The 2D platformer has had a renaissance in the past five years or so. Developers are revisiting the classic genre and finding new ways to iterate and improve it while still staying true to basic formula. One game that attempts to do just that is Rayman Origins. Released in 2011, Rayman Origins tried to showcase the best that the 2D platforming genre had to offer, but did it succeed?
As far as the presentation is concerned Origins gets it partly right. The art design and graphics are charming and unique. They do a good job of giving off a very story book vibe, or even a kids book. The detail is also excellent, so excellent in fact I found myself pausing and starring at the beautiful background. It even looks hand painted at times with this sort of water color style. The music on the other hand is annoying. It has its moments, some worlds have better tracks than others, but by and large the songs are repetitive and dull. Some of them are out right irritating, especially the ones that involve vocals. The speech in this game is an adorable pig Latin type thing, but when put to music and sung it sounds like total gibberish. On top of that the music will occasional cut out for no reason. All of the other sound effects stay but there’s no music. Even though I don’t like the music, frequent audio glitches aren’t a good sign.
I’m only gonna touch on the story for a second as it isn’t really very deep or important. That being said I can appreciate the game’s attempt to inject character into the world. Clever dialogue and adorable character animations went a long way to attaching me to these characters. Though the story is pointless, it does at least give context to the gameplay which is all you really need.
The gameplay for Origins is most certainly the highlight. Origins is fluid and exciting with platforming that is both challenging and fun. It also manages to incorporate several abilities into the game, such as attacking and running on walls, that give each level even more variety. It’s strikes a nice difficulty balance where you’re never yelling at the TV, but you aren’t breezing through the level either, that is except for the flying sections. Every once in a while you’ll hop on a giant mosquito and partake in a “shoot ’em up” style section. Though initially these were a good change of pace they became a nuisance in the late game. All these levels are auto scrolling and almost entirely void of check points. In the later levels the screen is filled with projectiles and enemies and if you get hit one or two times its back to the beginning. Though these levels are by no means impossible they do serve as an awkward difficulty spike and a drag to play through. As a matter of fact the whole game gets much duller towards the end. Though the level design stays at a high level of quality throughout the game, I started to realize all of the repeating patterns. Every world has a flying level about halfway through and a boss level at the end. In addition every level has you searching for two additional challenge rooms to save helpless prisoners. Both these things cause the levels and the worlds to mesh together in spite of each worlds creative and unique art direction. The levels began to feel the same especially within the worlds themselves. It’s hard to articulate, but the formula of “save the prisoners, fly a mosquito, fight a boss” gets really boring after the 4th or 5th run through.
Rayman Origins is a game of conflicting characteristics. It has a lovable and charming art direction but also horribly irritating music. It has platforming that is fluid,fun, and challenging but also a repetitive formula that becomes utterly boring in the latter stages. Even with the excellent gameplay, Rayman Origins is difficult to recommend. If you are looking for a 2D platformer Rayman Origins isn’t a bad choice, but it’s not a great one either.
Rayman Origins earns a 6/10