He had no arms or legs. This is how he led a nation.
Well, Rayman doesn't actually lead a nation in his latest outing, but I'd certainly vote for him and his cabinet of cadres after the absolutely delightful Rayman Origins. But this begs some very specific questions:
Why did Ubisoft release this on the same day as their blockbuster Assassin's Creed outing? Why have you not heard of this game? Why is Rayman jumping on those birds?
None of that matters, though. What matters is that you play this game, by any means necessary.
Rayman, Globox, and their Teensie pals awake some nasty weird zombie grandma and then they get yelled at and then their friend's teeth goes missing and then they're caught in some weird dream land where they have to collect these musical electoons and save this women and...
You know what? The plot really isn't that important. Rayman Origins is easily the best platforming gameplay in years since Super Mario Bros 3. As sacrilegious as that may sound, Rayman outdoes Mario in nearly every regard.
Most of this comes from the brilliant level design. You'll travel through stages that project you along at blinding speeds. New worlds will evolve to match your newfound abilities. Some levels will require patience and thorough exploration whereas others will make you run like hell to survive. At the end of most worlds, bonus stages allow you to hop on the back of a mosquito and side-scroll your way to the next world.
And how have I not mentioned the art and design yet? In HD, Rayman Origins is easily the prettiest game of the year. Hand-drawn sprites and environments teem with life and dirt and shine and grime and love. There's not one object that wasn't passionately crafted by a developer.
That's the true magic of Rayman Origins. It's hard not to fall for the game because it feels like there's someone behind the scenes, pulling strings, and opening the right doors and windows, so that light shines on everything you're supposed to see, hear, and touch. Hidden paths and bonus objectives make for a sense of discovery and surprise that many games aspire to, yet few accomplish.
Those bonus objectives range from hidden crates, to gathering enough electoons (coins), to making it through the level at a breakneck pace. If you didn't find every crate, you'll want to go back and play the level again. Even if those extra medals weren't available to you, you'd probably want to head back through anyways.
Part of that replayability is generated by the absolutely painless process of dying. Rayman Origins is challenging, to be sure, but never frustratingly so. You could try a level 15 to 20 times, but you'd progress and get further than you did before. There are no Game Over screens and no one mocks you for failing. Rayman and company simply swell up like a balloon and comically explode before setting you back to your last checkpoint.
Playing the game with one to three friends only adds to the insanity and enjoyment. When you die, your partner can touch your floating balloon of a corpse and revive you. Of course, they could also be the reason you've perished, having smacked you into that spiked, floating blowfish they just lept over.
I won't lie. Part of the joy in Rayman Origins is that it comes so unexpectedly. After a long series of Rabbid spin-offs, Rayman regains the spotlight as well as his old friend, Michel Ancel. It's apparent that the two have joined forces again, resulting in the best Rayman game in the series and one of the best games this year.
Have I not convinced you? What more do you need to hear? Would it be more apparent how genius Rayman Origins was if you saw me chasing a buxom lady trapped in the jaws of a nefariuos black creature while I gathered singing and dancing creatures neatly arranged so that the strange, many-armed creature floating in space could swing me to the next collapsing platform?
Just play the game. Please? For the sake of gamers everywhere, put down the "Battle of Duty" and leave behind that gajillionth Mario title and enjoy Rayman Origins with some friends. Your inner child will laugh and your thumbs will thank you for it.
Review based on PS3 version. Copy provided by publisher.