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June 2, 2017

Rayman Origins (Part 1)

This game is insaaaaaaaane.

Like, really crazy.

Now that this is out of the way, welcome to my first review of a game I’ve played through Ubisoft’s UPlay service! There’s a lot of things we can say about Ubisoft these days, many of which are far from positive. But damn, do they still keep their high standards for their mascot’s franchise. There is no better proof for this than Rayman’s latest two platforming titles, Origins and Legends. After being tossed out of the limelight by the Rabbids for so long, it’s good to see Rayman going back to his roots.

Just look at how stylish this all is!
Oh, it's gonna be great! But will it be difficult?
In 2011, we got Rayman Origins, the first new Rayman platform game since 2005. Between 2005 and 2011, we’ve had mini-game collections with the Rabbids, a bunch of rereleases for Nintendo DS, some remakes here and there, and a karting game, but we needed a proper new platform game. Also, that last platform game in 2005? Rayman: Hoodlums’ Revenge, which I reviewed for this blog a loooong time ago. Huh. And of course, now that I’ve played Rayman Origins, I’ll probably have to play Rayman Legends at some point too! But I’m trailing off. Let’s talk about today’s game, Rayman Origins, which was released in 2011 for PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox, and in 2012 for PS Vita, Windows, Nintendo 3DS and OS X.

Are the fairies ever explained to us?
Hm... I don't think there's much to explain.
They do love to all have the same physical pose, though.
Rayman Origins was thought up by Michel Ancel, creator of Rayman, with a very clear goal in mind: Tie up some loose ends of Rayman’s continuity, mostly by linking together the first and second game, and explaining a whole lot of story elements that weren’t touched upon. That’s not what happened, as in the end the elements did appear in the game but weren’t used to explain past elements or further the mythos. Many of the plans for this game’s plot were dropped, which is unfortunate. Thankfully, the original script was kept among the game’s files, so we have a bit of an idea of what’s going on.

Oh, and this game is also famous for mad platforming levels. The difficulty is off the charts, on the first time you play at least. Join me as I take a look at this game, its current plot, and the plot it was originally means to have. Let me tell you though, we have no time for sightseeing, this is going to be quite a ride.

"Just having a calm day, lazing off with friends... which
somehow includes the creator of all existence in my own
We do have time for a nap, though, it seems. In the very calm Glade of Dreams, Rayman and Friends are having a very musical off-day, with Rayman lazily chewing on fruit while Globox and some Teensies are sleeping – and snoring. The Bubble Dreamer, creator of this world, also known as Polokus, is seen inventing new creatures with his bubble dream pipe. The team is however unaware that a microphone nearby, disguised as a flower, is transmitting their happy sleep sounds down into the underworld known as the Land of the Livid Dead. That world is inhabited by elderly skeletons who clearly don’t appreciate the hip-hop sleep-hop beat and groove of our heroes. Despite the elderly skeletons' warnings, the group just starts snoring louder and faster, causing the resident complaining skeleton granny to send an army of monsters out in the overworld. The monsters appear to Rayman and Friends and a battle ensues, which starts well (if we can judge despite the darkness in which we only see the characters’ eyes), but Rayman’s group is eventually captured.

Don't mess with the grannies, man.

Seems like a lot. But it's not that bad. Be ready to
play a lot, though.
Rayman easily escapes his cage, and frees Polokus. We’re in the big tree of the Glade of Dreams. Going left, Rayman encounters a toothless old skeleton with a scythe who instantly blocks the way to the Land of the Livid Dead when you approach. No way to enter… unless you bring him special skull teeth that can be gathered in the game’s actual worlds. Upon leaving the Glade of Dreams, we get to the other parts of Rayman’s world.

Now, there are 10 worlds in this game (technically 11 if you count the Land of the Livid Dead, which is a bonus), but only 5 different locations (technically 6). Each location has two worlds, you visit each world a first time for worlds 1-5 and a second time for worlds 6-10.

Eh. We could just punch this skeleton into a pile of bones...
But it wouldn't be nice to these skeletons who invaded the
Glade of Dreams with their evil dark army of Hell that has
proceeded to wreak chaos and destruction in our world.

