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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (430)

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Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
SolSeraph 3/5
ActRaiser 4.5/5
ActRaiser Renaissance 4/5
The Outer Worlds 3.5/5
Cris Tales 3/5
Warframe 3.5/5
Immortals: Fenyx Rising 4.5/5
Boot Hill Bounties 4/5
Pathfinder: Kingmaker 2/5
Borderlands 3 4/5
Horizon: Zero Dawn 3.5/5
World of Final Fantasy 4/5
ReCore 3/5
I Am Setsuna 2.5/5
Assassin's Creed Origins 4/5
Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
The Bard's Tale IV: Bar... 4.5/5
The Bard's Tale Trilogy 1.5/5
The Bard's Tale III: Th... 1.5/5
The Bard's Tale II: The... 0.5/5
The Bard's Tale: Tales ... 0.5/5
The Technomancer 2.5/5
Tyranny 3.5/5
Pine 2/5

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Rayman Origins   PlayStation 3 

Beautifully Aggravating    4/5 stars

Rayman is a character starring in a series of platformers bearing his name. The original “Rayman” was a traditional 2D Platformer that graced the PS1 at a time when nobody cared about 2D Platformers anymore, thanks to the rise of “Super Mario 64” and 3D Platformers. Later ‘Rayman’ titles changed the core gameplay into that of a 3D Platformer to follow the trends, but Rayman himself never found much success. After the mascot wars ended with Mario and Sonic as the sole survivors (and Sonic horribly disfigured), it became nearly impossible to create a new platforming hero out of thin air. The carnage left behind was riddled with the bodies of the fallen: Bonk, Plok, Croc, Vector Man, Jersey Devil, and Rayman, as well as many others. Yet Rayman, the creation of Ubisoft, purveyor of all things terrible, has refused to die, bolstered mostly by a small fanbase centralized in France, of all places.

As fans of 2D Platformers, the MeltedJoystick staff has been saddened by their near-extinction. Since “Rayman Origins” supports four-person simultaneous multi-player and supposedly oozes old-school 2D Platforming charm out of every pixel, we decided to give it a shot. We may not know or care who Rayman is, but a game about his origins sounded like the perfect way for this character and his world to worm their way into our affections.

Presentation
In an alternate universe, where polygonal modeling was never invented, all videogames would look like “Rayman Origins.” And it would be glorious! This game is entirely 2D, sculpted from layers of hand-drawn sprites. These sprites have incredibly smooth and detailed animation and look impossibly crisp and clear in HD thanks to the magic of the UbiArt Framework, a graphics engine developed for the project that removes the tedium of hand-animation. The overall effect is so striking and downright beautiful that I can’t understand why more developers don’t make 2D games with a similar graphics engine. While 3D games are starting to look more and more alike as everyone and his mother employs the same commercial graphics engine (Unreal Engine, I’m looking at you!), “Rayman Origins” looks utterly unique. The closest games, appearance-wise, to “Rayman Origins” are Vanillaware’s titles, as they use similar 2D sprite layering; yet the art styles are completely different. The UbiArt Framework is also much more economical than 3D engines, as it allows a very small art department to produce incredible-looking results on the cheap (thus allowing the game to sell relatively few copies and still be profitable).

The soundtrack in “Rayman Origins” is likewise amazing. It’s loaded with catchy tunes that span a variety of moods, from creepy to manic, and a variety of themes, from tropical (lots of ukuleles and kazoos) to Latin. Quite a few tracks also feature vocals, performed in high-pitched Chipmunk voices, which add even more character to the game’s silly and cartoony presentation.

There isn’t a lot of voiceacting in “Rayman Origins,” but what little there is adds yet more absurdity to the game by being entirely in Igpay Atinlay (e.g., Pig Latin). I thought it was a great little detail.

Story
I was very disappointed that the box the game came in is a liar. “Rayman Origins” is NOT actually about the origin of Rayman. While that was originally the plan, Ubisoft scrapped that idea and just went with a sequel to the original “Rayman,” keeping the ‘origins’ portion of the title because… because… uhhh… I guess 2D gameplay featuring Rayman is more original than the 3D gameplay or Rabbids-based gameplay in all of the other recent ‘Rayman’ games?

Regardless, “Rayman Origins” does an incredibly poor job of explaining what is going on… at least in game. The game opens with Rayman and some freakish creatures I didn’t recognize sleeping in a tree, eating fruit… ‘chilling,’ so to speak. The snoring coming out of these sleeping freaks is so loud that it literally wakes the dead, causing an army of elderly zombies and skeletons, as well as other shadowy things, to pour out of the underworld, The Land of the Livid Dead, and send the surface world into turmoil. Rayman and company set out from The Snoring Tree to put an end to the chaos… though how they intend to do that isn’t exactly clear.

