Thursday, April 26

Rayman Origins Review (PSV): Childhood's greatest hits

I've never played any previous instalments in the Rayman franchise; but if the latest multiplatform release, Rayman Origins is anything to go by, I've been missing out big time. The game condenses all of the energy, whimsy and difficulty of games from my childhood into a longer-than-average platforming romp that simply must be played.

That isn't to say that Rayman Origins looks dated by any stretch. The UbiArt Framework engine is simply glorious to behold with hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds, all animated with verve and proficiency. The frame rate is (for the most part) consistent and it's easily the greatest visual spectacle available on the PlayStation Vita at and since launch. All aspects of presentation are pretty strong here: a delightful soundtrack (the theme from the treasure chest chases being my favourite) and art direction that is without equal. It's an audio-visual delight.
Wonderfully-rendered visuals aren't the sole measure of a game. If the controls and mechanics don't hold up, you may as well be looking at mud. Thankfully, Rayman Origins rewards care, memorisation and good reflexes with controls that are responsive and unlockable moves that you'll use often in your quest to collect Electoons. When you fail in this game, you have no one to blame but yourself: it handles that smoothly, even against the eventual onslaught of fiendish gaps and inflatable foes. It's also worth noting that the Vita version includes touch controls that are used sparingly (which just happens to be my favourite approach to touch controls). The only criticism I can level against it is that you'll be forced to repeat most of the game's levels if you want to see all that this package has to offer.

Even if you didn't have to replay a lot of content, Rayman Origins has legs for miles. I got well over ten hours worth of play out of the game, including solid boss fights and the greatest chases seen in a platformer. There's also some really enjoyable side-scrolling shooter levels that are perfectly placed throughout this lengthy adventure. The Vita version may not include co-op play like the home console versions, but there are plenty of collectables and challenges to keep you coming back long after you've finished the final boss fight.

That final fight, and most every level you'll run through offer a level of challenge that I've not experienced since Super Meat Boy. Rayman Origins may not be anywhere near as difficult (read: I actually finished this one), but I felt a genuine sense of accomplishment when I nabbed each ruby tooth and bested every boss fight. In fairness, it can be expensive-system-throwingly frustrating at times; but as above, the player is almost always to blame for any failures. It's the best kind of torture.

All things considered, Rayman Origins is the best platformer available on current generation hardware. It offers hours of addictive, challenging action that captures my favourite elements from games of generations past: charming visuals, memorable music and ball-busting difficulty. Not to say that the game lacks originality or feels dated; quite the opposite, in fact. Well worth your time and money, and one of the best games I've played this year.

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