Am I the only one creeped out by all the things in the
environments that have eyes and, possibly, consciousnesses
in these fantasy worlds?
By the way, yes, I am taking my screenshots from a
4-player Let's Play. 
Our quest starts with a severely power-impaired Rayman stepping into Jibberish Jungle. It must have been a friggin’ long nap, seeing as he completely forgot how to punch enemies! Good thing he can still defeat them by jumping on their heads, Mario-style! I should also mention while I’m at it that when an enemy is defeated, they inflate like a balloon and rise, until they pop. In a kiddie world that’s perfectly fine, but I’ve seen that sort of thing used too often for another certain purpose. Even Rayman “bubblizes” and pops when he’s killed! The first level is a bit of a tutorial, showing more of Rayman’s abilities, especially the wall jump. At some point he comes across an enemy with a girl in its prison-mouth. Not just any enemy – it’s Betilla, a fairy and Rayman’s creator! Being still very good at running, our limbless wonder gives chase and finally finds the exhausted monster under the teeth of a… giant rock head. Rayman beats the enemy and frees Betilla, who shakes her butt in her skimpy outfit and announces that Rayman now has the power to punch! Yay!

Bouncy. That's some sexy hip shaking right there.

Also, hurrah, fanservice done right! Such a relief compared to the previous game I reviewed! Those hip shakes and bounces add a lot, you know.

Collect the coin! Quick! And try to keep it, don't get hurt
while you've got it with you!
Thus Rayman continues on his way, now in a mood to punch some jerks. Good thing there’s a ton of old hunters and black cyclopean creatures on the way! Soon we reach the end of the level, where he has to beat up some enemies to break the force field around a cage that contains Electoons. The level ends when the Electoons are freed, then a Teensie arrives with a giant cylindrical container to hold all the Lums you collected.

Oh right, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? This game contains a TON of Lums. And it’s like a side-quest to collect most of them. And of course, I forgot to mention the Electoons, which are little pink creatures that represent all that is good in the world of Rayman.

That's a lot of Lums. 350 times the number of levels...
No, wait, some only have 150... Er...
Never mind.
First, the Lums: There’s more than 350 to collect in every regular platforming level, with some other levels containing less. However every level that has Lums has the same goals: Collect enough Lums (usually 150) and you get a new Electoon. Collect a ton of Lums (usually 300) and you get another new Electoon (that’s two to collect in almost every level!). You can find Coins that contain 25 Lums each, but you need to keep the coin with you until it breaks into these Lums, and it will return to its original position if you get hurt – which can happen, as these damn coins are usually in places that are hard to reach. Oh, and you can often get your hands on the elusive King Lum, which will turn all nearby Lums red for a few seconds, making them worth twice their usual amount; very, very important to get some of the Electoons. Last but not least, if you collect an outstanding amount of Lums (350 in most levels), you can even win a medal! Not that the medals have any impact on the game, aside from bragging rights…

Electoons: Three for breaking their cages in the level;
one to beat its timed mode;
and two moe if you collected enough Lums.
That'll keep you busy for a while.
Speaking of the Electoons, there's more. You will always have one guaranteed Electoon at the end of a level, since most end with a cage being broken. However, every level also has two secret areas containing Electoon cages; in these areas, you have to kill every enemy and then break the cage. Last but not least, you also get an Electoon by replaying through the level in Time Attack mode – in which the easier time to beat gives said Electoon, while the harder one gives you a trophy, which is also there only for bragging rights. Of note, in Time Attack mode you are not allowed to die at all on the way between the start of the level and the flag indicating the end of the course, so you damn better know the level like the back of your hand if you want to have a chance!

That’s up to 6 Electoons per level, with some levels having only three. Speaking of, what are the types of levels here? First there’s the regular levels, where Rayman just has to reach the end, with 350 Lums and three cages. These are the only ones to include the time attack challenge.

At least there's four of us right now, that'll make things
simpler to beat up every enemy and collect all the Lums...
Next up are the Moskito levels, a shoot’em-up style of level where you control Rayman on top of a large mosquito, flying about, shooting at enemies. It’s also possible for Moskito to inhale enemies and throw them back, which is a surprisingly effective attack tactic – inhaling a great number of enemies at once, and spitting them out at an incoming threat. I’m getting a big Yoshi vibe out of this thing. That was probably the intention, though it still feels more like a shoot'em-up ship then a platforming mount.

