|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montpellier|
|Release: February 14, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence, Suggestive Themes|
by Sean Engemann
It's a true delight to see Rayman make a return to the gaming scene, harkening back to the original design that that we first grew to love. During his prime over a decade ago, Rayman was considered in the same class as Mario, Sonic, and Crash Bandicoot as mascots, though Rayman didn't have the burden of being tied to one console maker. Yet despite overall positive praise throughout his career, Rayman took quite a bit of time off, possibly because 3D platformers were starting to wane in popularity. It is more exciting, then, to see what developer Ubisoft Montpellier has delivered: an old-school side-scrolling adventure that doesn't look a shred dated. Even more impressive is the Vita port, which has not been watered down in the slightest as far as graphical quality.
If this happens to be your first foray into the world of Rayman, don't worry; although many characters have made previous appearances, it is not a requirement that you brush up on your history. You can simply dive into slapping, kicking, and simply enjoying the absolutely gorgeous levels. Of course, there's still a dilemma at hand, propagated accidentally by Rayman and his friends for eating, snoring, and spewing forth other perfectly rhythmic bodily functions, which has infuriated the neighbors from the Land of the Livid Dead. Now the dastardly creatures have invaded the Glade of Dreams, and it's up to Rayman and his posse to banish them back to the netherworld and restore peace and tranquility.
You begin the adventure with the very basic of controls, being able to simply run and jump. After freeing Betilla the nymph, you will be granted the ability to attack. Liberating future nymphs unlocks other skills, such as gliding through the air, swimming underwater, and walking up walls. Whether you play as Rayman, his playful partner in crime Globox, or one of the two spellcasting Teensies, no character has a noticeable advantage, and switching them up between levels adds a little spice in what could have easily been a one-man show. Unlike in some of Rayman's later platforming forays, you'll never feel a sense of calamity in the atmosphere with Rayman Origins, which gives a levity to the story that is refreshing compared to the dark mood that permeates nearly every other game nowadays.
Of course, that doesn't mean the game is in any way timid with regards to difficulty. You're a fragile creature, requiring only a single hit to become bubblized and pop (the game's form of death). Sprinkled through each level, you'll find a heart, which adds one extra point to your health total, but that's it. Therefore victory will depend heavily on your own platforming skill, and with over sixty levels of vastly different stage designs, you'll never be allowed to get comfortable with a particular control blueprint. The levels themselves are broken up into many sections, the start of which becomes the respawn point, so should you meet an inflated demise, you thankfully will not have far to travel.
Your objective throughout is to free little creatures called Electoons. Some are trapped in hidden and guarded caves, while others are awarded by collecting a certain threshold of Lums (another creature of the world). Not only does your increasing collection of Electoons allow you to progress through the story, but they also reveal secret (and lucrative) sanctuaries to play, new character skins to try out, and their own challenges, which are essentially tied-in minigames.
These "minigames" come in a variety of flavors. Time Attacks have you race through cleared levels and strive to beat a set time, which will reward you will another Electoon. Beat the Hard time and you'll also rake in a Trophy for your efforts. Chest Challenges have you chase a runaway chest though an increasingly difficult obstacle course, with the spoils being a Skull Tooth which will allow access to the Land of the Livid Dead. Some of these extras may seem like fluff, but completionists will undoubtedly find value in them. And with such gorgeous levels, they are never boring.
I keep repeating my praise for the art design because it's truly unlike anything you've ever seen in a video game, let alone a platformer. The bold colors and beautiful environments are hand crafted, as are the characters. Using an exclusive graphics engine called UbiArt Framework, the drawn designs were uploaded into the programming with very little technical manipulation. Not only does this showcase excellent skill, but also the level of hard work and commitment into putting together vivid backdrops. With the Vita's touchscreen, you are able to pinch or stretch the screen to zoom out or in, respectively. This does little in the way of improving the gameplay, but it does allow you to take a closer look at the fine detailing should you feel the urge.