Gaming, Video Games

Review of Rayman Origins (3DS): Score of 5.25

https://i0.wp.com/thegamershub.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Rayman-Origins-3ds-box-art-US.jpg

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.

https://matthewshiflet.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/a2342-raymanorigins2.jpgThis 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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At Your Service,
Matt

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15 thoughts on “Review of Rayman Origins (3DS): Score of 5.25”

  1. “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…As much as I wanted to enjoy [the game’s levels], 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 ESRB pseudo-rating is only an indicator of content themes relative to the purported societal standards of a region. In NA, especially in the United States, we have many incoherent standards and this is how games like GTA aren’t labelled as AO (adults only) -which also begs the question of the appreciable difference between M and AO. With that said, it isn’t the case that the ESRB rating should be an indicator for the game’s difficulty but, following long-held incoherent standards, it’s understandable that anyone would presume that a E-10 game would be easier than a T game.

    “What made Origins so difficult? It was a mix of luck, skill, and timing.”

    I’d like to change a few words. For ‘skill’ I’d like to change it to muscle memory and reflexes and for ‘timing’ I’d like to change it to fast analytical skills, strong inductive reasoning skills and memory. I’d like to make these changes because timing is a part of skill and skill itself is very broad. Platformers demand that the player remember sequences, always keep an eye on the edge of the screen (in scrolling platformers) to see what jump will come next and even be able to predict jumps based on previous jumps. Attached to that are the reflexes to input the commands and the muscle memory to allow the player’s brain to focus more on predictive rather than reactive tasks when possible.

    With that said, platformers are notorious for demanding all of these skills while increasing the difficulty, sometimes sharply, throughout the game. But there is a difference between real challenge and a slog, challenging sequences instead of nigh-impossible sequences that can be comparable to interesting mechanics and stat bloat, respectively, in combat action-oriented games. Here, interesting and difficult sequences make for a challenge, but a series of sequences that demand near perfect timing serve as (1) potentially inappropriate gating mechanic and (2) examples of bad design, all depending upon where they occur, how often they occur and where they fit in the scope of the game.

    I haven’t been able to go finish Mutant Mudds (PC, but originally made for the 3DS) because the platforming mechanics required too much precision far too often, resulting in either a very quick run through the level or far too many restarts with far too little progress to encourage further play.

    “Furthermore, great powers and abilities were wasted, as their usefulness was never fully realized or developed throughout the entirety of the game.”

    Whenever I encounter this in a gamer I get frustrated. I can accept that certain abilities/elements are going to be designed as integral to a certain area, perhaps occurring only in that one area, but it seems to me to indicate either a lack of solid design concept or rushing implementation of parts of a design concept. For example, I was able to get that characters like Aladdin and Jack Skellington wouldn’t come with the party in Kingdom Hearts once a world was completed. On the other hand, only Jack Skellington seemed to me to be a solid character to replace the only character you’d ever think to replace, Goofy.

    1. I know the ESRB is based on content rating and not difficulty, and I suppose that brings up a good discussion on whether or not there should be a difficulty rating of some sort, but my problem was that it made Origins come across like a Chihuahua… it looks cute and harmless, but it’s actually really mean and likes to bite, to use a comical analogy. The content rating was so far from the difficulty rating, it’s not even cool.

      One thing about this game was, as you said, there were quick sequences that didn’t leave the player much time to think. Coupled with few-and-far-between checkpoints during some levels, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. I suppose you’re also right about the alternative terms I could’ve used instead of skill, timing, and luck, but in any case, I’m guessing the basic point came across, as you seem to have picked it up rather easily.

      Finally, I definitely agree with your last paragraph; if you take to time to create a weapon, character, ability, etc, then you’re missing out on a great opportunity by not utilizing it. Why would anybody want to shoot themselves in the foot like that? I just don’t understand…

      1. “Coupled with few-and-far-between checkpoints during some levels, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.”

        I finished the new Rise of the Triad game shortly after release, shortly after patching began. One of the big issues for players was the lack of F2 (quicksave) and long distances between checkpoints, but coupled with enemies that were remarkably accurate and other gameplay issues. This brings up a very serious issue, one that I’d like to talk about at some point later in a post of my own.

        That issue is people who REALLY want to play the game compared to people who are interested in the game. That first group will put up with a wealth of legitimate gameplay/design issues because they are so incredibly interested in the game, while the second group can be turned off, sometimes quite easily, by those issues. The new ROTT game saw me in the first group however, not a fanboy by any stretch, I recognised how serious some of those issues were.

        QA has become a serious problem for years now.

  2. I always wondered about this game. I’ve always been keen to try it but after reading this, (me being an easy going gamer and only once in a while enjoy a hectic challenge), this is definitely going on the back burner. Thanks a lot bud. Awesome read!

  3. During the Insomnia Sale on GoG, Rayman Origins (http://www.gog.com/game/rayman_origins) was on sale for $4.99 instead of $19.99. I asked Pretty if I could buy it and she gave me the go-ahead. Once I finish Blood I’ll be giving this a go along with the fantastically humorous adventure game, Ben There, Dan That (http://www.gog.com/game/time_gentlemen_please_ben_there_dan_that). I’ve been playing a lot of darker stuff lately and could use some lighter fare. I’ll let you know what I think of the game when I get the chance to play it.

    1. I heard reviews that said the console/PC version is much better than the 3DS version. If your experience is far better than my own, at least a portion of it can probably be chalked up to the console vs. portable difference that most games suffer from. But please, do let me know!

      1. Sometimes there is real difference in ports (cf. American McGee’s Alice on PC to the 360/PS3 ports that came with Madness Returns) and sometimes there isn’t a real difference but a felt difference (e.g. Dark Souls and Mutant Mudds being said to play significantly better with a controller).

        When it comes to Rayman Origins I’m not yet sure. I’ve only gone so far as to finish the level with the first Moskito and unlock the 25-electoon cost level in Glade of Dreams, but so far everything feels smooth.

  4. Can I reccomend Jungle Run? It’s a lot easier, you’ll rarely die, the only reason you’d replay a level is to get all 100 Lums, and each new collection utilises the ones before. There is a more difficult level at the end of each collection, and thise are frustrating, but not required. That’s the Dark Souls platformer bit.

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