That's some solid hair right there.
Surprisingly strong platforms, too!
Near the end of every world, there’s a special level called the Electoon Bridge. If you’ve collected enough Electoons, they will help each other to form a bridge made of yellow hair. In those levels, there’s only one cage to smash and two Electoons to save by collecting Lums, and these last two can be tricky as you need to have perfect timing. There is little margin for error, especially since you need to catch King Lums and as many other Lums as possible, preferably those turned Red because of their King..

Then of course, there’s the boss stages, where you can find only the boss, or maybe there’s a bit of a level before the boss. Not every world has a boss, though.

This is a walk in the park compared to the later treasure
chest chase levels.
And, last but not least, every world has a bonus level that can be unlocked with a greater number of Electoons. Those… Oh, those, I have a lot to say about. Each of these levels begin with Rayman encountering a treasure chest. Said living chest realizes that it doesn’t want to be smashed to bits, so it flees. Back in my day, living treasure chests were called mimics, and they could kick the asses of a whole group of adventurers! Right now, all we have is that cheap Made in China bullcrap that breaks after two punches, and that chest knows it, so it flees, we have to chase it! That’s ridiculous! On top of that, the chest is programmed in such a way that you cannot catch up with it until it reaches a dead end. In the end, it’s worth it, as each treasure chest contains a ruby Skull Tooth that can then be brought back to the skeleton guarding the entrance to the Land of the Livid Dead. Ten teeth and you can go visit the underworld! Who wouldn’t want to go to Hell to see if they can then get out?

"Uh oh, if he catches me, he's gonna smash me.
I don't want that, I better run while I can.
Thank God the environment is in my favor!"

Okay, we still need 200 more to get Zombie Globox,
Why would we even want him?
For bragging rights, that's why!
Oh, and the Electoons serve another purpose too; gee, is there anything they CAN’T do? Well, saving themselves out of cages for one… but they can be used to unlock additional characters. See, Rayman Origins was created with multiplayer in mind, and Michel Ancel really wanted to make it possible for players to go through levels as a team. You can play as Rayman, Globox, and any number of Teensies – but only four are available at first. You can unlock various other characters – 12, in fact. Most of them are pretty quick to unlock, too; there’s a Globox-colored Rayman, a red Globox (apparently his real color?), then a whole bunch of Teensies of all kinds… and then we get to Anti Rayman, at 220 Electoons. For the record, that’s about 90% of all the Electoons in the game. Last but not least, you unlock Zombie Globox after collecting the final, 246th Electoon in the game. Congrats if you get them all! Polokus will even have some words to say for each character when you tug his beard in the Glade of Dreams!

It's almost silly how much easier the Mosquito levels
are with four players shooting at the enemies.
Doesn't make the platform levels any easier, though...
Alright, so… um… I think it’s about time I talk about the plot again, no? Where was I… Oh, right! Rayman had just finished the level where he saves Betilla! Good thing he keeps whatever powers he gains from the nymphs… At the end of the Jibberish Jungle, Rayman climbs on Moskito and battles a big avian called the Mocking Bird. And after this, he runs towards the Desert of Didjiridoos. As the name indicates, this is the good ol’ desert world as we see so often in video games… but there’s a twist to it! It’s also a musical land! I love it when designers combine two or more of the various video game settings to make something unique. In there, various animals with musical themes, a bunch of bouncy bongos, and a lot of hot winds. Speaking of, it’s in this world that Rayman saves the second nymph of his world, who teaches him the famous helicopter hair ability that he was inexplicably lacking so far! At last, Rayman can fly! Well… hover. But the winds will often give him the push to fly wherever he wants!

It's not flying, it's floating with style.

So, fruit juice and half-oranges. You know what I've
never seen in those food-themed worlds? Actual
booze. A booze world, I do't think I've ever seen
that before.
So we get to the third world, Gourmand Land, which is just as creative. It’s probably the most special world so far, as it combines not two, but three concepts! The entire world is based around food, if the name didn’t clue you in. However, it’s also split between an ice world made of cold foods, and a fiery land made of peppers and other hot, hot, HOT, BURNING stuff. The three combine surprisingly well! And it all looks great, too; the artistic direction for this game is incredible.

There is no boss to speak of in this world, but we do save the third nymph, who gives Rayman the ability to change sizes when he runs into a funnel. It’s one of the rare times where getting smaller can be beneficial!

I’m gonna stop here for now, I’ll resume discussing this game on Monday. I knew I’d have a lot to say, but I wasn’t expecting to say so much about this game’s mechanics. Oh well, goodbye!