|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montpellier|
|Release: TBA 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
Rayman is part of an elite group of iconic characters who, through sheer originality, have been able to stand out amongst the ever increasing crowd of mascots. His unique design is instantly recognizable; even gamers who've never picked up a Rayman title know that he's that thingamajig with wacky hair and no arms or legs. The core games and offshoots have graced nearly every gaming platform, frequently earning favorable critiques because they're easy to pick up, hard to put down, and loaded with charm. Rayman Origins looks to embrace these credos even more so than any of its predecessors. Simple controls and stylized art try to recapture the 2D side-scrolling fun older gamers remember from decades ago and younger generations rarely get a chance to experience outside of the indie scene.
Rayman Origins is a prequel to the entire series. Great care is being taken to reveal information throughout game that refers to characters from subsequent games without estranging new fans. You are taken back to the creation of Rayman—a hero shaped by the nymphs and destined to preserve the universe—only to discover that this fledgling savior has a lot of maturing to do. While never the studious sage in previous games, Rayman certainly displays a curious, prepubescent unruliness in Rayman Origins. Much of the humor in the story will reflect this shenanigan type of attitude. Rayman's happenstance encounter with his future sidekick, Globox, reveals the same nonsense nature, thus a perfect friendship is born.
As a 2D side-scroller, Rayman Origins will easily retain its past difficulty standard. The fast pace of the game will only heighten the sense of immediacy in your actions, as poorly-timed button-pressing will repeatedly result in doom. To offset the difficulty, the game will only incorporate a couple of action buttons to begin with, letting different combinations emerge later as your moves and skills are upgraded. But don't expect the classic platforming style to limit the gameplay to simple jumps and side-scrolling. Rayman Origins will be packed with all sorts of goodies to keep you coming back. You'll collect Lums, the in-game currency used to purchase upgrades and "I Dare You" challenges that reward you for completing different move and attack chains. There will also be a ton of collectibles to find, speed runs to test your skills, and Easter eggs to uncover.
The difficulty scale is also designed in such a way that the game can be played solo or tackled cooperatively with up to three friends. One player will control Rayman, another Globox, and the remaining two will don the cyan skin of Teensies, those little creatures with long noses and beady black eyes. No information has been released as to whether the game will support any online functionality, but considering the unique interaction (think New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii) between the four characters on a single screen, you'll probably bribe your friends to come over every time you want to load it up.
Ubisoft is using a new gaming engine, UbiArt Framework, for Rayman Origins. This engine allows for more expression on the part of the artists, with less of the product being manipulated by computer programming. Looking at the style, I'm immediately reminded of a more family friendly version of The Dishwasher series. But the crisp and vibrant visuals certainly have the potential to successfully reintroduce 2D platforming to a 3D-saturated world without looking like a vintage title.
The game is adorned with classic cartoon sounds, over-the-top effects that will keep you giggling from start to finish, and a whimsical score that brings life to environments already teeming with energy. The wacky script promises to successfully blend epic fantasy and satirical humor. It will be interesting to see if the characters will have dialogue like in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. I would love to see John Leguizamo reprise his role as Globox.
On all points, Rayman Origins appears to be a beautifully crafted title, with engrossing gameplay and excellent pacing. The unique art style and complimentary audio will tempt your thumb to let go of the control stick while your eyes and ears go on a sensory safari.
Although initially designed as a downloadable title with episodic releases, creator Michel Ancel and the Ubisoft team have decided to scrap that idea in favor of a full release. Rayman Origins is slated to hit shelves later this year.
CCC Contributing Writer