E3 2011: Rayman Origins Hands-On Preview – Three’s a Crowd, Four’s a Party
Written Thursday, June 23, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Platformers used to be the bread and butter of the video game industry and with industry stalwarts like Sonic and Mario setting the trends back in the 90s, you have to ask yourself this question: where have all the cowboys gone… sorry, I mean platformers? Our answer: We have no chuffin’ idea. They exist, sure, but they’re not as big as they once were, possibly because the quality in the genre has taken a bit of a tumble. Rayman Origins then is your classic hardcore platforming experience and the best that you’re likely to experience on next-generation consoles in recent times. Leading the way with old-skool 2D platforming and winning extra brownie points for its four-player co-op shenanigans and general camaraderie, Rayman Origins certainly was a pleasant surprise for us this year at E3 and is shaping up to be exactly what we want: a classic platformer!
Unfortunately for Rayman Origins though, it didn’t get off to the strongest of starts in the public limelight and like Halo: ODST and Joy Ride, Ubisoft made the mistake of publically announcing it would be a downloadable title, available via the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN. A lot has changed since then though and sure, there will be a lot of cynicism surrounding the now retail title with cynics moaning that “It should have been cheaper!!!” but Ubisoft have compacted all the episodic titles into one retail adventure and added in a ton of crazy ideas they had before they decided to make the jump to retail. In short, you’re getting all the games in one box this time with a ton of stuff you were never going to get, so quit ya’ complainin’!
During our hands-on we jumped into a couple of levels with differing objectives and set-pieces in the game’s 4-player co-op, which Ubisoft Montpellier call “semi-competitive and semi-co-operative” co-op, meaning you’ll be battling each other as much as you’ll be working together. Why? Because it’s fun. The first level we went hands-on with was your typical 2D side-scrolling platformer level set in the jungle, with jumps galore and enemies cropping up along the way. The second was a vertical platformer level set in a cave, where we had to work our way upwards by swinging on various vines and tiny platforms, escaping the huge beast that was following close behind.
Rayman Origins at its heart is quite simply a 2D platformer, with your usual array of spiky death traps below tiny platforms and a wide range of pesky enemies to slow your progress. The controls are as simple as it gets, with Rayman – and co, depending on which character you choose – able to jump, sprint, hover, punch, slide on his belly, taunt and hold up other characters, which allows players to work as a team to gain access to secrets that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access. They’re not only simple controls, but they’re also responsive, so some of the twitch movement platforming sections are easy to navigate. In all, it makes for some satisfying 2D platforming… and it’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that.
Rayman Origins is a traditional platformer in the sense that there’s a lot of collectibles to horde and secret bonus worlds to discover. Whether that’s Death Medallions you have to pick up or Electoons – creatures captured and enslaved in the game – you have to free, doing such tasks will be required to further progress in the game and unlock more and more worlds to tackle. If you’re feeling a little overzealous and end up dying a lot, fear not, because with the game’s death mechanic, it allows veterans and newbies to play together – the same goes for progressing through a level as well, with slower characters being zoomed to leading characters when you reach the end of a section of a level. The death mechanic is a simple mechanic in truth: there are no lives to lose or accumulate, if you die you spawn in a bubble and then any alive on-screen character can free you by popping that bubble, much like New Super Mario Bros on the Wii. That means the only way you can get a “Game Over” screen is if all four of you die at once. How that quite works in single-player or two-player co-op we’re not sure, but Rayman Origins is a game that should be played as a foursome, if possible… it’s where all the fun resonates from.
With over 60 levels, Rayman Origins isn’t looking to short change you on value for money either. Well, at least it doesn’t seem that way. It’s a game boasting huge amounts of colour and some exquisite environments, but its main pull surely has to be its co-op gameplay, bringing back some random shenangians and a certain level of camaraderie that has been sorely missed in co-op games in recent times. It’s about having fun, it’s about working together and sometimes, it’s about slapping your mate in the face, you know, because it’s fun!
Rayman Origins is scheduled for a holiday 2011 release.