When the original Rayman was released in 1995, it was lauded for its lush and vibrant visuals, and it didn't hurt that the game featured some incredible level designs either. But after jumping aboard the 3D platformer bandwagon for the better part of a decade, the series recently took a trip back to its 2D roots with the multi-platform release of Rayman Origins. The result was one of the most visually stunning 2D releases ever crafted, and a real triumph for creator Michel Ancel.
Now, Ubisoft has brought its 2D masterpiece over to PlayStation Vita, and despite losing the signature multiplayer mode of the console release, Rayman Origins proves to be a perfect fit for the handheld and for players wanting a dose of engaging action on the go.
While platforming plays an integral role in navigating the adventure, you're going to be faced with a nearly constant barrage of enemies. When you first begin the game, Rayman only has a very basic set of moves, which include a jump and punch attack. These work quite well early on, but as you reach stronger enemies and trickier platforming sections, you're going to need a more diverse set of skills. Thankfully, as you progress through the game, you'll unlock not only new attacks and abilities, like the helicopter hair and the sliding kick attack, but also a wealth of new playable characters.
Each area features a nice collection of regular platforming levels, but once you reach the end of an area, you'll be treated to a nice little change of pace with a shoot 'em up level. In these battles, you'll jump onto the back of a mosquito and tackle a side-scrolling shooting challenge, firing off shots to take out incoming enemies and even use the insect's vacuum to suck in enemies and items that you can then shoot off for even more devastating hits. Many of these levels will even feature a boss that must be dispatched before proceeding on to the next area. And as if all of this weren't enough, there are also unique chase-style levels that pit you in a race to catch a runaway treasure chest in order to earn one of the many coveted Skull Teeth.
Since the multiplayer mode was removed from the Vita version, the developers have included a brand new Ghost mode for anyone looking for some competitive action. In this mode you'll take on completed levels in a race against a ghost player. Some of these will be unlocked as you progress through the game, whereas others will be sent to you by friends or picked up via the Near application, and you send your own ghosts directly to your friends. While this addition might seem a bit trivial in comparison to the enjoyable multiplayer of the console releases, it's actually quite fun and offers an almost endless layer of replay value to the package.
The original Rayman became well-known for its gorgeous and vibrant visuals, but Ubisoft obviously wanted to kick things up a few notches for Rayman's newest adventure, even going so far as to develop the new UbiArt 2D graphics engine. The result is one of the most striking graphical performances ever seen in a video game and one made even more stunning on the Vita's 5" OLED screen. The entire world springs to life with amazing detail not only in the foregrounds but also far off into the distance; even the scrolling and animations are perfectly fluid and constantly running at a silky-smooth 60fps, further complementing one of the most incredible visual presentations you're ever likely to see.
Not to be outdone by other facets, the soundtrack shines with its unique blend of musical influences and catchy melodies. While the musical effort isn't nearly as pronounced as the graphical display, it's impressive how well the musical tracks blend in with the different areas and complement the action taking place around them. Likewise, the sound effects also add a nice additional layer of charm to the audio effort without being overbearing. You'll get a hefty dose of this each time you activate a Lum King and begin hearing the tiny Lums singing their silly Chipmunk-style melody off in the background.
While the impressive visual presentation is likely what will initially catch gamers' eyes, it's the thoroughly captivating platforming experience that will keep you coming back for more. With its well thought-out level designs, lengthy adventure and mouth-watering graphics, there's honestly very little to complain about. The lack of multiplayer is a bit of a downer, but the addition of Ghost Mode does a good job of giving players something competitive to sink their teeth into. As amazing as Rayman Origins was on the home consoles, it's every bit as impressive on Vita.