Rayman Origins full review
So the strange resurgence of consciously 90s-esque platforming continues. Mario and Sonic are both busily trying to recreate their side-on roots, while Super Meat Boy and Braid have brought hardcore and arch approaches respectively to the genre that so many of today's adult gamers grew up with. Rayman: Origins arrives in a colourful storm of nostalgia, but laser-focused on being a good time first and foremost.
With its crisp, hand-drawnesque graphics is as much a living cartoon as any game has ever managed, but this mentality extends far beyond just the art style. Joyously illogical throughout, it's a parade of unpredictable absurdity. Jumping puzzles are the throughline, but around the next corner might lurk a sudden outburst of happy song, an insect-based shoot 'em up, violent fruits or the sudden ability to fly.
While, at times, it does devolve into traditionally exacting jump challenges that can interrupt the carnival with mild frustration, Rayman Origins is never guilty of resting upon its ever-grinning laurels.
As such, it's a tricky game to describe, let alone usefully convey its merriment. The plot is something to do with Rayman and his friends annoying neighbouring zombies because they're chilling out too noisily, so something happens and suddenly there are monsters everywhere and stopping them involves collecting lots of somethings because something something. Whatever.
While the Rayman devout, if there are such people, can doubtless tie it in to the previous games' events and characters, really it's the loosest of narratives - just an excuse to throw in as many visual ideas as it possibly can. If there's a downside to this lunacy, it's that the game can seem to lack a sense of purpose: you just carry on until you hit a brick wall of difficulty or get distracted by something else.
It's not a game that necessarily calls to be completed, mind. It's just there to entertain you. Until you've actually tried the thing, it's impossible to get a real sense of just how joyful it is. Underneath the mayhem, there's a very careful blend of musical cues designed to create a sense that the world is responding to you - is in fact delighted to see you.
It's very much in the vein of old Disney and Warner cartoons where the environment and its denizens would spontaneously break into song whenever the main character wandered through, but it forever avoids mawkishness.
Despite the air of wonder and glee, it's a surprisingly tough platformer. You can just about breeze through most of it without too much stress if you resist the temptation to grab all the pickups that unlock new areas and characters, but if you want to max out everything you're in for a true challenge of your reflexes and increasingly elaborate controls.
Rayman Origins was released on console a few months ago, but didn't manage to bring in the audience it deserved there. This weeks' PC version brings sharper graphics and customisable controls to the party, but most of all it's deservedly reaching a larger audience.
Rayman Origins: Specs
- PC system requirements: OS: Windows® XP / Windows Vista® / Windows® 7 (only) Processor: 3.0 GHz Intel® Pentium® 4 or 1.8 GHz AMD Athlon™ 64 3000+ Memory: 1 GB Windows XP / 1.5 GB Windows Vista, 7 Video Card: 128 MB DirectX® 9.0c-compliant video card or higher* (see supported list) Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compliant Peripherals Supported: Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, optional controller (Xbox 360® Controller for Windows recommended) *Supported Video Cards at Time of Release: ATI Radeon™ X600 XT – HD 2600 XT series NVIDIA® GeForce® 6800 GT – 8600 GT series