Straddling a thin line between demanding and forgiving, Rayman Origins is a rare 2D platformer that owes a debt of gratitude to the past without being burdened by it. There's an unyielding level of difficulty bubbling beneath the surface of this terrific side-scroller, but it's complemented by a decidedly modern abundance of checkpoints and infinite lives so that your fate rests squarely in your own hands. Combined with a relentlessly charming art design that's equal parts absurd and beautiful, Rayman Origins is a platformer that gives you every last reason to keep running along in spite of any challenges you encounter.
6345843As visually impressive as Rayman Origins is, its delightful music is nearly as enjoyable.
Rayman Origins is a living, breathing testament to the artistic capabilities of a 2D canvas. Every one of the game's numerous landscapes is filled with rich, hand-drawn detail, from the lush foliage of Jibberish Jungle to the flurrying snowfalls of Mystical Pique. There's an almost eccentric level of variety on display here. One moment, you swim through a haunting underwater abyss; the next, you leap across an industrial cooking pot full of molten lava in some hellacious version of a Mexican restaurant kitchen. Whether it's your own character or the many different enemies you encounter, the 2D animations are wonderfully fluid and impress a strong kinetic energy onto every last bit of movement.
And move you do; this platformer is built with the idea of player momentum firmly in mind. Most levels are intricately designed pathways built to encourage a quick pace, with rapidly transforming (often crumbling) environments, wide gaps, and enemies that frequently get the best of you if not attacked head-on. Fortunately, the tight, responsive controls in Rayman Origins give you every tool you need to accomplish this left-to-right journey. You start only being able to sprint and jump, but you eventually unlock new abilities, such as gliding through the air and running up walls or ceilings. And no matter how extravagant your move set becomes, the game always responds precisely to your inputs.
That's a good thing, too, because Rayman Origins is a deceptively challenging game. Though it starts out easily enough, the difficulty curve moves on a constant, gradual upswing. Later levels become twisted death traps outfitted with swinging radial saws, spike-covered monsters, and crashing electrical storms. Yet none of it ever feels cheap; you're always in control, and the sensation of darting through these intricately placed hazards makes for an extremely rewarding experience. You never need to worry about having to repeat entire levels over and over again either, thanks to the game's generous use of checkpoints. The difficulty exists--palpable and ominous--but there's nothing artificial about it.
The Wii version of Rayman Origins is a bit grainier than its HD counterparts, but the terrific art design still dazzles.