Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins
Rayman Origins Cover
Platforms PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS
Genre Nintendo-grade platformer
Score 9  Clock score of 9
Buy from Amazon

I never quite bought into the whole Achievements deal this generation. It's nice to have a (rather arbitrary) tally of "gamerness" on record, and I do like to occasionally check my friends' progress. But the achievements themselves tend to make a goal out of lengthy tedium, a checklist asking the player to kill X enemies using Y weapon, in a way that mimics the worst parts of grind-dependent MMOs. It's far from the creative metagame that I'd hoped would evolve through the generation.

As a result, my PSN trophy list accounted for 65 games long but lacked a platinum trophy. I had ambitions to 100% my very first PS3 game, Uncharted 2, until I saw that the majority of the trophies were based on finding "treasures" in the game, essentially an overgrown pixel hunt. I don't regret giving up that chase shortly after it began, and it kind of soured me on trophies in general. Still, there has always been this nagging feeling that, having played so many PS3 games, I should get one platinum trophy before the next generation arrives. Some people aspire to run one marathon in their lives. I figured I should have one pointless digital knickknack.

Now I have one. It's a bit underwhelming, actually. Maybe that's because it only took about fifteen hours of game time to achieve. Or maybe it's because Rayman Origins is fun enough that, even if the game lacked trophies, I would have finished all the requirements anyway.

For a guy controlled by only three buttons (run, jump, attack), Rayman's repertoire is fairly extensive. On top of those basic functions, Rayman and pals will need to wall jump, dive bomb, spin attack, and slow fall in order to traverse the perilous hand-drawn landscapes. And then there are the pointless moves: raise your hand if you ever used Mario's feet-first baseball slide attack in Super Mario 64 (run + crouch + attack). Well, the two of you with outstretched arms will be happy to know that Rayman has a four-punch combo, a leg sweep attack, a fast-fall nosedive, and a belly slide that were never used more than once in my pursuit of platinum. It's better to have some unused functions than to be crippled with insufficient controls, though. And though I occasionally cursed the PS3 controller's deficient D-pad, Rayman Origins' controls are top notch.

Rayman Origins Desert

Responsive controls are a necessity, as the game can get tough. Infinite lives and frequent checkpoints within each stage keep frustration from boiling over, but Rayman Origins requires precision in its normal stages, instant reflexes in its ten optional treasure chase stages, pattern memorization in its boss battles, and all that plus luck and patience in the ridiculous final unlockable challenge. It never feels cheap or unfair, though the view sometimes gets so cluttered or zoomed-out that it's easy to lose Rayman in the colorful chaos. Those moments of visual chaos are a bearable downside of the bold, hand-drawn, high definition style.

As a whole, the new Rayman's most singular asset may be its audiovisual flavor. Too many platformers are content to merely usher the player through worlds with tired themes (grass world, water world, ice world, lava world). While Origins doesn't sidestep these worn paths, it does add enough texture to them that they don't seem so tired. The arid sand stages play out on giant musical instruments as Rayman bounds from snare drums to wood flutes to guitar strings. The fire and magma world is styled after a lively Mexican kitchen, with jumping beans and boiling chili peppers dancing to brassy mariachi music. The game's imaginative, playful aesthetic hearkens back to the nineties, when platformers had to get creative with their looks in order to rise to the top of the bloated genre.

Rayman Origins Swim

The one spot where I wish Ubisoft Montpelier had exhibited more creativity is level design. It doesn't fall short of its peers so much as it merely keeps pace. I don't know exactly how many platformers I've played, but the number's got to be in the triple digits; it's at the point where only the very best games have some surprises in store for me. While the stage layouts in Rayman Origins are varied and soundly constructed, they're also nothing I haven't seen before. Fleeing from swarms of killer fish, floating through decreased gravity, following spotlights of safety...even though every stage of Rayman Origins differs from the one before it, I still had that "going through the motions" feeling that you get when you replay a game that's practically been committed to memory.

Origins also dances perilously close to collectathon territory. The game has two currencies: yellow Lums and pink Electoons. Electoons are primarily earned by completing stages and finding hidden alcoves, and they unlock new stages and playable characters (cosmetic differences aside, all characters are identical). Lums could be compared to Super Mario's coins, only valuable in large numbers and assembled in paths that either lead the player through the most accommodating path or into unnecessary risks. But the only purpose of collecting Lums is to earn Electoons, which unlock new stages and playable characters. Even so, every stage has a challenge that requires the player to collect essentially every Lum possible, some of which are arranged in ways that seem needlessly stifling in such a quick platformer. It's no mortal sin, like the Super Mario Sunshine blue coin hunt, but it occasionally introduces brief speedbumps into an otherwise smoothly paced game.

Rayman Origins Multiplayer

I didn't get a chance to try out the cooperative play (for up to four players), but I've watched it in action and it doesn't seem too different from the solo experience. Players can slap each other around if they so choose, but it's not the inherently chaotic bumper-car clusterfun of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I figure I would have enjoyed Rayman Origins more if I had a partner to help collect Lums and avoid some of the more annoying parts of the trial-and-error boss fights.

In the end, getting the platinum in Rayman Origins didn't quite have that "milestone" feel to it. If platinum trophies existed prior to the PS3 (or on Wii), I would have dozens of them thanks to my penchant for platformers. But that also means I've mastered enough Mario, Sonic, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and Mega Man games to know what makes an excellent 2D run-and-jump. Rayman Origins deserves to be mentioned alongside the classics.

Rayman Origins Concept_0