UPDATE: I once rated this a 6.5… but truly, it deserves a 5.25 because of crappy checkpoint locations, insane difficulty due to the necessary perfection, and other issues. You probably don’t want to buy this game…
On the outside, Rayman Origins looks like a pretty fun game, right? It looks like a kid-friendly, colorful, kooky, artsy platformer with interesting enemies and new experiences. Origins accomplishes some of these tasks, but others are left incomplete. In the end, I feel more irritated with Origins than it was probably worth, which is a shame, because I really wanted to enjoy this game more than I did.
I picked up Origins from GameStop because I wanted a platforming game for my 3DS, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 was an extra $25 more than this was. I’ve played Super Mario platformers in the past, so I wanted to try something new. Moreover, I’ve wanted to try a Rayman title since the recent re-boot, and it looked like the series had some pretty positive reviews, so I gave it a shot. I got home, popped Rayman in my 3DS, and was pleasantly surprised at first; I thought I had made the right choice in picking the cheaper Origins over NSMB2.
The first two things I noticed were the sounds and the interesting visuals. The sounds in any game intrigue me; I want the soundtrack to enhance the experience of whatever game I’m playing. The soundtrack was as interesting as I would have hoped, and it meshed well with the gameplay…initially. It started off as novel and enjoyable, but the tracks quickly got old because there weren’t as many as I would have hoped. The other problem was that the levels were long and difficult, which forced you to listen to the same track on repeat for a half hour or longer; this really isn’t the fault of the sound team; it was a level design issue that made the soundtrack repetitive, so it can only be faulted to some extent. As far as the positives regarding the soundtrack, I must stress that the sounds were well suited for the environments. The water levels featured appropriate music, and the desert levels featured Middle-eastern and Indian sounding tunes. Sound effects were crystal clear, and were great all around, as far as quality is concerned.
This brings me to the second aspect: the level design. There were a few distinct worlds, and they all captured my attention from a visually appealing standpoint. The water levels were beautiful; the crystal blue waters were a great backdrop for the beautiful, bright colors of the flora and fauna. The color palette used in this game is by far one of the best I’ve seen in a game; handheld or not. If there was one thing I was in love with concerning Rayman Origins, it was definitely the beautiful levels. The great thing was that each world had a few levels in it; maybe five or six. Then you were transported to another world, which was vastly different than the first. After you completed each world, (of which ice, jungle, underwater, lava/Mexican food, and desert were a few) you were sent back to do a few more levels. I liked this approach because rather than having to roll through 10 to 12 levels in a single biome in a row, you got do do a few, move on to a new bit of scenery, then re-visit the old scenery later on in the game. This helped keep the backdrops from getting boring.
Now, I can gush praise over the visual beauty of Origins, however, I was absolutely disgusted by the level design. These levels started out easy enough, but they soon became insanely difficult. Don’t get me wrong; the levels were varied in design, and no two levels felt alike. In that aspect, the level design was great. However, these levels were gruelingly difficult, and it made me somewhat oblivious to the fact that each level was so different, because when I look back, no matter how different each level was, I still died too often.
I understand I’m not going to be a pro at every game; I’m not a platformer by nature. However, I do take offense to the fact that this looks like a kid-friendly game (rated E10) and yet it felt like a side-scrollng Dark Souls. What made Origins so difficult? It was a mix of luck, skill, and timing.
There were some levels where you had to have amazing parkour skills, mixed with a heaping dose of luck, all while making sure you started your sequence at just the right time so that you could avoid, for example, the swinging circular saw blades that would be glad to slice you to pieces. Honestly, there were some checkpoints where I would spend 10 to 20 minutes there because I couldn’t get the perfect mix of timing, luck, and skill; instead, I would fall to the bottomless pit below.
The enemies weren’t difficult at all; instead, the environmental hazards were the real killers. The terrible part was, as I said earlier, that the levels were varied greatly, and they were designed well from that aspect. As much as I wanted to enjoy them, I couldn’t because I found myself in utter disbelief that it would be possible for a 10 year old kid to play this game without chucking his or her 3DS at a wall!
The boss battles at the end of each biome left me with the same mixed feelings as the levels themselves did. The bosses were varied, from giant mechanical birds to sea monsters, but they were incredibly difficult, and they employed the same grueling mix of luck, skill, and timing as the levels did. Some bosses followed the same path each life; after you died a dozen times or so, you could predict exactly where the boss would be with each movement, however, this didn’t stop cheap deaths from occurring. For example, during one battle, it was easiest to squish yourself against the wall as the boss came near you, but if you weren’t squished into the perfect spot, you would be smashed by the gigantic foot or blob it used for locomotion.
Other bosses would move differently depending on where you moved, thus making them like gigantic homing missiles that took up half the screen; they were nearly impossible to escape, as they moved faster than you, and they always knew where you would be. From a design standpoint, again, this variation is great. From a playability standpoint, it made playing Rayman Origins very frustrating.
Speaking of playability, I haven’t even mentioned the reason for playing Rayman Origins! The plot is run of the mill; collect Lums (rather than coins in Mario) as you advance through the level, although it isn’t necessary. Lums can unlock other characters, bonus levels, and other items, although you can complete most of the game without the need to collect all the Lums. There is no discernible storyline, and I expected as much from a handheld platforming title.
One of the things I feel that Rayman Origins missed the mark the most with is something that could have brought the score up greatly. In each biome, a new power was unlocked. In one biome, you learned to fly/hover, and in another you learned how to walk on walls, and in another, you learned to shape-shift, etc. During that specific world, you used that ability a lot, but then its usefulness dropped drastically in the next biome or two. Of course, swimming and hovering were used greatly in the game, but I feel that if the wall-running ability had been utilized a bit more, the levels could have been even more varied; anti-gravity is always amazing. However, when the wall-running was used, what was the downfall (no pun intended)? You guessed; anti-grav parkour that was gruelingly difficult. Shape shifting was hardly used at all outside of the world in which it was learned, and I’m sure it could have been a very interesting feature if its use would have been more widespread throughout the other levels.
In the end, I think that Rayman Origins was decent, but it fell short in many categories. Where it could have shone, it instead felt very difficult and aggravating; a far cry from the fun art style in which the experience was presented. I was all too glad to finish the game (because I feel guilty if I don’t finish a game) and trade it in for Halo 3:ODST; one of the final Halo titles needed for my collection, of which I am now 6-for-8. It’s a shame that a title with so much potential was marred by a difficulty suited for an older age group. Furthermore, great powers and abilities were wasted, as their usefulness was never fully realized or developed throughout the entirety of the game.
My opinion: skip Rayman Origins if you’re looking for an easy-going, relaxing, enjoyable experience. That’s what I was looking for, and the art style did not reflect the true difficulty of the game, which was quite jarring. If you want a punishing title that will force you to test your patience, Origins is the platformer for you; don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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