Tuesday, January 12, 2016

VGR Rayman Origins

My favorite platformer game in ages. Actually probably also one of my favorite games this past decade!

Rayman seemed to have completely fall off the radar, but he had the chance to get a great comeback, with a lot of style to boot!

Michel Ancel's cartoony hero gets reviewed Eyz-style:

VGR: Rayman Origins also known as Rayman 4
From UBIart Montpellier/Ubisoft Paris/Ubisoft Casablanca/Ubisoft
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PS3, Wii, PSVita, 3DS and PC

Type Sidescroller
platformer/action game
Year 2011

After plans for a Rayman 4 never going anywhere and being scrapped altogether in favor of the Ravin' Rabbids series, chances for a new Rayman seemed scarce as the popularity of those minigame compilations taking over the direction of the franchise.

But somehow a new Rayman game was announced, a proper 4th main installment in the original Rayman series! Rayman Origins was released in 2011 for all the current gen at the time, Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii. The last title to date was the 2003 Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, not counting the countless Rabbids game.

Rayman Origins is a true return back to basics and in right and due form. This means a return to the sidescroller platformer genre instead of a 3D platformer like the last two games. I just love the fact the team behind the game went back to gorgeous hand-drawn 2D graphics instead of, say, 3D characters on a 2.5D plan.

The game was developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, the same team under game creator Michel Ancel always responsible for the main Rayman titles from the original Rayman 1 to Rayman 2, 3 as well as Tonic Trouble and Beyond Good and Evil.

If the game is titled "Origins" it's simply because it was originally intended to be a prequel to the first Rayman game, hence the return to the 2D sidescroller formula before it finally evolved and became the proper follow up it now is, which includes several nods to all the previous titles from the design to the gameplay!

The story begins like all previous Rayman games, with our hero and his friend Globox (from Rayman 2!) chilling out on a tree "the Snoring Tree", taking a nap near the great "Bubble Dreamer". But you see, some of his nightmares infected the land down below. And their snoring has awaken this old grandman who lives downstairs in the Land of the Livid Dead. So she decided to disrupt the land above her and freed the Darktoons who immediately captured all the Electoons that compose the world!

Yeah, so it's a fairly basic plot, even for a Rayman game. But I personally found the return to a simpler story a great nods to the original Rayman 1.

The story follows Rayman and Globox on their journey to help the Teensies, fight Darktoons and the various infected evil creatures around the "Glade of Dreams"!

But first, Rayman must free a returned (and much improved!) Betilla the Nymph from the first game, as well as her nymph sisters to help clean the world!

Along their journey they're also helped by another returning figure from Rayman 1, the Magician (also completely revamped for this new adventure), who might be actually hiding his true motives... 

All I can say about the story is that's I'm glad it took a step back to allow the visuals to tell their own story through the imagery. And I loved seeing some references to the original first Rayman villain - Mr. Dark!

After two really well-received 3D platformers, I never dreamed we would ever get the chance to see another sidescroller Rayman game outside a couple of handheld games! I guess we're truly living in a nostalgic age. But I never expected them to simply make an HD remake of Rayman 1 though, so it's not the graphics that received a complete overhaul.

The gameplay is a far more arcade-style runner. The game is not simply a tight slow-paced platformer a la Mario anymore. 

And, yeah, parkour truly finds its way into most Ubisoft games these days. It's another one of these modern platformers where you need to keep pressing a run button/trigger to constantly seamlessly run, jump, glide, swim and even shrink size a few times! 

The game contains its fair share of trial and error to memorize the best optimal route, and it's a score-based platformer.

It's a pretty long game containing several worlds and stages. But the adventure is never really repetitive. There's a pretty well made learning curve, throwing tons of new stuff at you whenever you learn new stuff. And plenty of variations to keep you on your edge, including SHMUP sequences as a throwback to the original game with Rayman riding a mosquito. There's also some fantastic "bonus stage"-like levels where you must run after treasure chests which couldn't have been made without such a refined gameplay.

Also, the game offers CO-OP. This multiplayer mode is up to 4-players and truly adds a lot to the game. There are no lives or health in Rayman, so whenever you're hit you can either be revived by a partner if you're player co-op or go back to the last checkpoint if you're playing by yourself. 

Like the previous games in the series, it's also a solid collect-a-thon that will take you a lot of hours to completely find all the collectibles from hidden treasures to tons of Lums, Coins. Also the cages of Electoons you must open up make a comeback! It's the only way to unlock the true ending and last world of the game, the incredibly challenging Land of the Livid Dead!

Rayman Origins began its life as a small downloadable episodic game until it actually became full retail follow-up to the series.

The game was specifically designed around Ubisoft's new engine, to showcase the UbiArt Framework. A 2D game engine developed by Ubisoft Montpellier. Specially designed to organize and render 2D animated vector graphics, perfect for modern sidescroller platformers in gorgeous HD graphics (unlike, say, the countless retro pixel-based indie games you see nowadays). The game started by a small team of 5 developers before Ubi decide to put a bigger work force on the game. UbiArt Framework is a tool that allows artists and animators to easily design full games using intuitive interactive programs without too much code. It's a modern engine fully optimized for HD graphics running at 60 FPS in our modern standard 1080p resolutions and above.

The idea with this new tool is also to allow anybody to develop their own games with it, but as of now Ubi has not yet made the engine available to the public (although it's supposed to come out soon).

The game is simply gorgeous to look at! Honestly, this without a doubt my favorite game from this past generation. Forget boring photo-realistic graphics, it's also easily the best looking game I've seen in ages. Great art direction, great animations but also perfectly-nailed controls and a fantastic level design and plenty of humor as well, which is something you gotta admit has been seriously lacking from most mainstream game releases (despite so many games trying to be "movies", you just get that many laughs in games outside of the adventure genre).

Rayman Origins is a great modern "old school game" done right, with stunning graphics and art direction.

The stages cover all of Rayman 1's original worlds as well as a few direct throwbacks to the second and third game. You will visit worlds from the traditional jungle forest to a musical world, a food-themed world, a sea level, mountains, clouds and the undead world! A lot of locations from previous games (even a glacier-setting inspired by Tonic Trouble!).

Sadly for purist, a lot of narrative and story was not included in the final game including a look at how Rayman was created by the nymphs. In fact a ton was scrapped as Michel Ancel and his team focused on polishing the main game. From a surprising artwork-based stage to an additional fairy. Somehow some of those ideas would find their way into the sequel.... 

The game was really well received, and even won several awards and "Game of the Year" nominations, which I think it truly deserves a lot more than some other games out there.

And let's not forget to mention the great soundtrack composed by French composer Christophe Héral who wasn't able to completely orchestrated for the entire game so they also got another composer, Billy Martin, to complete the score. It's really fun, fast-paced and catchy. I particularly adore the music for the treasure chest stages.

Overall, Rayman Origins is a fantastic game! A proper return to form for Rayman who had gone missing in action for so long. A return back to the series' sidescroller roots. 

The game is fairly long, it has a lot of nods to all 3 previous games including characters and stages. It also has a great wacky atmosphere. It's just a really funny game. And the multiplayer is really fun and allows for local co-op for once and makes this game kind of feel like the last few recent Mario games.

Simply said, it's one of my all-time favorites, and it comes Highly Recommended for any gamer worth his salt!

As far as I'm concerned it's Rayman 4, or more appropriately the real Rayman 2 or 3 depending how you see it since it's the only other 2D Rayman game and another entry actually developed by Michel Ancel once more.

Rayman Origins would spawn a few spinoff titles for smartphones. First there was a 2012 runner for iOS and the likes called Rayman Jungle Run using the same assets, which received an updated sequel in 2013 called Rayman Fiesta Run.

An actual proper sequel followed in 2013, titled Rayman Legends. This "Rayman 5" started as a Wii U exclusive, which explains why it also included all of the Rayman Origins levels as unlockable. It would finally be released for Xbox 360, PS3, Vita and PC long before the Wii U release actually...
I give it:
3 / 3 Bruces!


  1. This too is one of my favorite games as well. Along with "The Great Escape" and "Hoodlum Havoc". Rayman is pretty much one of my all time favorite game characters.

  2. Can I please upload some of the pictures on deviantart? :-)

    1. No.

      Why would you even do that?? Upload someone's else pictures on an art site?? Just find my own pics over there and favorite them instead!
      Here is my page: