Preview: Rayman Origins is so refreshingly derivative

October 23, 2011

Rayman, as a series, has always been at its best when it knew not to do too much. Both the original game and the 3D sequel took its floaty feel, distinct art style and lead character and let that set the experience apart in an otherwise-derivative platforming adventure. And that totally worked. After a decade in the wilderness, Rayman Origins takes another highly-popular game, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and follows the formula as much as possible. It works magnificently.

In the game, you play as Rayman, Globox and two little teensies we can’t stop calling Blue Toad and Yellow Toad. Because it doesn’t matter. All characters control the same, and just like NSMBW, the focus is on cooperation and sticking together. The levels are large and spread-out to accommodate all the players, and if you can’t keep up, you can just let one person traverse obstacles and rescue you afterward. In fact, the experience only diverges from Mario in two ways.

First: the visuals. Everything is hand-drawn, going for a wacky, colorful aesthetic that’s a lot of fun. It’s even more distinct than previous Rayman games, and the series was already strong in that category. Second: the level design focuses more on item collection than difficult jumping and platforming. This is how Rayman always has been, and it makes for a less-stressful playthrough.

The result is a game that makes a strong case for best multiplayer title in a season that has Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. We’ll have more on it when it releases November 15.