The one area where the difficulty curve falters is in the game's small handful of boss fights. In keeping with the game's uniformly delightful aesthetic, these creatures are always a sight to behold, but they're an inconsistent bunch where your thumbs meet the controller. The challenge posed by these bosses holds little correlation to the sequence through which they're unlocked. It's a random smattering of encounters where one particularly harrowing fight is immediately followed up by a relatively easy one, which creates a weird inconsistency in an otherwise very consistent game.
Fortunately, boss fights don't offer the only change of pace to the game's core 2D platforming. One recurring palate cleanser has you jumping on the back of an adorably angry pink mosquito and shooting your way through a series of hazards that range from easily startled puffer fish to heat-seeking missiles. These levels are a blast and feel like a vintage shoot-'em-up covered in a thick layer of Rayman Origins' absurdist humor. Other notable examples of switching up the standard formula include levels where you have to frantically chase an equally agile target and subdued journeys through an underwater landscape of beautiful but deadly sea creatures.
Throughout all of this, one persistent element of Rayman Origins is the sheer abundance of collectible doodads strewn across every chunk of landscape. Everywhere you go, you find things like lums (the game's version of coins), hidden challenge rooms, and other scattered rewards placed in treacherous locations, which often puts you at odds with your own survival instincts. A few of the benefits are purely cosmetic, like collecting enough items to unlock new character skins. But unfortunately, the level progression system suddenly becomes very demanding once you cross into the second half of the game, forcing you to go back and replay prior levels that you didn't already scour for collectibles with an obsessive-compulsive attention to detail.
Co-op is a lot of fun, so long as you don't mind getting smacked around by your friends.
However, the forced replaying of previous levels--or any levels, really--becomes an altogether different experience when played in local co-op. Rayman Origins uses a dead-simple system of drop-in/drop-out co-op that allows up to four players to run and jump through every single level of the game. It's a hilariously chaotic form of multiplayer where the risk of being accidentally smacked around by a teammate cancels out the built-in advantage of having a few extra hands along for the ride.
Whether you choose to approach this adventure by your lonesome or with three friends, the fact remains that this is a charming, gorgeous, and thoroughly entertaining 2D platforming experience. Rayman Origins draws a lot from the past, but it does so while managing to feel fresh and full of life. This is one worthwhile journey no matter which era it's from.