Version tested: PS3
There are times when the world of games feels like a dark and gloomy place; a world where everything has to be dark, gritty, grey and realistic, where even fantasy and sci-fi have to come with real-world messages about the brutality of man to man (or elf) or the corruption of those in power. There’s some brilliant, thrilling stuff out there, but doesn’t it sometimes all get you down? Don’t you remember a time of blue skies, cartoon heroes and the simple pleasures of jumping on your foes, not taking headshots through a set of iron sights?
Of course, Nintendo hasn’t forgotten how to do this stuff, and there are times when Sega threatens to return to its past glories. Rayman Origins, however, is a dream game for those of us who remember the good old days. After years where the character has been lying in the doldrums, he’s been resurrected by his original creator, Michel Ancel. The result is pure platforming joy on a shiny silver disc.
In time-honoured platforming fashion, there is a story of some sort, but a story so thin that we’re not sure we could reconstruct it if we tried. All you need to know is that Rayman has a series of worlds to get through, each comprising of multiple levels, and each level comprising of several areas that involve running, jumping, sliding and occasionally swimming from left to right. Rayman starts off with a basic jump and bounce attack, but as each level goes on he rescues a rather saucy nymph, who then confers on our limbless hero (he has a head, hands and feet, but no arms, neck or legs) extra powers. Before you know it he’s punching, ground-pounding, gliding, shrinking, diving and running up walls like a super-charged Sonic.
All very business as usual, you might think, and hardly the sort of thing grown adults should get excited about. Haven’t we got terrorists to shoot in the face? Nor will it necessarily impress you when we mention that the levels run the full gamut of platform game clichés. Here’s the jungle, here’s the desert, here’s the ice world, the fiery bit and a spot of swimming. Isn’t this all a bit 1992?
Well, yes, but in a good way – and Rayman Origins has four major factors in its favour. Firstly, the graphics. Imagine travelling back in time to play Sonic the Hedgehog, then imagine imagining what Sonic the Hedgehog might look like in nearly 20 years time on hardware four to five generations on. Rayman looks like that, but even better, not just because its running in glorious HD (and 1080p if you have a PS3), but because the whole look and feel is infused with Ancel’s peculiarly gallic brand of cartoon lunacy. Rayman Origins is beautiful to look at, packed with stunning animation, and full of exuberant detail. If it’s not the best-looking 2D game ever made, it’s very, very close.