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E3 2011: Rayman Origins hands-on

E3 2011

Entering the show floor I was immediately inundated by all of the shooters and MMOs, but down one of the South Hall’s corridors a game stood out, beckoning me. Rayman Origins is a brand new high-definition 2D platformer for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with a twist, this platformer is jumping to retail.

Having not played a Rayman title since The Great Escape on Dreamcast, returning to the limbless mascot’s world was surprisingly easy. Origins’ controls were extremely snappy, but also created a legitimate sense of weight for the characters. Unlike previous entries in the franchise, Origins supports co-op for up to four players on the same screen – no online mode was mentioned. Taking a page from New Super Mario Bros. Wii and LittleBigPlanet, Rayman, Globox, and their buddies can punch each other, which easily lead to some friendly jabs and hilarious fall deaths.

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The first demo stage was a lush forest populated with many of the hallmarks of the genre. Floating platforms, hidden areas, hard to obtain collectibles and enemies were par for the course. Some light cooperative features were shown, such as the ability to hold up on the thumb stick to cause your character to create a platform with their hands. This allowed teammates to jump on your avatar and reach previously unreachable areas.

Despite the simple joys of classic platforming, the most noticeable features of Rayman Origins were all graphics related; this is one pretty looking game. Backgrounds are immaculately rendered, popping off the screen just enough to separate the characters and foreground, but not so much to distract from Rayman and crew. Speaking of which, the animations were to die for. Screwing around and trying all of my character’s abilities was a blast, if for no other reason other than to see the painstaking details poured into every individual animation.

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After finishing the forest, or any other stage for that matter, Origins rewards its player with a humorous photo-op behind one of those cardboard cutout setups. The player who collected the most Lums – Rayman’s coin equivalent – get’s to be the Viking broad, while the runner-ups are relegated to less interesting roles. The event is charming and is obviously intended to create friendly competition amongst players.

Moving on we tried another demo level, ‘The Cave’. In a rare move, the stage began with progression from right to left, something disorienting to any platforming veteran. Before long we arrived in the lair of an enormous red, mean looking monster. I bet you can imagine what happened next. The monster didn’t take kindly to our presence and proceeded to chase the three of us playing through a vertical platforming section. Wall jumping became the immediate ability of choice as we made our way topside. Narrowly escaping the beast, our demo came to an end.

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Although it’s cliché, Rayman Origins’ is a true breath of fresh air. Having played dozens of games since, Origins still sticks out as the most vibrant, fun game I’ve seen, thus far.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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