As a character Rayman is largely dismissed by the mass market. A weird, limbless creation, he has a unique look that may put a number of people off, making them run back to the well-known safeness of a Mario or Sonic. Their loss really, as Rayman Origins is probably the best 2D platformer in the past decade.
Having already experience the colourful joy of Rayman Origins on the Xbox 360, we were wondering what, if anything, would be lost in its transition to the Vita. Sadly, the one big casualty is multiplayer. Playing with friends was a highlight of the console versions, so it’s sad to see it go. But to be honest, finding someone who actually owns a Vita outside of Japan is a challenge in itself, so multiplayer is a feature that probably wouldn’t have got much use anyway. In its place is the new Ghost Mode, here you take your best time on a given level and share it with other people using the Vita’s Near functionality. It definitely lacks the crazy fun of a multiplayer Rayman session, but it’s better than nothing.
What most definitely hasn’t been lost with Raymans arrival on the Vita are the beautifully colourful graphics. Rayman Origins looks excellent in pictures, but seeing it in motion is another thing entirely. Levels are vibrant with a staggering attention to detail and the characters themselves are infused with so much charm and, well, character, that it’s hard not to love each one. There’s a definite madness to the characters when it comes to the animation, and it just feels like this could really have only come out of the mind of a crazy person. From the insane dancing with each completed level to the infrequent but amusing cut scenes. All this graphical fidelity aided by the catchy soundtrack and voices of the assortment of characters. The characters don’t exactly speak words, but then they don’t have to, there movements do enough to purvey what little story there is in the game. A lot of love has gone into the game and it shows.
The structure of the game is the same as any other 2D platformer, go through each world containing a number of levels, till you reach the end. What definitely sets Rayman Origins apart is the, at times, fiendish level design. At the start you’re eased into the game, getting used to all the moves at your disposal and unlocking new ones as you progress. But it’s not long before you’re thanking the designers for giving the player unlimited continues and well-paced checkpoints. It gets tough, really tough. None more so than with the brilliant treasure chest levels. Here you’re tasked with chasing a running treasure chest across the level while the level itself scrolls from left to right, or sometimes bottom to top. It requires pinpoint platforming precision and are some of the best designed 2D levels we’ve played in years.
The more standard levels are not just about reaching the end, but collecting the mass of Lums that inhabit them. Lums in turn are used at the end of the stage to free Electoons. Electoons can also be found trapped in cages usually hidden in hard to reach spots that, like most things in this game, require platforming grace, or in some cases, extraordinary leaps of faith. The collecting of these Lums and Electoons adding a huge amount of longevity to the game, going back to old levels in order to find that last Electoon cage, which in turn unlocks the treasure chest levels. There’s a lot of replay value here after completion.
It’s clear Rayman Origins is a labour of love for all involved. A simply beautiful game that loses nothing (well, aside from multiplayer) in its transition to the handheld Vita. Our expectations for all future Rayman games have now never been higher.