Rayman Origins brings four-player co-op and striking 1080p visuals to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
At some point in his video game career, Rayman lost his way. Whether it was his transformation to 3D with Rayman 2: The Great Escape, or his playing second fiddle to Raving Rabbids on the Wii, he has not managed to capture the imagination of the public like his massively popular debut on the PlayStation did. And yet, as a character, he’s still incredibly endearing. With his disembodied hands and head, Rayman has a look that remains as unique today as it was in his 1995 debut. Series creator Michel Ancel knows this. With Rayman Origins, he’s making Rayman the star again, ditching the Rabbids and moving the series back to its 2D platforming roots. By setting up an isolated studio in Montpellier, France, Ancel has been able to craft Origins his way, without any unwelcome intervention from the bigwigs at Ubisoft. Has the solitary development process paid off? We took a first look at the game and spoke to the man himself to find out.
Rayman Origins is a reboot for the series and is set in the Glade of Dreams, a world imagined into existence by its creator, the Bubble Dreamer. It’s a world full of wacky creatures–some that fans of the series will recognise from the original game, such as Moskito, Betilla the Fairy, and the Electoons, as well as a host of new creations. Unfortunately, the Bubble Dreamer starts having nightmares, thus bringing less desirable creatures into the world. As the nightmares begin to infect the environment, the Electoons succumb to the influx of evil and turn into the Darktoons. It’s Rayman’s job to rescue the Electoons and hopefully bring peace to the Glade of Dreams.
Our look at Origins began with a look at the technology behind the game, which takes the form of a brand-new 2D engine that runs at a speedy 60 frames per second in full 1080p HD. Rayman was paraded through an empty white space, where we immediately noticed how sharp he looked, with his trademark floating limbs and floppy fringe bouncing around as he moved. He was soon joined by his long-serving sidekick Globox, with his tubby blue body sliding into Rayman and knocking him over. The pair soon set about slapping, kicking, and tripping each other up, complete with amusing animations and wacky sound effects. This friendly tomfoolery forms part of the game’s four-player cooperative play. Players are able to drop in and drop out of the game at any point, playing as Globox or one of two Teensie Wizards. They can help each other out with platforming puzzles or be a nuisance by beating on each other.
Eventually, Rayman and Globox stopped fighting and started making their way toward the right of the screen, where different creatures began to scroll past. The Bubble Dreamer appeared in various forms, including a Shaolin master, a vegetable, and a form of rock. More-complex creations began to appear soon after that, with the Moskito and a somewhat sexier Betilla the Fairy being the most recognisable. There were villains on show too. A humongous red monster filled the screen, with its spindly arms trying to grab the two heroes. We also caught a brief glimpse of Mr. Dark, Origins’ principal villain, but because he was shrouded in a veil of dark mist, we couldn’t see his face.
The demo moved on to a few sample levels, the first of which was set in a grassy field. Though the level was 2D, there were multiple planes that Rayman could walk through, similar to the system in Little Big Planet. He could walk behind or in front of blades of grass, with objects in the foreground appearing blurry, giving an appearance of a shallow depth of field and making it easy to concentrate on the action on the middle plane. Rather than there being random bits of scenery such as platforms to jump on, different creatures are used. Once example we were shown saw Rayman break a glass bottle with a blue creature inside. Once freed, it transformed into a set of platforms our hero could jump on in order to reach Electoons, who broke out into a joyous song when collected.
Music and sound effects play a large part in Origins and are synced to each other. This stretches as far as Rayman’s individual footsteps clicking along to the music, and enemies such as farting beans, whose farts add extra rhythm. Those beans form part of the Infernal Kitchen level, which is set in a rocky area surrounded by fire. Other inhabitants include knife-throwing chefs and wieners that attempt to knock Rayman into the fire. Another level saw Rayman walking into an area infected by the Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares; the area turned from a lush green forest into a silhouetted world that was reminiscent of the hyper-stylised visuals from Limbo.
There will be 12 environments to play through in Origins, each based on different themes. Aside from Infernal Kitchen, we saw an early level set in a forest, where we got a look at the four-player co-op in action. After an initial punching match, the four characters set off into the forest, eventually encountering a group of enemies. Rayman used his flying fists to dispatch the enemies, while the others stomped on their heads in true Mario-style. Unfortunately, a mistimed jump by Globox caused him to be killed. Rather than disappear from play, though, he turned into a balloon that could be controlled. Other players could then pop the balloon to bring Globox back into the game, ensuring that as long as at least one player remains alive, the game continues.
By working together, the four characters could also access bonus rooms filled with Electoons. One example we were shown saw Globox holding his hands up the air, which the others could use as a platform to climb to an otherwise unreachable area. Another example saw the characters handing off a vine, and by climbing down each other they could form a chain to make their way to another hidden room. Aside from leaping around platforms, Rayman and his companions can now swim in underwater areas, performing dives and leaping out of the water like dolphins. Ancel told us that these underwater areas were implemented to increase the number of places to explore and to remove the threat that water posed in the original game.
Watching the characters dive, leap around levels, and work together to solve puzzles looked like a lot of fun. Even when the characters were beating on each other, the cute animations and wacky sound effects made the game humorous to watch. The visual design was also something to behold, with the incredibly sharp visuals giving the game the look of a great cartoon. The rich colours were also a treat for the eyes–a nice break from the monotonous brown and grey colour palettes that form the basis of so many games. Rayman Origins is showing a lot of promise, and if the titular hero handles as well as he looks, platforming fans will be in for a treat. The game is due for release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 later this year. Keep reading GameSpot for more on the game from this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.