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June 5, 2017

Rayman Origins (Part 2)

"Et-lat e-may out-way!" Yeah, if you want to understamd
most of anything said by the voice actors in this game, you
got to brush up on your pig latin skills.
Ouldn't-shay e-bat oo-tay ard-hay, o-nay?
I spent most of Part 1 explaining the various elements of Rayman Origins, like the levels, and everything the Electoons are used for… I guess everything else will be discovered as we go through the game’s plot! I only covered the first three worlds, so there’s got to be something more in the 8 remaining worlds, right?

Past Gourmand Land, we reach the Sea of Serendipity. Immediately, we’re shown a land of pirates, and we save another nymph who gives Rayman the power to dive! You heard that right, folks; at the start, Rayman couldn’t punch or fly, and he couldn’t even dive underwater. He had to learn these things by saving nymphs!

He's got a point there! Less bones to break!
Plus, Rayman has everything else that matters.
And I do mean everything else.
It’s almost silly that he had to re-learn many of these things, since Origins chronologically takes place between Rayman 2 and Rayman 3, at a time where Rayman probably had some of these abilities already. We also get to learn a couple things, especially through the Bubble Dreamer Polokus’s comments: Apparently Rayman has no limbs because the nymphs, who made him to be the protector of this realm, ran out of Lums and thus only made the important parts. Arms, legs? Who needs that, right? Also, who knew that Globox is supposed to be colored red like the other wizards we see from his species, but a weird berry he ate turned him blue?

Only the Rayman series can make that stuff up, folks! It's good to have that comical edge in the mythos.

The Sea of Serendipity has a very distinctive soundtrack – so far, we could hear the Lums singing in the music of the previous worlds, but this is where they become very clearly audible. Oh gee, I didn’t know Alvin and the Chipmunks had been reduced to singing on video game soundtracks. And is that someone drowning in the background of this track? Uh... let’s move on…

These sages should be happy. Yeah, their beards are tugged
in a pain beyond belief, but at least they're not on this
ultra-dangerous adventure.
Past this world is the Mystical Pique, a mountainous area that also houses a monastery, where several of Globox’s wizard fellows can be met. Believe it or not, they’re floating on air. And their beards can be used as vines to jump from platform to platform, too! Rayman’s world is the land of ultra-strong beards that never rip off. In the Mystical Pique, Rayman saves the fifth nymph, who teaches him how to run on walls! Hurray, now Rayman can replicate Sonic! And look at that Mario loser, only able to wall-jump… Rayman can do that AND run up walls too!

We>'re eventually gonna defeat that thing... we just need to stay alive and
stop fighting each other. Easier said than done.

Advantage of nymphs: They're all hot.
Disadvantage: They all have the exact same body type.
At the end of this world, Rayman defeats a golem and opens the next world… Moody Clouds? Actually no, as Rayman enters that world’s first level and finds the nymphs trying to open a portal to the Moody Clouds. There’s only one problem. The four sages of the lands are unresponsive, having morphed into giant unspeakable creatures - without their power to rely on, the portal stays closed. And thus Rayman needs to defeat them in order to access the Moody Clouds, where the true enemy lies.

On this, four new worlds open, each connected to one of the previous four worlds. This is also where the game stops holding back. You want it difficult? You’ll get it VERY difficult. This game has infinite lives, and you’ll need every single one of them. I swear I must have spent over a thousand lives in this game, possibly even more, I died so often.

That trailer's not even one hundredth of the ways to die.

The Jibberish Jungles open the way to the Ticklish Temples, you can access the Grumbling Grottos from the Desert of Didjiridoos, the Luscious Lakes are just across Gourmand Land, and the Sea of Serendipity hides the Angsty Abyss. Each one of them has a King of a realm of Rayman’s world, transformed and given a monstrous form by the mysterious mastermind behind this mess.

The Ticklish Temples house Daisy, the cute, flowery lord of the jungles. Only problem is, it’s been turned into… this:

Sheesh, is that what it looks like before putting on makeup in the morning?

And that is how a giant, threatening monster loses all
The battle starts with Rayman fleeing from Daisy by taking altitude. Later he gets trapped in an enclosed space with the monstrous plant and must fight it. This is where I realized, during my playthrough, something that tends to be a recurring issue with ultra-difficult games like this. See, Daisy’s pattern never changes regardless of what Rayman does. First it yells, then it rams into the leftmost wall, and Rayman has to run up the wall on the left, jump to the ground, run up the wall on the right to smash the weak point appearing on Daisy’s forehead. Next it climbs on the ceiling and smashes its head on the exact same spots in the exact same order, then Rayman smashes the new weak point that appears on its ass. Then Daisy jumps forwards and backwards, always in the same manner, then attacks with its tongue and the last weak point is in its mouth. It’s always the exact same pattern regardless of what you do.

After realizing this with the boss fights, I realized the same happened in most of the later levels, especially the ones that had tons of obstacles always appearing in the same spots and using the same tricks. Beating every level in Rayman Origins for the first time is a grueling, difficult task - in the last 5 worlds especially. Beating them again becomes easier and easier as you learn the patterns. Then you will breeze through most of them. Enemies in games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii have enough programming leeway that they can still make the game difficult (as an example, Piranha Plants shoot towards Mario, not in a precise direction), but in platformers where the environment is the hero’s greatest enemy, and said environment always behaves the same way, the challenge gets diminished every time you beat one particular level and learn wat it does, and when it does it.

Well, that was a rant!

Here's a dragon stomach in serious need of TUMS.
When Daisy is defeated, it reverts to a tiny, cute form. Aww, adorable! That’s one saved King, time to go save the others. We face the Mocking Bird again at the end of the Grumbling Grottos. The Luscious Lakes end with a battle against a giant dragon – or, well, a fight against the weak spots in its belly, with accompanying rising and sinking lava and waves of freaking fire, because no matter where Rayman is, everything wants him dead. And of course, once it’s beaten, the battle isn’t over, then you have to make Rayman run out of its mouth. Again; patterns, learn them, because the obstacles are always in the exact same places. Then, we fight the final King in the Angsty Abyss, a tiny shrimp that became a giant dragon-like monster shrimp.

Allergics beware, this is a King Size Shrimp.

With all four Kings saved, the way to the tenth world, Moody Clouds, is open. What awaits for us in there is a land of clouds, of course, as the name indicates, but it’s combined with a factory-like place containing robots and giant deadly machinery. Then again, that’s fine, it’s just the 666th deadly thing in this world.

Yup, definitely a fan of Mister Dark.
Just check those posters behind him.
Rayman runs through a few engine levels, and then we get a sequence of levels making up the “final dungeon”, if we can call it as such. In “The Reveal”, we arrive in the room where the true villain appears: It’s a Teensie known as The Magician. A big fan of Mr. Dark, apparently. May or may not have hatched this entire plan only because he was bullied at wizard school; the beta script for the game is kinda unclear. Why is it such a twist? Because the Magician... it's also this same guy, who followed you around to track your progress all this time, and was overjoyed at your successes in collecting Lums and Electoons.

Can you say "Traitor all along"? I mean, I knew something
was up once I realized he wasn't sincere when dry-humping
the big tube full of Lums.

Mechas of all the bosses so far?
Yeah, no... weonly have two.
Can you imagine the insane cost for parts and maintenance?
Not out of resources, the Magician sends Rayman down a floor trap, and the limbless wonder has to battle mechanical versions of Daisy and the Mocking Bird from earlier. With these beaten, Rayman runs back to the Magician’s room. Caught off-guard, the enemy drops his hat, realizes he’s cornered, starts bobbing his head, and then dances. Yup, dances. Much like how other Rayman enemies just break into a dance number when they’re beaten. So wait, since the Rabbids let Rayman join in their musical competitions so easily, does that mean they were always defeated from the get-go? I’m probably overthinking this. Rayman embarks on the dance number and has a fun time until the music ends… at which point the Magician flees. Oh, crap! He played us! But that’s alright, we can follow him.

Fleeing from deteriorating evil lairs is intense workout,
even for big-name video game heroes.
What follows is a sequence awfully similar to the Treasure Chest Chase levels, where the pattern of the level doesn’t change whatsoever, and Rayman isn’t allowed a single mistake as he runs, jumps and swings among the falling debris of the Magician’s Tower. It’s just as hard as the later treasure chest levels, too! You need ungodly precision to pull it off. Still, Rayman catches up with the Magician, who jumps into a flying boat to flee some more. Rayman gives chase on his trusty Moskito, shooting at flies and bombs on the way. Hey, are we ever gonna get to battle that damn Magician and his damn ship? Technically, we get to weaken it, but we can’t stop it.

Sun-shattering kaboom in 3... 2... 1...

It eventually reaches the end of its course… that is, breaking the glass around a miniature burning star in the deepest of the Moody Clouds factory… shattering it, destroying the entire goddarned factory in the process. All four playable characters (Rayman, Globox, any Teensies) fall from the sky… and land right in the spot they were in when they were loudly sleeping at the start of this entire mess, going back to their raplike slumber. Nobody knows if the Magician survives, and it seems that nobody cares. But wait, aren’t the inhabitants of the Land of the Livid Dead still angry?

AKA the land of Never-Catch-A-Break.
That’s okay. Beat the treasure chest chase level in every world, collect the 10 ruby Skull Teeth, bring them all back to the skeleton blocking the way to the Land of the Livid Dead, and then enter that level… which is, by far, the most brutal one in the game. It starts with a quick platformer section with attacking boney grannies, then  Rayman has to run and jump through a section that involves a giant skeleton spine speeding through. That part continues with a lot of high-flying, which would remind one of these chest-chasing sections… also, a lot of running upwards on falling platforms. Every single part of this requires precise timing. The next area? FIRE. FIRE EVERYWHERE. And you must carefully run across platforms, than navigate your downward flight to avoid streams of fire… but you can’t be too slow because there’s a goddamn spiky vine chasing you downwards!

Somewhere out there, Mario is watching with his mouth agape,
while Kaizo Mario brushes it off as "no big deal".

That's one Hell of a tough-looking boss.
What do you mean, it loses all of its eyes in one turn if
you're fast enough and then it just has one big weak spot?
Thankfully, the final room in this enormous level is just another boss. Big Mama, the “Mother of Nightmares”, awaits here, bathing in a pool of lava, staring at Rayman with her 15 eyes. Much like the level that preceded it, the fight against Big Mama is all about patterns and the player’s reaction speed. After Rayman runs a bit on Big Mama’s spiky arms, the weak point appears only for a half-second. Punching it which brings the hero close to her eyes – and you have to pop them all! Thankfully you have enough time to pop them all in a single turn, but if you must go through the sequence that precedes this, just know that it never really changes. Again – patterns. Popping all of the eyes triggers a second sequence of arm movements for Big Mama, then the weak point shows up again, and then you can pop the big weak point on Big Mama’s forehead, which transforms her back to her real form, from a gigantic monster to a… gothic nymph who actually looks pretty cool? She quips that this was a nightmare – oh, ha ha, I went through all that trouble and died 150 times in the Land of the Livid Dead alone just to hear that joke, totally worth it. And thus, with this, I can say we’ve seen everything the game had to offer.

This whole game is a nightmare... the first time you play, at least.
Nice hair bones, by the way.

…Oh, of course, you can now go hunt every last missing Electoon, as well as every medal (for collecting the maximum number of Lums in every level) and trophy (for beating the best time in every level). All for bragging rights, of course. And two extra playable characters with the remaining Electoons.

Quite a lot of levels to explore, spread across 10 worlds.
(Technically 11, if you count the Land of the Livid Dead)
So, my verdict of this game? It’s pretty damn awesome. Hard enough to make you pull your hairs out, but awesome. Seriously, this is hands-down the hardest platform game I’ve ever played – although its difficulty is greatly diminished after a first playthrough. As soon as you know the game by heart, it’s not much of a challenge anymore. You could say that it’s true of every game out there, but it’s particularly noticeable in Rayman Origins where the world itself wants to kill you, perhaps moreso than the enemies – but since the world’s behavior in a level hardly, if ever, changes, if you know what’s coming, you’ll never have any issue avoiding the various death traps. It’s different from other platform games where the enemies and their AI lead to risks of death as soon as their behavior is a little less predictable. The first time you’ll play this game, however, you will think of it as insanely difficult.

Multiplayer does make the Moskito sections easier.
What is really awesome, though, is the option to play with up to three friends. Michel Ancel took inspiration from other multiplayer platform games released around that time (such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii), implementing a similar system where characters who die reappear in bubbles and can be saved by other players. The creator of Rayman felt, however, that many of these recent games lacked a form of player rivalry; you could jump on other players, toss them around, but never actively harm them; thus, in Rayman Origins, he made it possible for players to smack around and punch each other, with actual life losses. As if the game wasn’t already hard enough! Still, I applaud the idea, I agree with Ancel that some games would have benefited from that little extra possibility for rivalry.

Gotta admit, this all looks really great.
The art is simply fantastic, the game is an absolute treat, a marvel for the eyes. Things couldn’t get prettier than that… well, until we get to Rayman Legends where they give 3D lighting to the 2D models to give an awesome style. The lands to explore are wonderful, helped by the ton of detail put in every environment. It’s especially great seeing as said environment tends to move a lot, making things even more interesting to look at. The music greatly complements this, even changing mid-level depending on the mood of the new area Rayman entered. They even manage to be funny with some of these tracks, adding elements that you might only notice when listening to the track alone!

16 playable characters, 246 Electoons to collect, eleven worlds, multiple challenges… Honestly, this game is awesome. You could buy it on Steam for 19.99$... Or, if you got lucky, you could have received the game for free through Ubisoft’s UPlay platform. In which case, play it! You will rage, you will swear, you will probably give up and then come back, and then you will enjoy it.

Next week… a surprise Steam Pack!