Rayman Origins Vita review: A neglected classic finds its home
21st Feb 2012 | 10:11
Without Rayman, it would be no exaggeration to assert that we wouldn't have Assassin's Creed, Splinter Cell, Ghost recon or Rainbow Six: Michel Ancel's odd-looking character with the disconnected limbs bankrolled Ubisoft in its early days.
Which is some achievement, given that the early Rayman games weren't very good. Somehow, though, they sold phenomenally, and Ubisoft built itself up cannily on the back of that. Then, late last year, Ancel re-emerged from apparent hibernation with
Low on tech, high on slapstick
Whereas some of the original Rayman games got hung up on technological innovation - such as attempting to do 3D on the SNES - Rayman origins appeared wilfully low-tech: it's hand-drawn and animated, and is essentially, at least in appearance and feel, a 2D side-scrolling platform game. Which sounds hopelessly unpromising in this day and age of stereoscopic 3D and motion-sensing but, counter-intuitively, proves thoroughly compelling.
That's mainly because
The levels are all endowed with hilarious, and generally very weird, themes. They might, for example, alternate between sliding around on ice, bashing ice-cubes and nailing huge, low-friction-enhanced jumps and a sort of hell's kitchen, with fire-breathing mini-dragon chefs, who stand on tubes of hot chilli-paste in order to boil pots of water ( in whose steam Rayman can float to reach higher areas). It's laugh-out-loud funny, very frequently.
At first, Rayman Origins' gameplay feels like something, well, from the 16-bit days - you have to nail those jumps, swing on anything you can find (such as blue blobs that extend helping arms as you approach) and jump on the heads of enemies, which then turn into bubbles that can be popped if you jump on them again.
But you soon acquire new abilities for Rayman, most notably his classic punch (with a press-and-hold power-boost) and a kick (which are on the same context-sensitive button). Crucially, he acquires the ability to hover, when you keep the X button pressed down, and swim.
So far, so conventional. But as you progress through the game, you discover a surprising amount of variation. Each world has a sequence in which you jump on the back of a giant mosquito which fires bullets through its nose and can suck in bombs and spit them back at bosses.
And there are other sequences in which you have to keep moving - for example, when you're underwater, you can collect tiny firefly-like fish around which gradually swim off, or follow angler-fish; both ward off the unwelcome advances of grabbing, zombie-like hands. And there are other times when you come across, caged and voluptuous fairies, with whom you must catch up.
The fairies' Jayne Mansfield-like proportions emphasise that while
But perhaps the best aspect of
The difficulty level doesn't breed frustration too often, though:
However, there are two, quite useful, ways in which it makes use of the touch-screen. The first addresses something that occasionally proved to be a problem with the console versions of the game: you can do a classic iPad-style pinch-move to zoom in or out. Which, occasionally, comes in handy.
And sometimes, when you kill a wave of enemies or brush against a plant, you release bubbles containing several Lums, the game's collectible currency. On the
There are hidden cages, guarded by various (usually trickily arranged) enemies to find, each of which contains an Electoon (which is basically a pink blob with a smiley face). When you finish each stage, you get another Electoon for that, and if you collect sufficient Lums, you can get as many as two extra Electoons. Hitting Electoon milestones opens locked levels within areas, as well as the new areas themselves.
You simply won't find a better-crafted example of the old-fashioned art of platform gaming than Rayman Origins - it's up there with the finest of Miyamoto's creations. Given that it was largely ignored when it came out late in 2011, that makes it a true hidden gem - one for the gaming cognoscenti.
And it seems to make particularly good sense on the