Rayman: Origins is an odd game for me. It is the first Rayman game I have ever played (I may have played demos of some of the other titles, or tried them out on an in-store kiosk), yet, I really want this game to do well and sell a ton of copies.
Unfortunately, Ubisoft seems hell bent on making sure this game fails miserably. They released it in the middle of the fall game onslaught. A death sentence for the majority of titles not currently tied to a AAA franchise. Hell, they even release it on the very same day as another Ubisoft title, Assassin's Creed! Talk about cannibalizing your own title! Throw in the fact that the title was originally planned as a downloadable, episodic game and it is now being released at full retail price with little fanfare or marketing and it seems they want it to fail.
Did I mention it is a cartoony 2D platformer? Yeah, the cards didn't exactly line up for this one to succeed.
But this game is my biggest surprise of the year.
First of all, the most striking thing about it are the visuals. Yes, the game is all hand drawn 2D art. Sounds old school. But it is the most visually impressive game I have played this year. It is absolutely vibrant, colorful, with fantastic art design and the entire thing runs as a silky smooth 60 frames per second. Not a single pixel in sight! Watching this game running in high-definition is a real visual treat. I cannot give enough accolades to the Ubisoft team. I hope many, many titles are released using this game engine (UbiArt Framework I believe it is called), because the results are amazing and I wouldn't mind an explosion in 2D games. Especially when they look, control, and run this good.
Not only does it look gorgeous, but once you begin to play it you realize that it plays fantastically as well. The controls just feel right. The character's momentum, jumping and "feel" is spot on, as is necessary in any great 2D platformer.
Gameplay follows by mixing things up occasionally and giving you enough variation to always be entertained. You learn new moves and abilities and some levels have you traverse them different. There is plenty of variety here and it borrows gameplay elements from many of the great platformers from the past.
The music is also extremely well done and whimsical. I dare you not to smile when the underwater music kicks in the first time you learn the ability to swim under the surface.
And that is my favorite aspect of the game. It is extremely charming. All the tiny details come together perfectly. Tiny nuances in character animation, sounds effects, music, gameplay. I find myself playing with a smile all the time.
The game can also be very challenging if you are a completionist. Getting through the stages themselves is not too difficult. But if you are trying to get all the collectables and unlockables in every stage prepare for a challenge! The "chase-the-treasure-chest" stages are especially challenging, bordering on frustrating at times. But they are very thrilling and encourage memorization and practice.
If you haven't tried this game out, at the very least download the demo. But preferable, just go out and buy it!