One of the knocks on the otherwise stellar Vita launch lineup is that it’s filled with ports of games that you would be better served playing elsewhere. It’s an odd complaint, as anyone can play anything wherever the heck they would like. But I do understand the general point. Rayman Origins is a glorious game that should, in theory, only get better as you make the image bigger and bigger. The console versions were gorgeous at 720p and the recently released PC version is insane looking at 1080p. So why is it that I find the game to be much more fun in qHD on a 5 inch OLED?
The Vita version of Rayman is, at the time of this writing, also the most expensive version. This is something I don’t have a witty retort for. Ubisoft is clearly extorting Vita early adopters. The aforementioned PC version came out *AFTER* the Vita version and is $10 cheaper. If you’re looking for a reason to not play this game this is it. Because, other than this, one doesn’t exist.
I will admit that my love affair with Rayman Origins started slowly. I rented it on the PS3 when it first came out and thought it had a cool art style and seemed to control just fine, but I just wasn’t into it. When I got it on the Vita I went through the same feelings – except this time I owned it, so I kept pushing through. The first world was good. The second world was really good. The third world was great. The fourth world melted my brain.
Rayman’s level design is clever and gorgeous, but it’s the play mechanics which create the steady rise into greatness. Like many platformers you start off with very few abilities, but as you gain more the game becomes exponentially better. When I could float after jumping I thought I had reached the apex of platform control – until about an hour later when I unlocked the ability to run up walls.
The sensibilities of Rayman Origins are really what set it apart from most platformers around these days. There has been a 2D platformer resurgence lately – which is fantastic – and it’s mostly been from wonderful indie developers. What Rayman is able to bring to the table is some big studios aesthetics. They didn’t need to make their game look retro to make it look cool because they had the money and the talent to make it look amazing in a modern way. It truly does look like you are controlling a cartoon character running through an oil painting. Rayman Origins is easily the game I’ve taken the most screenshots of with my Vita because each new thing I see I’m just so amazed by.
The game is not perfect, of course. The opening hour really is pretty blah and at parts downright confusing. I’m not sure why they even introduce you to The Snoring Tree (basically a complicated character selection stage) so early. When the game started I ran around it for 15 minutes trying to figure out where to go because I didn’t know better. Also, while the mechanics do continue to ramp up through the game I feel like the difficulty takes a pretty sudden jump which halts progression for a while. And in general the combat feels weird – I still can’t quite eyeball how far Rayman’s punch will go.
The game has tons of things to do however. The main story is long and filled with collectables to keep you going back. There is a ghost mode which turns each level a fleet-footed race to the finish – with the ability to trade ghosts over Near. It’s also fun just playing old levels for the heck of it – like a great Mario game many of these levels have a timeless feeling to them which you can return to repeatedly. If you must skip this game on the Vita due to Ubisoft extorting early adopters, I completely understand. But do yourself a favor and go find this game somewhere. It doesn’t matter which platform, this is a platformer for the ages.