Rayman Origins Review (PSVita)- “A Ray of Sunshine”

How do you treat that awful and exhaustive gamer sickness called chronic adult-onset cynicalgameritis? Apparently, the only known treatment involves an exceptionally good platformer. called Rayman Origins. I’ll admit, I have ridiculously high standards when it comes to games, and very few will ever get my stamp of approval. However, when the Xbox 360 version fell into my lap last year, it was love at first sight. It was undoubtedly a ray of sunshine; a nostalgic nod to a bygone era, when games were fun, yet tough as nails.

Fast forward a few months, and the obvious question is how does the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) version compare to its console counterparts? I’m sure you’re eager to know whether we need to stoke the bonfire and ready the hounds or celebrate its arrival. After all, game ports have developed a less than stellar reputation.

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The core game is essentially unchanged from the original versions that came out late last year, however for some inexplicable reason there is a distinct lack of multiplayer. It’s an unfortunate omission by Ubisoft, because one of the coolest aspects of Rayman Origins was getting a few of your friends to join you for a braai, but actually using the braai as an excuse for some ridiculously fun and zany co-op Rayman-action.

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In case all of this is new to you, Rayman Origins is a delightful 2D action platformer , in the same vein as the classics from yesteryear (such as Super Mario bros or even Sonic the Hedgehog). The game merrily guides you along a host of colourful and different environments (from caves, oceans, deserts and jungles). The aim? To rescue Electoons from their cages and to presumably kidnap Lums for their scalps. Or maybe, the Lums are used for a secret clandestine experiment? Suffice to say, there’s a lot of running, jumping, swinging, punching, kicking, swimming and climbing. It may sound exhausting, but the result is arguably one of the best games in recent memory.

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The hand-drawn graphics are vibrant and beautiful, and the portable version takes full advantage of the PS Vita’s 130 mm OLED screen. This means that the characters literally come to life. In addition, Rayman Origins eagerly uses the PS Vita’s touchscreen functionalities. It’s possible to zoom in or out of the action, which comes in handy when chasing pesky treasure chests. You can even use your finger to pop Darktoon bubbles or to collect hidden relics. The touchscreen feature isn’t crucial, because it requires extreme finger gymnastics to not only navigate in Rayman’s crazy world, but also to pop the above mentioned bubbles. Fortunately, a more traditional approach is also included which means that touchscreen shenanigans compliment the gameplay, rather than running the danger of becoming an unnecessary distraction.

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Rayman Origins ships with a wealth of content. The original and varied levels are all present. It’s still possible to climb on the back of a mosquito for some scrolling shooter action. However, owing to the loss of ad-hoc multiplayer, Ubisoft has added a new mode, called the ghost mode. It is effectively a time trial mode, where gamers can compete against the default times or share their time trial data with other players on PSN (SEN). It’s not quite the same as slapping one of your mates’ characters or competing to see who can collect the most Lums, but at least it’s something.

In hindsight, Rayman Origins seems tailor made for the PS Vita. It’s almost as if the developers were conscious of all those times that you’ll either be stuck on a train station or trying to fend of insomnia, because the game levels are the ideal length for a quick play.

Gameplay: 9/10

With its creepy cartoon hands, Rayman Origins readily embraces the PS Vita. The game makes ample use of the PS Vita’s quirky touchscreen functionalities. However, what’s really important is that the game controls remain buttery smooth and extremely responsive.

Design and Presentation: 9/10
Undeniably, one of the best looking games on the PS Vita. But, don’t be fooled by the colourful graphics, because the difficulty curve rises steadily.

Value: 9/10
Oddly, the game ships without the ad-hoc multiplayer (from the console versions), however it has a ton of content (60 levels, speed runs and nearly 200 electoons to collect). There’s also an unlockable ghost mode (a time trial mode) that will definitely leave fingers bleeding with pleasure.

Overall: 9/10

Rayman Origins is without question one of the best platformers of this generation. It was my personal “Game of the Year” (GOTY) for 2011. It’s almost fitting that there’s now a version that you can carry around in your pocket. It’s perfect for those quick gaming sessions when you’re lounging around the house, struggle to sleep, venturing on a MyCiti bus, or even for those tedious lunch visits with the in-laws.

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