using his hair as a prop), swim, shrink in size, run up concave walls, and much more. And you'd better master all of them by the time you get to the end of the game, or there will be no hope for you.

Between each world is a massive watercooler moment. And by that, I mean a lengthy side-scrolling shooter sequence that has Rayman riding on the back of a giant mosquito. These are generally easier than the platforming sequences, but they're great fun all the same. Each culminates in an engaging boss battle that will test your fingers and (probably) make you laugh at the same time. This manner of world-to-world travel kind of reminds me of Xexyz, one of my all-time favorite NES games.

Most of Rayman Origins has made the transition to Vita remarkably smoothly, but it features one key addition and one key subtraction. The subtraction will be obvious to people who've played the console release: there's no local cooperative play. This was only the slighest of smarts on the console version because the game in general was so good. Here it isn't missed too much. The addition is Relics. As you explore the levels, you might hear a certain noise. When you hear it, tap around the screen and you'll likely uncover a Relic. These unlock artwork and provide extra pull for completionists to return to the game. But really, it's fun enough to the point that it's unnecessary.

Rayman Origins is one of this generation's very best games, and the fact that it has gone portable so successfully is a testament to its greatness. If you own a Vita and haven't played this game yet, you owe it to yourself. If you already own it on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Wii, there probably isn't enough incentive to warrant a second purchase. Still, Rayman Origins is one of the greatest platformers ever made, and having the option to play it on the go is a huge bonus.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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