A 2D slice of colourful happiness.
Around the office we like to play a little game called, ‘Predict how Ubisoft are going to annoy PC owners next’. Granted it isn’t the catchiest title in the world, but the French publisher has been keen to make an enemy of our merry clan as of late, with massive multi-format releases getting delayed on our platform but no others, and the ever-controversial use of limited installations and restrictive DRM. Yet for all Ubisoft’s mistakes over the past 12 months we can say without any doubt that no other publisher would have funded a game like Rayman Origins, let alone bring it to PC, but we’re immensely glad that they have as Michel Ancel’s platformer is nothing less than extraordinary.
We’ve never really been massive fans of the Rayman series, especially the 3D ones, and wisely the latest game is a gorgeous callback to yesteryear, with the floating-limbed protagonist forced to navigate several bizarre yet delightfully themed zones in order to put the recently awakened forces of the undead (and others) back in their place by freeing lots of captured golden midgies (Lums) and pink balls (Electoons) spread throughout levels.
To be frank, Rayman Origins is absolutely nuts, with drink-themed levels, flying instrument snakes and foes which instantaneously inflate before they explode. Yet wrapped around this inventive craziness is some consistently incredible art design which allows the traditional left to right level progression to never dull – even after playing for hours on end. You regularly seeing something new and earn new abilities such as shrinking and gliding, but the key aspect is checkpointing. You see, every level has several autosave points, so when you gauge a jump incorrectly or get taken out by imaginative enemies, you’ll only lose a minute of progress.
Like platformers of old, you can just rush from one side of the level to the other, but to unlock more levels and goodies you’ll need to carry out additional goals such as collecting as many Lums as possible to fill a meter at the end of the level, search out hidden areas etc. So replaying old levels is a must for unlocking new characters and special levels, but doing so never feels like a chore because the atmosphere is so bright and breezy thanks to a great soundtrack, and each of the areas also feel wonderfully unique.
Obviously all this polish would be for naught if the platforming wasn’t up to scratch, and thankfully that isn’t the case. The animations are smooth, and levels are intelligently thought out so you’re never in any doubt of where to go. Jumps never feel too challenging and the enemy count is usually manageable – at least early on. Keyboard controls are functional, but we’d recommend playing Origins with a gamepad, just because you get a much better sense of inertia.
To top it all off there’s also support for offline four-player drop-in/drop-out co-op and that irksome DRM we referred to earlier isn’t present at all.
Ubisoft may have burnt some bridges recently, but the appearance of Rayman Origins on our oft-marginalised platform redeems them. The only blight is the lack of online co-op but this is still the best platformer released in years.
Tags: Rayman Origins
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