It's impossible to play Rayman Origins and not crack a smile. From its menu screens that sing to you to the wry non-verbal story cutscenes, it’s an endlessly likeable experience.
Rayman’s last starring role was way back in 2003's Hoodlum Havoc (or arguably the earliest Raving Rabbids games, though the cretinous leporids soon overshadowed their big brother), and times have certainly changed since those chunky 3D days.
The biggest revolution is dimensional - gone are the open polygonal worlds Rayman has inhabited before, replaced with 2D levels and characters. It might seem a backwards move to some but given the cartoony visuals the fanciful cast have always boasted, everything looks much better flattened out. In fact, Ubi developed a whole new set of visual development tools for this game, to allow designers to focus on art over coding concerns. It's an investment that paid off, as Origins is one of the best looking titles of the year, a simply gorgeous animated endeavour with richness and depth that jumps from the screen.
Luckily, it's also a joy to play. A platformer in the classic sense, you’ll jump and slide your way through imaginative worlds collecting Lums and Electoons in order to wake the sleeping Bubble Dreamer, defeating the evil Darktoons as you go with an assortment of attacks. Throw in shooter levels with you flying on mosquitoes, speed chases through collapsing caverns and battles against gargantuan bosses and you have a game that’s entertaining for kids but challenging enough to maintain the interest of older players too. Multiplayer introduces up to three of Rayman's friends, able to co-operate with each other to navigate trickier obstacles. The only real criticism is the speed characters move - just slow enough to be annoying, leaving you hugging the sprint button.
With scores of unlockable extras, challenge modes and a high replay factor, Rayman Origins oozes charm and imagination from every frame. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen