Stop an army of monsters from fouling up the world.
PC Release: November 15, 2011
By Ian Coppock
Ah, it’s nice to finally return to the fold of everyone’s favorite limbless hero. It’s been a while since a Rayman game was reviewed on this page; Rayman 2: The Great Escape and Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc were both covered in… what, January of 2016? So yeah… it’s been a while. The time is ripe, though, to turn to one of video gaming’s zaniest worlds: a world where the colors are as bright as the prettiest summer days and fun platforming is in abundance. Obviously, we’re talking about Rayman Origins.
The Rayman series has had a strange journey. The franchise debuted in 1995 with a self-titled 2D platformer before swapping over to a 3D action-adventure format in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. After that, the property got lost in the weeds, with Rayman hanging up his platforming chops to go party with a bunch of goggly-eyed bunnies in 2006’s Rayman Raving Rabbids. Rayman went dormant for the next five years (sans the occasional handheld game) before roaring back to life with Rayman Origins in 2011.
As its name implies, Rayman Origins is a reboot that takes the series back to its original side-scrolling roots (though it doesn’t disclose the actual origins of everyone’s favorite limbless hero). The title also marks the return of series creator Michel Ancel, who hadn’t directed a Rayman game since 1999’s Rayman 2: The Great Escape and played only minor (if any) role in the development of subsequent Rayman titles.
Rayman Origins begins with the titular hero soaking up some peace and quiet… until his buddy Globox’s snoring wakes up an army of evil Darktoons. Because snoring is apparently a felony in the underworld, they put Rayman & co. behind bars and start trashing the Glade of Dreams. To make matters worse, they lock up all of the cutesy little Electoons and give one of Rayman’s friends nightmares about becoming a chicken (oh the horror). Once again, it’s up to Rayman to save his friends and the world.
As Rayman, players can save the Glade of Dreams by journeying to each of its eight eye-popping worlds and rescuing the Electoons from the monsters. Electoons can be found in cages hidden throughout each level and are also given out as prizes for scoring enough points. The more Electoons Rayman collects, the more worlds he can unlock. Rayman Origins also features co-op, in which teams of up to four players can seek out Electoons together. Origins‘ gallery of sidekicks includes Rayman’s best friend Globox, a couple of Teensies, and various re-skins of all four heroes.
Rayman Origins‘ gameplay is pure side-scrolling platformer, and damn if it doesn’t run on a hardy diet of running, jumping, and punching. Players can sprint through levels punching foes and discovering secrets, or use Rayman’s trademark helicopter hair to hover to hard-to-reach areas. Rejoice, classic platforming fans; there’s a whole lot of jumping around on floating platforms and kicking the crap out of cartoony foes to be had in Rayman Origins (not to mention lots of hidden treasure).
Origins also benefits from intricate level design. Though each level in Rayman Origins is played from left to right, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t lots of hidden alcoves and alternate paths to find. As Rayman, players can venture into dark caves and through curtains of vegetation in search of more treasure. Indeed, being up for some exploring is a must in Rayman Origins, as the amount of Electoons needed to get to the next area is usually too high for players to obtain by just by speeding through stages. The game’s level design varies from world to world; players can expect to spend one world swinging through trees and the next swimming to the deepest depths.
Rayman Origins‘ apt combination of fluid gameplay and multilayered level design is what gives the game its platforming punch. The fact that it took the platforming world by storm in 2011 is evidence that, while platformers hadn’t necessarily forgotten how to do good platforming, they’d still simplified their level design and removed the intricacy once endemic to the genre. Most Mario games, for example, feature only a single path forward in their levels while Rayman Origins has several.
The other gameplay element that Rayman Origins recaptures from the golden days of platforming is its high difficulty level. Rayman can only take a single blow before it’s back to the beginning of that segment of the level (though he can sustain two hits if he finds an extra heart). Couple Rayman’s fragility with Rayman Origins‘ plethora of enemies and obstacles, and it makes for a challenging game. Its high learning curve won’t suit everyone, but old-school platforming fans looking for a new challenge will absolutely relish this design element.
Before anything else can be said about Rayman Origins, hows about that eye-popping artwork? If Rayman Origins wasn’t celebrated for its fluid gameplay or back-to-basics design philosophy, it won gamers’ hearts with its colorful aesthetic. Comprising hundreds of in-game objects and thousands of shades of color, Rayman Origins‘ take on the Glade of Dreams is one of the most vibrant platforming landscapes of the decade. The game is unafraid to use bright colors in every environment from jungles to giant Mexican kitchens. Rayman Origins also has fun with a wide palette of textures.
Additionally, Rayman Origins features fantastic character animation. Everything from Rayman’s punching to his running is fluidly animated, as are the movements of the worlds’ flora and characters. The only problematic element of Origins‘ character design is how sexualized the Glade of Dreams’ nymphs are. Not only is this an obnoxious design choice on its own, but these busty fairies draw a conspicuous contrast with how cute and innocent the rest of the game looks.
Even though Rayman Origins‘ world is visually and musically complex, the game’s 2.5D setup and visuals means that it has little trouble running on PC. The options menu could stand to be better (as always) but players should have no problem running Rayman Origins on monster rig desktops or little potato laptops. As is common with platformers ported to PC, the game’s keyboard & mouse controls are a little… unrefined; not so much as to make the game unplayable, but just enough to warrant using a gamepad if possible.
If Rayman Origins has a flaw, it’s that Michel Ancel invested much more effort into the game’s art and music than he did the story. Sure, each character has some cutesy dialogue, but the game is much more about completing levels than following along with a narrative. That’s not a bad thing for a game to do if it’s fun enough (and Rayman Origins certainly is) but the property has proven to be an ample storytelling franchise in games past, especially Rayman 2. Players shouldn’t come to Rayman Origins for an involved narrative, but they should stay for how fun and funny the characters are despite the lack of one.
Rayman Origins is a fun game; it’s a challenging title, but it’ll love players that brave depths and heights to find those Electoons. The game is solid evidence that love for old-school platformers is still alive and well today, even though most modern platformers have moved away from difficulty and intricate level design. Rayman Origins espouses both of those things, though, and players who do the same should pick this title up and give those nasty Darktoons a (literal) run for their money.
You can buy Rayman Origins here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.