I like a lot of different games for a lot of different reasons. Some games are a joy to play. Some games use fantastic characters to tell a compelling story. Some games look and sound beautiful. Whatever the reason, the games I enjoy the most are those that provide a great overall experience. Those games whose parts come together and just fit, like a disappearing row of Tetris blocks. Which is why when I play a game like New Super Mario Bros. 2, a title that plays like a dream but everything else is so bland and non-defiant, I lose interest quick. Even if I end up completing the game and enjoying it, it doesnít stick with me for long. I donít have a grin on my face when I watch the closing credits, in fact I will probably skip them.
Iím not saying NSMB 2 is a bad game, nor am I setting any sort of gaming rules that I think should be followed by everyone. I just want you to know what I personally find appealing in video games so you can better understand the write-up youíre reading. I know for a fact many people differ, but to me games are not all about the gameplay. Perfect controls and design donít necessarily have to be there for me to love a game. What I look for in games is a creation that has heart, a message, if you will, sent by a smart developer, who aside from knowing how to design games, knows how to come up with well-crafted and fun experiences, whatever those may be. Sometimes gameplay is not the only way to get there.
Rayman Origins, much like Beyond Good and Evil before it (play that game!), reminds me why I love video games. Itís a game thatís infinitely better than the sum of its parts. Not only can you tell, you can feel that the developers truly wanted to make this game and had a lot of fun developing it. Itís a title that doesnít have the best controls or level design of its genre, not even close, but itís so imaginative and original (pun intended) that you cannot help but enjoy it. Of course, even if Origins doesnít have the best gameplay, what it does have is very good. Itís not a case of style over substance, I would say itís a case of pretty damn good substance achieving excellence by the style itís wrapped up in.
You all know Rayman Origins is a platformer with gorgeous, original, wacky, off-the-wall hand-drawn visuals and quirky and catchy music, which consists of traversing lush side-scrolling landscapes and rescuing Lums and Electoons. But what you might not know is that every single aspect of this game oozes personality; every enemy, every animation, every loading screen. Rayman is a joy to watch. If you hold down the run button but donít move the control stick, you can see him running in place full of excitement. You can jump, and tilt the control stick down in the air to make Rayman nose dive into the floor before landing with a fluent roll and sliding down the ground. Oh, and next time you play, crouch, and then turn left or right while crouching. Ingenious! You can also hear him being super happy as he platforms, just like Mario is (wahoo!). The Lums dance and sing when the Lum King wakes them up. Corn seeds jump into lava and turn into delicious puffy popcorn that can be used as platforms. The cyclops Skull Teeth Chests have a frightened look on their face when they see Rayman and anticipate him beating the shit out of them. You can tell how much force the mosquito is employing into his inhaling ability by looking at his eyes. Lively hazards follow Rayman with their line of vision, much like the ladies in World of Goo follow your pointer. Harmless fish accompany Rayman as he joyfully swims through the open seas. The list stretches on and on, trust me. I could write 10 pages about this stuff.
Like I mentioned before, neither the controls nor the level design are perfect. Your character is a bit floaty, and while it may seem like you can control the height of his jump by holding down the button like you can with Mario, in reality Rayman only has two pre-set heights. Tap the button height, and hold the button down height. The level designs are pretty simplistic overall, and those that involve chasing down or escaping from someone at top-speed, while challenging, can easily be beaten with trial and error and muscle memorization. The simplicity of the design is not what you should be focusing on, though. While in some platformers doing the ďextraĒ stuff (in this case rescuing Electoons) is optional, in Rayman Origins itís mandatory to truly enjoy the game. The levels expect you to try to collect every Lum your first time through, and that is where the gameplay reaches its peak. It still doesnít reach the likes of the platforming kings, but the game becomes much more challenging and ingenious when youíre trying to achieve that perfect run. Even then, though, you can tell the game is not about perfect gameplay and it knows this (again, just like Beyond Good and Evil). Itís about charming you, itís about making you smile. Itís about lending you an enjoyable experience in an interactive medium.
If thereís one word to describe Rayman Origins objectively, itís quirky. Itís a damn quirky game. However I would also describe it as joyful, lively, daring. You can tell by playing that Ubisoft wanted to make this game; not to make money, or to capitalize on a sequel, or to please fans, but because they wanted to make this game. And that is something I truly appreciate, especially when itís a smart and talented developer that has this desire.
(note: the version I played is on the PS3, however aside from resolution the games are identical. I suggest you play this game in HD, but if you only have a Wii, don't hesitate to pick it up regardless)
Rayman Origins is pretty good, and Shirley enjoys it too so we played through a decent amount of it together. And then she left for Canada / Switzerland and I haven't touched the game since. I may go back and finish it on my own eventually.
One thing I will say, which you comment on, is that the Wii version is very fuzzy. I don't regret getting it, but I think people with a PS3 / 360 would be better off with that version, all other things equal.
@chrisbg99 They're not sloppy. They're just not perfect... not once did they hinder my play. The learning curve is maybe a bit steep, but once you understand a few key factors they become very responsive.
Besides, to me the bigger travesty is that people will not enjoy a beautiful game like this just because the controls are not 100% there.
The fact that people can basically forgive the game for its sloppy controls is a travesty.
I wouldn't say they're sloppy either. They're about 90% as good as Mario's (geez, I sound like Fi), and far better than most platformers out there. The important thing is that Rayman and crew are a lot of fun to control, and you won't be fighting the controls either (they're just a touch on the slippery side).
@TriforceBun Really? I thought it was just as good as the rest of the story, which isn't that great of course. The fact that they instantly go back to what they were doing in the opening had me laughing. And it makes sense because that's why they went off on the adventure to begin with, because they were interrupted.
On the controls front, one of the very first levels is called "Go With the Flow". That's an indicator of how you should be playing the game for the most part.
I did not think the controls sloppy at all, not sure where this is coming from. The game is one of my all-time favorites, a fantastic romp through a gorgeously illustrated and animated world. Even better with friends, it's goofy and crazy and lovely. Nice review!
I also don't think the controls are sloppy... if it wasn't for the shoot-em-up stages I'd put Rayman on par with NSMBW and DKCR.
Rayman floats and slides, but the level designs let you use that to your advantage. I'd liken Rayman to playing Mario 2 with Luigi; NSMBW is like playing Mario 2 with Mario and DKCR is like playing Mario 2 with Toad.