Rayman's middling success has always struck us as fitting, somehow. His games have always been just fine, but they're never really the kind that you'd queue up at midnight on release day for.
So it was with one cynical eyebrow raised we set out playing Rayman Origins. Visually, it's an absolute delight and every pixel has been injected with such character. The little eyes you punch to open doors at the end of each section follow you about the screen; When attacked, enemies comically inflate (or are 'bubblised', in Rayman parlance) and float upwards begging to be popped.
The sound is equally detailed. Spanish guitar and didgeridoo are the major aural ingredients, and every character, enemy and even platform squeaks, groans or honks underfoot. Best of all, you'll stumble across the odd slice of indecipherable 'voice-acting', which sounds like something cooked up by The Mighty Boosh.
The Platform Game
While Origins shares four-player co-op with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns seems to have had the greater influence. The interactive loading screens lift that lovely silhouetted effect from some DKCR stages wholesale. Doors and springs zap Rayman into the stage's foreground and backgrounds in a very similar way too.
Just like Retro Studios' platformer, hoovering up collectibles is what Origins is all about. Your currency is Lums, and doing almost anything will bump up your overall Lum count, which is totted up at the end of each stage.
Like the original Rayman, the aim is to free the imprisoned Electoons. Usually found within hard-to-reach places or hidden nooks and crannies, these pink blobs are surrounded by enemies who must be defeated to allow Rayman to set the Electoons free.
Fortunately, there's enough variety in the play style and environments here to prevent Origins feeling like a tedious hunt for collectibles. The opening 'Jibberish Jungle' is your standard crop of platforming greenery, but from then on the typical platform themes are given a welcome twist. For example, the desert section is livened up with piano keys, trumpets and sheet music spread liberally about the place.
Your character learns a new move at the start of each world, too. The ground-pound, 'HairlyCopter' and a slick diving system are early examples, and each is handled with real style and invention.
Each world has a fun shoot 'em up stage too - taking flight atop a pink mosquito, to keep your Lum count healthy you must not only shoot things in the face, but bounce bullets off walls and inhale foes to spit them out at other airborne enemies. Typically creative end-of-stage bosses top off these stages with a flourish.
For those not all that keen on Rayman himself, you can play as any of the supporting cast, who all have the same moveset. Globox will perhaps only be recognisable to Rayman fans and he's joined by two wizards, the Teensies.
Everybody Loves Rayman
Four-player co-op is another well-executed part of Origins. It's chaotic and often quite hard to see what's going on because the camera is zoomed so far out, but it's still a riot.