I heard all of the critics raving about how wonderful Rayman Origins was last fall, and I wanted to pick up it up and give it a try, truly I did. Sadly it was released right in the middle of one of the busiest holiday gaming seasons in recent memory. When I saw that it was coming to the Vita as a launch title, I made it my mission to seek it out. Boy am I glad that I did. The almost universal praise for Rayman Origins is well deserved.
Rayman Origins is a 2D side-scrolling platformer that is a reboot of the classic Rayman series. There is a story in there somewhere – maybe something about Rayman’s buddies snoring too loudly? There are also captured nymphs, and adorable little electoons to be freed. It’s all nonsense, but it’s wonderful, whimsy-filled nonsense.
The amount of creativity poured into this game is astonishing. The music is FREAKING ADORABLE without ever getting saccharin or annoying. There is an entire level based around a didgeridoo. The hand-painted visuals are nothing short of luscious, and work wonderfully to show off the Vita’s amazing five inch OLED screen. Each world is magically unique and interesting. Trust me when I say that you will never be bored.
The overall pacing of Rayman Origins is also brilliantly done. You gain a new ability in each of the first five worlds, building up your repertoire of skills at a reasonable pace, so that by the time you reach the second half of the game you have everything you need to get through the more hairy platforming sections. If I had a complaint about Origins, it would be that the last few levels ended up going from challenging to frustrating. Typically the levels have generous check points that keep you from feeling any frustration, but in a few cases, when the game designers decide they really want to turn the screws, they are notably absent. One particular level had me completely flummoxed. Maybe it had something to do with me playing it late at night, but after about an hour of trying to get through a one minute segment I had to give up in a fit of a rage. Of course the next morning I beat it on the third try. The anger from the previous night was washed away. I just can’t stay mad at you Rayman!
You are most likely wondering about the differences between the Vita version and the original console versions. From my research and from playing a demo on Xbox Live, I can tell you this – it’s smaller. Everything else seems spot on.
Beyond how the game looks and plays, there are some differences in modes. One of the big selling points for the original Rayman Origins was a four player co-op mode. Sadly this mode is absent. It is worth noting that the original mode was couch co-op only, but it would have been an excellent upgrade if Ubisoft had given us a co-op mode to play with our friends over the internet.
Replacing the missing co-op is a new ghost mode. This is essentially an asynchronous race mode. You can send your best times to your PSN buddies, and they can race against your ghost and try to beat your time.
Another new feature is a type of collectible called relics. They are scattered throughout most levels and when you find them, they open up a piece of wall mural that explains more of Rayman’s origins. The thing is, even if you are looking for them, you will never see them. They are meant to be difficult to find, and by the time I had finished the game, I hadn’t found a single one on my own. If you are lucky enough to find a relic, you can share it via the Vita’s Near functionality, the idea being that the community could work through finding relics together. I have since improved my relic hunting skills – the trick is to listen to for their rattling and knocking sounds.
The Vita’s touch screen also comes into play, albeit in completely optional ways. When Rayman hits an enemy, they become “bubblized”, making them harmless, but if you can hit them a second time, you get a little point bonus. In the Vita version you can also tap the bubblized enemies on the touch screen to pop them. Another touch-related function is the ability to pinch the screen to zoom in and out. Mostly this is just a nice way to zoom in and really appreciate the lush surroundings. You can also zoom all the way out to find secret areas, or zoom way in to help with your relic hunting.
If you have a Vita and didn’t try out the console version of Rayman Origins last fall, I urge you to pick this up. It is pure fun, top to bottom, and really shows off what the Vita can do. If you already played Rayman Origins, there isn’t enough new here to compel a purchase, unless you just want another run-through of the wonderful world of Rayman – and I certainly wouldn’t blame you.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS Vita version of Rayman Origins provided by Ubisoft. It is also available for the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii.