Gamescom 2011: Rayman Origins Hands-On Preview – Food and Music? Play On!
Written Wednesday, August 24, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Everyone's favourite floaty-limbed wotsit is back, and this time he's brought friends with him. Dan has already gone hands-on with Rayman Origins at E3 last month, and did a pretty comprehensive job in summing up exactly what it's all about. We had a second chance to go hands-on with Rayman Origins at Gamescom, visiting three levels from three of the game's five distinct universes, namely the Mountain, Music and Food universes. In case you missed our last preview though, Rayman Origins sees a return to the 2D side-scrolling platformers of yesteryear, albeit with some gorgeous hand-drawn high definition art on display and its own line in tongue-in-cheek humour.
With co-operative gameplay for up to 4-players, Rayman Origins is massively fun from the moment we pick up the controller. It's also incredibly intuitive, and immediately you'll find yourself vaulting off the walls, double-jumping and flapping about to maintain your air time. Playing as Rayman's sidekick, Globox on one of the Mountain universe stages entitled 'Frosty Delight', we find ourselves sliding around on the ice, falling into traps and missing platforms by a hair's breadth at first, but before long, we're back into the swing of platforming, leading the pack.
With Rayman and two teensies making up the rest of our foursome, we quickly discover that it's hilarious to slap one another around a bit, making for some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, as players sabotage careful jumps with a quick slap to the face, or knock us off the screen. Of course, there's a time and a place for the slapping antics, and before long we resolve to forge ahead and make some progress. With players dying left right and centre, and turning into bubbles that can be saved by other players, slapping then becomes the device for bursting said bubbles to return them to the game, a lot like New Super Mario Bros on the Wii.
Breaking down icy pillars and gaining the ability from Betilla the fairy to shrink and fit through narrow gaps, we soon manage to traverse the tough Frosty Delight stage, and head on to get our first look at the Music universe in a level called 'Gone With the Wind', which switches up the gameplay by dispensing with so many platforms by tasking the player with floating on musical updrafts. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! Controlling Globox's flapping on the breeze is simple enough, but when millimetre-perfect navigation through spiky hazards floating in mid-air is the order of the day, things get a lot more challenging.
Hold down the jump button in the air, and Globox flaps his arms where Rayman spins his floppy hair to float for a second, so timing your button presses to boost your way through the faint blue gusts of tuneful wind, swerving between tubes that spit you out in other areas and jets of air that switch on and off, shooting you up to the top of the screen or causing you to fall into a bottomless abyss. It soon becomes chaotic as all four players end up dying over and over, prompting bubble-bound characters to float around awaiting a slap from a member of the team. Teamwork is vital in getting through the levels, and you can be more of a hindrance than a help if you're not careful. If all four players end up in bubble form, you'll explode and have to go back to the beginning of the section you're currently struggling with.
Dispatching flying black eyeball monsters at the end of the level grants us access to a locked cage, which breaking open concludes the stage and rewards you with various bonuses based upon your performance. The more Electoons and Death Medallions you gather, the more you'll fill up your end of level test tube meter-type thing, giving you a completion rating. The impetus to go back and complete every level perfectly will be strong, if the full game is anywhere near as addictive and enjoyable as our hands-on demo. Finishing the Gone With the Wind stage, after multiple deaths, we contemplate how hard the game will be in single-player with no one to rescue us from our death bubble, then move on to the 'Don't Burn Dinner' stage from the Food Universe.
Now, the Frosty Delight and Gone With the Wind levels were challenging enough, but Don't Burn Dinner is something else, with collapsing platforms, small jumping platforms and more deathtraps than a shonky old theme park. The whole stage is a course inundated with hazards, whether it's an oily pan spitting smiley pancakes into the air that you have to quickly hop across, or forks with food on the end of them that slide downwards to reveal the prongs that impale you and sausages writhing around on a hotplate that you also have to leap onto. It's pretty taxing stuff, but never loses the fun factor, no matter how hard things get.
Rayman Origins also looks simultaneously quirky and gorgeous too, with fantastic animation provided by the proprietary UbiArt Framework. It goes without saying that this is a massively appealing game, filling a 2D platforming void that hasn't really been properly accounted for since Sonic and Mario's heyday during the 90s. The prospect of 60 levels across all five universes (translating to roughly 20 hours or so of gameplay) actually has us salivating, simply because Rayman Origins is entertainment in its purest form. Fun, deceptively simple, yet wonderfully challenging platforming that demands to be played with friends, Rayman Origins should be just the ticket to provide some welcome levity amongst the military shooters and other big blockbuster games dominating the end of the year. And well, slapping your mates around is always gratifying.
Rayman Origins is out on November 15th, 2011 in North America and November 18th, 2011 in Europe.