When I was a child, my favorite video games were side-scrolling action games on the NES. Games like Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania, and Metroid required skill, patience, and were sometimes very difficult to master. In fact, when I was younger I wasn’t even able to beat most of these games as either the boss battles were too hard or I ran out of lives forced to start all over again. Needless to say, it was frustrating to get so far in the game only to fail; yet I couldn’t stop playing and that was one of the elements that made those platforming games so special to me.
As the years passed, I didn’t play as many side-scrolling games mainly due to the drop in their popularity. Gaming consoles became more advanced and 2D games started to move into the world of 3D gaming. However, some very good side-scrolling games are still being made. One of those games is Ubisoft’s Rayman Origins which is a fun and surprisingly visually appealing game that reminded me of the pleasures and pains of the side-scrolling games from years past.
Rayman Origins tells the story of Rayman and his good-natured friends who live in a place called the Glade of Dreams, an idyllic land created by the Bubble Dreamer. One day, Rayman and his friends unknowingly disturb the creatures from the Land of the Livid Dead due to their musical snoring. The creatures from the Livid Dead become upset and decide to invade Rayman’s world and cause trouble for him and the inhabitants of the Glade. To restore the Glade back to normal, Rayman must rescue “Electoons” which help sooth the Bubble Dreamer from his nightmares that produce these horrible creatures.
As you travel through the games many levels, you also collect “Lums” which is a source of energy in the Glade and later used to earn more Electoons. You can also pick up other items along the way including hearts (which extend your life by one hit) and power-up abilities which you need to complete the game such as to attack and fly.
One of the first things I noticed when I played this game was how good it looked on the Wii. I was pleasantly surprised at how the developers were able to create a good looking and colourful game with well-drawn animated characters and scenes. You can immediately see the happy, good natured ways of Rayman and his friends and their enthusiasm to fight. You can also appreciate the type of monsters they encounter, including ones that could be straight out of a child’s bad dream.
The movements and look of the characters are smooth and their interactions with the environment look natural. The set designs were drawn like they were from an animated movie with good use of colour as if it were painted. Everything just seems to have a life on its own and the levels were always moving, dynamic and vibrant.
When playing this game, I chose the classic controller as I thought it would be the easiest way to play and it’s what I’m used to the most. However, players have the option of also playing with the Wii-mote and nunchuk as well. Regardless, learning how to play was easy and the buttons are straightforward, with one button to jump (hold down to glide); another to punch (hold down for a big punch); and in combination with the directional pad, a button which causes you to run quickly. You can attack horizontally and vertically, depending on whether you are jumping, standing still or running. You also have the option to choose between Rayman and his friends but other than some visual differences, there does not seem to be a significant difference between them.
As a side-scrolling game, Rayman Origins was a little faster than I expected. In fact, it reminded me of the old Sonic the Hedgehog in that you seem to go through some parts of the levels quite quickly (and maybe a little frantically) as you want to collect as many things as possible while avoiding being hurt by your enemies. The game seemed fairly easy in the beginning considering you have an infinite number of lives and you simply start near where you last died. And I died many times in this game, initially blaming it on my carelessness. My confidence increased after I replayed the first levels and then learned to go quickly through them. At one point I was beginning to think how quickly I could finish this game but after completing the first world, things began to become a lot harder. I was being more careful yet I continued to die a countless number of times. This reminded me of the old school games I played as a child where things required some skill, patience and some persistence in order to progress and that’s when I realized why the developers added the infinite number of lives for this game. This game can be hard which could be a turn-off for younger players.
Other than the campaign mode, Rayman Origins does not offer online capabilities to play multiplayer with your friends or strangers, which is mildly disappointing but expected for a side-scrolling game. I do have to say that playing with a friend was more fun and perhaps a little more challenging as you have to play co-operatively in order to get through a level (i.e. waiting for your friend to catch up to you). In other ways, multiplayer mode was also a little easier as after your character dies, you can simply bring him (floating along in a bubble at this point) to a place where your active friend can “pop” you and then you can continue on your way.
In regards to the storyline, there does not appear to be much progression in what you are supposed to be doing other than to collect Lums, release the Electoons, rescue Nymphs and defeat the bad guys. This really is a “pick up and play” style game with not a lot of depth to it because it really isn’t that type of game. That being said, the game is diverse as in one minute you can be running around, defeating multiple monsters with a single punch while the next minute you’re riding a mosquito and sucking up missiles being shot at you and then spitting them back at your enemies. The pace really can change from level to level which keeps you on your toes and changing up the fun. The game is also funny at times with silly moves and humor that is suitable for all audiences.
The sound in Rayman Origins is well done especially when it comes to the music. It’s catchy and I found myself humming along as I played (it can get stuck in your head especially after you get some special Lums). It really goes well with the characters you play in that it’s upbeat, cheerful and happy. The best way to describe it is as cute acoustic instrumentals. The sound effects are also well done especially when you slap the enemies or bounce around the screen after jumping off drums or mushrooms. There is no voice acting in the game, which is fine since it probably wouldn’t have significantly added to the game anyways. Perhaps a little more variety would have helped break up some of the repetitive music but it definitely is memorable.
Overall, Rayman Origins is a solid side-scrolling game for the Wii. It features both a highly entertaining and challenging platform experience. It is a wonderfully crafted game that looks fantastic for a Wii game. While Rayman Origin does not have an online multiplayer mode and could be a little too hard for some, it is a great excuse to have someone over to play and have fun together much like many of us used to do when platforming games ruled the gaming world.