Secondly, the sound. While you can’t really compare Rayman Origins to the likes of Lumines or Child of Eden, there’s something wonderful going on in the synchronicity between the visuals, the gameplay and the sound. As Rayman hoovers up the floating lums – his equivalent of Sonic’s rings or Mario’s coins – there’s always a tinkle that seems to integrate perfectly with whatever nutty music is playing. Grab one of the special ‘king’ lums and a manic little tune plays, encouraging you to grab high-value lums in the limited time that they’re available. The use of musical platforms and switches in later levels only adds to the impression. We mean it as a complement when we say that Rayman Origins sounds just as bizarre as it looks.
Thirdly, the level design. Sure, Rayman Origins relies heavily on platform fundamentals, and if you traced every idea back you could probably find it somewhere in Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong Country or Oddworld. Yet it’s a game where new platform types, new enemies, new ideas and new surfaces are hurled in with reckless abandon at a rate that makes even Super Mario 3D Land look slightly tame by comparison. There are superb swimming bits where sinister claws can only be held at bay by hanging around illuminated deep-sea fish, shooty bits that hark back to the days of R-Type and Gradius, and even platform staples like the disappearing platform or the falling block are given a new twist by the anarchic cartoon presentation. The desert world includes the finest application of the didgeridoo in gaming history. On one level Rayman Origins is like every other great platformer you’ve ever played, yet on another level you’ve never played anything like this.
Fourthly and finally, the multiplayer. We won’t pretend that Rayman Origin’s single-screen, co-op multiplayer is as smart or as engineered for co-op play as Trine or New Super Mario Bros Wii, but as you bounce along with a friend (or three), each in a different unlockable costume, the game has a thoroughly Gallic joie de vivre. Killed friends can be saved if you can reach their floating bubble, and the co-op can make some of the tougher levels a little less heavy going (though not by much). Like New Super Mario Bros Wii, it’s a game you want to play with kids – If only so you can bore them to death with tales of how gaming was back in the day.
Rayman Origins has its faults. Sometimes you can see that there’s been such an emphasis on style that key game mechanics go practically unexplained – a mistake you’ll never catch Nintendo making. There are also a few painful difficulty spikes, though nothing too unfair or punitively tricky. It’s not quite as epic as some of the Mario titles, but it is a game born of love for a character and love for a genre. It’s the kind of game that leaves you feeling good.
Rather unexpectedly and against stiff competition, Rayman Origins is the best platformer of the year. With its bright colours, HD cartoon graphics and jubilant silliness it won’t be for everyone, but it’s a great game for families, nostalgia addicts, and anyone who has ever loved the simple joys of running and jumping left to right.