Last I remember of Rayman, his series had been taken over by furry critters called Rabbids. However, with the Rabbids successfully spun off into their own series, it's time for Rayman to jump back into the starring role of his own series again. Rayman: Origins returns to his early days for a fun and challenging platforming experience.
The first thing I noticed when starting up Rayman: Origins was its visual style. The story is centered in a world called the Glade of Dreams and this whimsical setting comes alive through gorgeous artwork and animation. The different environments in the game run the normal gamut of field, fire, ice, and water, but rarely have they looked this good. An ice level, for example, features frozen glaciers in the foreground, which allow Rayman to appear behind them with a realistic glassy effect. Other effects like glaciers, sandstorms, silhouettes, shadows, and smoke are accurately represented and gives Rayman: Origins its cartoon-like appeal.
As for the platforming, Rayman: Origins is easy to get into and fun to play through. Players start off with the basics, such as the ability to jump and stomp on enemies. As the game progresses, Rayman recieves new abilities, like the ability to swim and run on walls. The game's overall goal is to free Electoons, the native creatures of the Glade of Dreams. Doing so also unlocks later levels and boss fights. While the action of the various levels offers a decent challenge, finding enough Electoons to reach the end of the game can be a daunting task. Tracking down elusive Electoons started to become tedious over its course.
Rayman: Origins also offers local co-op for up to four players, with one player controlling Rayman and others playing members of his supporting cast. While I had fun with the single-player experience, I got the most enjoyment out of playing this game with a friend. All players are on the screen at the same time and can join forces to take out each level's enemies. Players that die during co-op inflate and must navigate themselves towards living players, who can restore them with a single punch.
As with other games that have employed this mechanic, Rayman: Origins offers endless ways to grief each other. I can't count how many times I was punched off a cliff. At one point, my friend even punched through a breakable block of ice and the giant tuna can above it came down and flattened the both of us. But it's the all-in-good-fun nature of it that makes Rayman: Origins feel like a different game--one in which friends can give each other a hard time and laugh over killing each other.
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Along with the aforementioned hunts for Electoons, there are a couple other annoyances with the game, though. Once in a while, Rayman will be tasked with chasing down a running treasure chest across a level filled with obstacles. In these challenges, if he goes too slowly, he gets left behind and dies. I felt that these specific levels turned the frustration meter up too high, as they often required precision jumping and offered little to no margin for error. This severe sort of test might turn off some of the younger and newer players that Ubisoft hopes to reach. Worse yet, co-op does nothing to enhance these sorts of stages.
Aside from these minor issues, I loved my time with Rayman: Origins. It succeeds as both a platformer and a marvelous work of animation. The levels contain a good amount of variety, even the occasional ones that don't always feel like they work. It's a challenging single-player experience and a blast to play with friends. Given the abundance of violent, mature titles that are hitting the market this holiday season, Rayman: Origins is a great title that will appeal to gamers of all ages and skill levels.
[This Rayman: Origins review is based on a final debug version of the game for the Xbox 360, provided by the publisher.]