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'Rayman Origins': Preview

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Rayman Origins

© Ubisoft


Rayman Origins has been on quite a journey since it was announced at E3 2010. The Ubisoft platform game was once destined to be an episodic, downloadable adventure for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, but has since blossomed into a full retail title, scheduled for release on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and 3DS. We had a chance to put the new game through its paces and see whether or not the four-player co-operative experience could match the likes of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and LittleBigPlanet.

As the title suggests, Rayman Origins is a prequel to the main series of games and details the rise of Rayman as the hero we've come to know and love. With no rabbids in sight (at least not in the levels that we sampled), the game reverts to well known characters from the original titles, including Globox, Betilla the Fairy and Mr. Dark. The story has something to do with nightmares in the Glade Of Dreams, but that's not important right now, we just want to see how it plays.

Rayman Origins

© Ubisoft

Rayman Origins

© Ubisoft


Rayman Origins screenshots

Origins Evolution

There's certainly a lot going on in Rayman Origins. The platform action is incredibly fast-paced and fun, with lots of double jumping, hovering, swinging and sliding. Players can beat the living daylights out of each other to compete for loot, or work together to form human towers and access hidden items and secrets. Dead cohorts float around the screen until a teammate slaps them, while enemies can be jumped on or beaten until they pose no more threat. There are flying sections resembling old-school shooters, screen-filling bosses and speedy set-pieces in which players must escape crumbling caves and temples. With upwards of 50 levels and 20 hours of gameplay, a retail release certainly seems justified.

Intrigued by the shift from episodic download to full retail release, we asked Ubisoft's Michael Micholic to tell us about the evolution of Rayman Origins. "It was originally intended to be a downloadable title but things ended up changing quite a bit," he explains. "We got so excited about the game and started coming up with ideas for characters, levels and different types of gameplay, and it just started to grow into something much bigger than a downloadable title. The way Rayman plays is that it kind of has a loop where you finish a world, gain an ability and then move on to the next world and gain another ability. Then you go back to an old world with all of your accumulated skills, and you don't play the same maps, but you tackle the world with all of these new techniques, which just isn't possible with an episodic, downloadable title."

Rayman Origins

© Ubisoft

Rayman Origins

© Ubisoft


Rayman Origins screenshots

Living, breathing landscapes

Remarkably, for a game so crammed full of content, Rayman Origins might not have seen the light of day were it not for Ubisoft experimenting with a new game engine. "The project started with Michel Ancel, the creator of Rayman, wanting to craft a new game engine," Micholic reveals. "He brought together some really great artists, people from outside of the industry, people from Disney and Pixar, just some really talented 2D artists. Then he brought in engineers, and his goals were to figure out how to take this cool 2D art and bring it to life. Hopefully you'll see that in the game, when you really look at it, you'll see these paintings and drawings and some really cool character design, and it all stems from this idea of bringing really great drawings to life."

As we make our way through an early level based in the jungle, we can certainly see what Micholic means when he talks about bringing drawings to life. Rayman Origins is about as close to an interactive cartoon as you can imagine. The characters, backgrounds, foregrounds and everything in between, are packed with detail, and the game is as colourful as Gordon Ramsay's foul mouth. Luckily for us, the jungle level posed little challenge, because it's easy to get distracted by the wonderful animation, as well as the countless minor touches and details.

Rayman Origins E3 2011 trailer

Killer bats and snarling beasts

Surviving later levels would prove a lot more difficult, although the most challenging level we sampled was definitely the most entertaining. Set against the sandy dunes of the desert, hundreds of lethal bats fly at Rayman, inflicting instant death if (and when) they get too close. Respite comes only when bathed in the diminishing rays of light contained within numerous golden gongs. Getting to each gong is a challenging race against the clock, however, especially with the protective light shrinking at an alarming rate. Missing a wall jump, hovering at the wrong angle, or tasting friendly fire, only adds to the danger and the relatively short mission turns into a truly epic campaign.

The final chapter featured a huge snarling beast, which crashes through every obstacle as it eats its way up the screen towards Rayman and company. Players must run, jump and swing their way to the end of the level, avoiding the monster's snapping jaws as they do. Going for extra loot and the highest score is a risky (but fun) strategy likely to end in death, while a misplaced slap or punch - whether intentional or not - will send your teammates to their doom. The excellent music and quivering screen only adds to the tension and this is definitely one of the more panic-inducing boss battles we've ever experienced. Rayman Origins is shaping up to be a fantastic addition to the Christmas lineup and one that we're excited about seeing more of.

Rayman Origins will be available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in November.

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