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Rayman Origins (Xbox 360) artwork

Rayman Origins (Xbox 360) review

"It's only the best platformer I've played in a really long time. "

When it comes to platformers, I've never felt a strong desire to achieve that lofty "100%" completion rating. I cut my teeth on these games, and I never saw NES fare such as Super Mario Bros. keeping track how much ground I covered. Players simply completed levels, one after another, without worrying about finding special coins or other goodies that might unlock more advanced challenges. They weren't even necessarily expected to play through the entire game, thanks to warp zones and the like.

When it comes to platformers and collectibles, then, I follow a simple rule that has served me well: if it's fun, I go for it. Otherwise, I don't. I may never do all that can be done or see everything there is to see, but I enjoy myself along the way and that's what matters. That simple mindset allowed me to get the most out of Rayman Origins, which turned out to be one of the most engaging mascot platformers I've ever played. It ranks right up there with Mario's best output, and rests a step above other classics featuring guys like Sonic, Donkey Kong (and assorted family members) and Spyro.

Part of the appeal lies in the way Rayman Origin resembles a feature-quality cartoon. The graphics are bright and colorful, animations are amusing and the music does a great job of straddling the line between whimsical and thematic. For a game that looks like something I watched on Saturday mornings as a child, it's pretty tough, but unlimited lives and reasonably frequent checkpoints allowed me to progress through the 50 or so normal stages without running up against any brick walls until very nearly the adventure's end.

I bought the game used without an instruction manual, so I don't know the finer plot points. Based on the opening cutscene, I can say that Rayman and his pals fell asleep and from there proceeded to snore so loud they literally woke the dead. The dead were not amused, and now Rayman must explore a bunch of levels within five different worlds. Pretty much any genre staple you might imagine is on display, including ice, fire, water, trampolines, jumping, stomping on enemies and countless others. Sometimes these elements come at you in unexpected ways, like when the ice and fire worlds are combined. You might start a level in one setting, and descend or ascend to find yourself in another. And sometimes, you'll be thrown for a real loop. A number of levels have you ride on the back of a mosquito while engaging in some side-scrolling shooting.

When you're done with the initial worlds, you'll attempt to access Moody Clouds, the game's final location. Four guardians are corrupted, though, so you instead must return to the first four of the initial five worlds, at which point you can access new sets of four to six stages. I suppose I could complain about the backtracking, since Rayman Origins technically offers a total of 10 worlds but really only produces 6 unique environs... but man, when the levels are all so much fun to clear, that feels like a weak critique!

Once you finally access Moody Clouds and its challenges, you're in for some difficulty. The very toughest mosquito stage, the most grueling regular stage and an absolutely diabolical auto-scrolling chase scene are all on hand. Survive those ordeals and you'll be able to say you accomplished something significant in the world of video games.

Of course, by the time you make it that far, you will have gained all of the tools you need in order to succeed. It's just a matter of putting everything together while making fewer errors than you were previously allowed. In each of the five worlds, for example, you need to jet through an auto-scrolling segment in order to rescue a nymph from a monster. Your reward is always a new skill, such as the ability to sprint up walls or to swim. When you gain a new ability along those lines, you can rest assured you'll have plenty of chances to master its use over the ensuing couple of stages, which results in a smooth learning curve as the game grows more difficult and your skills improve.

I started this review by discussing collectibles and 100% completion. What all goes into that, though? For starters, there are the medallions. They mostly just offer bragging rights. The primary collectibles are Electoons, which are helpless little creatures being held captive in cages. You'll find one at the end of each level and two more in hidden rooms in most areas. A couple more of them can also be obtained if you grab a sufficient quantity of Lums (comparable to Mario's coins) or complete the level within a strict time limit. When I played, I gathered all of the captive Electoons except one (the second of two in the grueling late-game "Mecha No Mistake" stage) and obtained at least the first Lum reward in each level. This allowed me to access every mandatory stage in the game without ever having to backtrack.

If I wanted to test my skills against "Land of the Livid Dead," the extra-difficult bonus level, I would need to collect 10 artifacts hidden in optional treasure chasing levels. These stages are reasonably short, auto-scrolling gauntlets that find you pursuing a sentient, mobile treasure chest. There's one such stage in every world, and you'll need more Electoons to access each of those stages than you will to advance through the main game. I completed the first such chase, and although doing so was easier than clearing the auto-scrolling area in Moody Clouds, I still had to work at it quite a bit. Subsequent chases are considerably tougher, and great reflexes are only part of the equation. You'll also die a few (or many) times as you work to memorize trap locations and tricky jumps.

Unlocking the chase levels in the last couple of worlds requires the player to grab more Electoons than I ever did on my own trip through Rayman Origins. I would have to either work, work, work at each level until I gained all of the Lum rewards, or try to satisfy the strict time limit requirements. The latter feat would require me to essentially treat the majority of the game's levels as if they were auto-scrolling zones. I would have needed to move at a dead sprint the entire time while hoping my reflexes were pure or my luck was dumb enough to get me past the assorted hazards I encountered. That would take forever, and I have a huge backlog of games waiting for me. No thanks!

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not ragging on the game. I loved it, actually. If I had more time to spare, I would even have put some real effort into at least a few more of those treasure chest chases before moving onto some other title. Rayman Origins is the ideal platformer in this day and age, with plenty to offer players of all skill levels. I liked that I steadily got better as I progressed through the available challenges, so that I was eventually able to return to former challenges and topple them with ease. The experience reminded me why I loved classic platformers so much, and this particular one also happens to look and sounds much better than the classics of yesteryear. That all adds up to just about the easiest recommendation I can ever hope to make.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 19, 2015)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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