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Monday, October 15, 2012

Wii Review: Rayman Origins

System: Wii (Also on PS3, 360, Vita, 3DS)
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release: Nov. 14, 2011 USA / Nov. 25, 2011 EUR / Nov. 24, 2011 AUS
Players: 1-4
Controllers Supported: Wii Remote, Wii Remote + Nun chuck, Classic Controller
Rated: E for Everyone 10+

Rayman hasn't enjoyed the same success as the likes of Mario or Sonic, but he's still a competent platforming star. His original self titled debut in the mid 1990s was a visually stunning, albeit, very difficult game. 1999 saw the release of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, which was a breath of fresh air when the genre was becoming obsessed with collect-a-thons. Rayman would be overshadowed by some diminutive new comers in Rayman: Raving Rabbids, a collection of mini games. These crazy critters proved so popular that they eventually pushed Rayman out. But all was not lost for the limbless wonder. Rayman Origins was announced at an E3 press conference in 2010. Originally visioned as a downloadable episodic game, Origins grew so large that the decision was made to give it a retail release, and it is every bit deserving of such. Rayman Origins is one of the finest platformers to come out of this gaming generation.

How do Rayman and pals get caught up in an adventure to save their world? By sleeping. Rayman, Globox and the rest of the gang are enjoying a lazy day in the world known as the Glade of Dreams, sleeping in the Snoring Tree. Their snoring is so loud that it wakes some old lady who is a resident of the Livid Dead. In retaliation, she sends a horde of Darktoons across the Glade of Dreams, plunging whatever passes for the natural order of things into utter chaos. The Electoons are captured and locked away in cages and so is Betilla and her fairy sisters. Due to all of the havoc being wreaked across the land, the creator of the Glade of Dreams, the Bubble Dreamer goes berserk, having nightmares, which threatens to tear Rayman's world apart. To return things back to normal (normal for Rayman and buds, anyway), the Magician has Rayman and the gang set off on a journey to free the Electoons and the bound fairies from captivity.

Rayman Origins is a good time alone or
with friends.
Having terrible flashbacks of Band Land? Don't
sweat it. Desert of Didgeridoos isn't nearly
as hard as that place.

Origins returns Rayman to his 2D roots. Throughout the game's many lush stages, you'll run, jump, swim and swing on vines to save the Glade of Dreams. Sure, all of this is standard fare for a platformer, but Origins executes it so well, it almost feels you're doing these routine things for the first time ever. Everything from stomping on an enemy to running from a boss in hot pursuit feels so incredibly fluid and undeniably fun. Origins does so many things well. Visuals, sound and most importantly, gameplay, that last one it absolutely nails. You may have heard critics say that Rayman Origins is a platforming masterpiece. That it's one of the best games to come out in 2011. Some even gave it game of the year. All of the good things you've heard about this game are true.

Your primary collectible in Rayman Origins are Lums, the little yellow smiley faced things that are everywhere. The more of these you grab, the more Electoons you can earn. Electoons are needed to unlock more levels, bosses and additional bonus areas like Tricky Treasures, hard as nails chase levels where you'll more than likely hear the first  few seconds of the background music over and over before you get good enough to pass the stage. There's a group of caged Electoons at the end of every level but you can find a few hidden areas that conceal more Electoons. When you get near the hidden areas, the Electoons will cry out for help. Some careful observation of your surroundings will tell you where the Electoons are hidden so they're rarely ever hard to find.

One of the tamer sections of the token
underwater levels. 
A few SHMUP levels give you a break
from the platforming stages.

You have little in the way of defending yourself when you start out. By freeing Betilla and her sisters, you'll be granted new power-ups. These included, the classic wind up punch, hair helicopter and new ones like shrinking down to reach new areas and wall running. Rather than have you use a few of these abilities from time to time, you'll be relying on all of your skills on a continual basis. Helicopter can be used to complete wide jumps and guide you through hazardous descent sections. You'll have to switch sides of the wall/ceiling you're running on at a moment's notice to avoid enemy or hazard collision. It's refreshing to see a game have you constantly using all of the moves in your arsenal.

There are no lives to be found in Rayman Origins. Why? Because you have infinite lives. Think that will make the game too easy? Ha! This game is the very definition of hard. No matter how skilled you are you will die. A lot. Die enough times and the game will ask you if you want to keep playing the particular stage that you're on. Jumps cannot be miscalculated and you cannot be too slow. Great a game as Origins is, frustration will be a very familiar emotion to you during your time spent with it. You can get a heart to allow you an extra hit before you expire and each stage is packed with numerous check points beyond doors. Thankfully, most of the difficulty presented in Origins isn't fake. Genuine skill is needed to surpass the game's toughest obstacles and many of the deaths you suffer will be because you screwed up, not because the game was being a jerk. Wanna finish Rayman Origins 100%? Good luck. Even the earliest of Tricky Treasure levels are a nightmare. Just getting every Lum in a normal stage can prove quite taxing. You've got a better chance of achieving world peace than you do finishing Rayman Origins 100%.

Smiling in the face of danger.
Rayman Origins is beautiful no matter
what area you're in.

For the most part, you'll spend your time doing the usual platforming things but every now and then, you'll hop on Rayman's pal Moskito and go through a shooter level. These aren't just tacked on for the sake of adding more diversity to the gameplay. You'll have to maneuver through tight spaces as you shoot down wave after wave of enemies. Your shots can bounce off walls and sometimes this is the only way you'll be able to take out an adversary or hit a switch so you can move on.

Rayman Origins is a blast playing alone but if you have some friends handy, they can help save the Glade of Dreams with you. The only differences between the characters are purely cosmetic so you won't have to worry about someone having an edge over the other. As you've probably seen with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, multiplayer can get pretty chaotic. In Origins you can intentionally slap around your buddies, which was made for the sole purpose of screwing each other over. As you collect more Electoons, you can unlock more characters to play as, even if you're playing solo. Tired of playing as Rayman? Head back to the Snoring Tree and switch him out for Globox.

Even by ice level standards, the frosty
stages in Origins are fiendishly

No matter what environment you're in, this game is a visual masterpiece. From top to bottom, each area is covered with such vivid detail. Jungles, factories, undersea areas, deserts, all these places that we've seen time and again are a sight to behold in Origins. Even in standard definition, the game shines. The soundtrack is on the same level as the graphics and gameplay. If you've never played a Rayman game, you might think the music in Origins sounds strange, but this is par the course for this series. The music is of a mostly positive flare, but switches keys when you're in drab areas, or facing a boss. It's quite catchy with a few short vocals thrown in here and there.

This console generation has been blessed with quality platformers and Rayman Origins is one of them. It's loaded with plenty of humor, charm and heart. The challenge will keep you playing for a while especially if you're thinking of going for 100% completion. But even if you don't wish to see each and every bit that the game has to offer, you'll end up revisiting this adventure because of how fun and well constructed it is. You can pick up Rayman Origins now for $20 or less brand new on just about every console so there's no excuse not to own this stellar game.

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