Rayman Origins is a game that’s been a long time in the making. After porting Rayman 2: The Great Escape to every platform imaginable, Ubisoft and creator Michel Ancel finally decided it was time to get back to the basics and return Rayman to his 2D roots. Origins tells the story of, well, Rayman’s origins and how he came to befriend the oafish Globox. I got to spend some hands-on time with the game and let me tell you, it’s about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in 2D.
The Rayman Origins demo that was on display at E3 featured three levels to choose from – jungle, desert and cave themed stages. The jungle stage was mostly reminiscent of the first Rayman game and featured a diverse set of platforming challenges to overcome, collecting lums, swinging over gaps and slapping little goblins around. The desert themed level mixed things up a bit by filling the level with deadly, light-fearing flies. To keep them away, you need to hit gongs that generate a protective bubble around Rayman. It made for a decent challenge and seemed like a pretty clever gameplay mechanic. The cave level featured a giant, sentient thorn bush chasing you through the tunnels. This was a forced-scroll level, so mistakes made were especially costly. The cave level was definitely the toughest of the three that were on display and took a handful of tries to complete.
Of course, I had only myself to blame for my failures, as the game’s controls are very smooth and responsive. Whether you’re playing as Rayman, Globox, or one of the Teensies, the controls are the same. Each character can hover to slow their descent after jumping, slap attack and use themselves as a platform for other players to reach out of the way objects. Players can drop in and out at any time in for local and online co-op play, making it convenient to bring in a friend or two.
Rayman Origins made one hell of a strong impression thanks to its ridiculously crisp and colorful 2D visuals. They’re so good that I’d pretty much consider Rayman Origins to be the best looking 2D game ever made. The style is humorous, the framerate is smooth and every little detail displays an incredibly high amount of polish. Even if you’re not a sucker for HD sprites the way I am, you will be after a few minutes with Rayman Origins. It’s like you’re playing a Saturday morning cartoon.
Based on my admittedly brief hands-on time with Rayman Origins, I’d say Ubisoft has got something special on their hands here. With amazing visuals, smooth controls and a ton of content promised, any fan of sidescrollers and platformers owes it to themselves to keep an eye on Rayman Origins. Besides, it features a level where you traverse a lava pit using Tetris blocks that are falling from the sky, while the classic Tetris theme song plays in the background. If that doesn’t just charm the pants off of you, nothing will.
Look for Rayman Origins on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii this holiday season.