As they travel, Rayman and his friends encounter a variety of incredibly-voluptuous and scantily-clad nymphs who have been captured by shadows. Upon rescuing the each nymph, she grants the crew a permanent power-up that expands the characters’ skillset and allows them to proceed further in the game. As they travel, Rayman and company also must find, rescue, and collect spherical pink creatures called ‘Electoons’ and spherical yellow creatures called ‘Lums.’ The Electoons bind together to repair the world where massive, evil tentacles have burst through, while Lums are gathered in test tubes by a very enthusiastic wizard of some sort who can apparently turn the Lums into yet more Electoons.

Normally, platformers don’t need much of a story to drive them. Yet when dealing with a not-very-well-known character like Rayman, it’s important to at least explain some aspects of the game world’s mythology and the characters’ backstories. While this game does neither, its instruction manual does.

Reading the instruction manual is quite illuminating, as it explains that one of the freaks sleeping in The Snoring Tree is actually the Bubble Dreamer, who is essentially God in Rayman’s world. The manual also explains that Rayman himself was created by the ‘bodacious nymphs’ during an earlier time when the Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares threatened to destroy the world. Apparently Rayman doesn’t have arms, legs, or a neck because the nymphs made him out of Lums and they managed to drop a significant portion of them as they headed to the ritual site where Rayman was brought to life.

Overall, the world of Rayman is fairly interesting, and there is a decent amount of backstory present… But why keep it in the manual instead of simply adding an animated intro to the game explaining all of this stuff? Ubisoft had an entire Blu-Ray Disc to fill (at least for the PS3 version), so there should have been plenty of room.

Gameplay
Rayman can jump with X, punch with Square, and run with any of the shoulder buttons; he moves side-to-side with either the left analog stick or the d-buttons; he has unlimited lives: This is the core essence of “Rayman Origins’” gameplay, both in single-player and multi-player. Rayman’s expanded moveset includes wall-jumping, sliding down slopes, and swinging from vines, etc. While Rayman does earn permanent power-ups from nymphs, including the ability to hover/glide and the ability to run up curved walls and onto the ceiling, the only temporary power-up in the game is a heart (with eyes and a mouth) that hovers near Rayman and allows him to take one extra hit before turning into a bubble and popping. In multi-player, all characters must be ‘bubbleized’ at the same time in order to lose progress, as punching or jumping on a bubbleized character returns him to normal (of course, characters can also punch each other when not bubbleized, resulting in a bit of annoying friendly-fire).

“Rayman Origins” is made up of six worlds, each of which contains a number of regular stages, a bonus stage where the player can earn a ruby tooth (collecting all of which grants access to the final bonus level, which, going strictly by the Latin definition, should be called a ‘malus’ level instead), and a boss stage. While most stages in “Rayman Origins” are traditional 2D Platforming from left to right, there are also a variety of other stage types to shake things up. There are underwater stages where the characters constantly swim, flying stages that play like a SHMUP as the characters ride on giant mosquitoes, and stages where the characters must chase after a living treasure chest as it flees through a collapsing environment. Each stage has a number of checkpoints, most often triggered by punching a gooey, cyclopean door and moving into another room, thus keeping forced repetition of areas to a minimum.

The first four worlds are incredibly fun, as they introduce new gameplay ideas slowly and with a smooth learning curve. The last two worlds, however, begin to ratchet up the evil quotient, incorporating almost every cheap player-killing mechanic ever to grace an 8-bit game: spikes, tentacles, bottomless pits, disappearing platforms, moving platforms, auto-scrolling, ice, bats, piranhas, time trials, trial-and-error, self-destructing stages, and memorization. Fortunately, “Rayman Origins” is NOT an 8-bit game, as Rayman needs those unlimited lives and players will appreciate the ability to take a break from the game to do something else after dying dozens of times in the same stage. These modern gameplay concessions might even allow “Rayman Origins” to have more difficult sections than the 8-bit platformers of yore, as players can just keep whacking away at a difficult stage until they succeed instead of dying 3 times and having to restart the entire game from the beginning (which would be very evil in this game, and likely result in many destroyed controllers, as “Rayman Origins” contains over 60 individual stages). Had the game been shorter or had the difficulty peaked earlier, I would have been happier. As it is, the game is about 20 hours long, but only the first 15 are fun. Thus the game ends on a sour note of aggravation.

Overall
“Rayman Origins” is a stunningly beautiful treat for the eyes and ears.
“Rayman Origins” is a frustrating, infuriating old-school 2D platformer.

While I welcome the return of classic 2D gameplay with open arms, I was hoping that it would return minus a lot of the baggage that made many old games nearly unplayable. While “Rayman Origins” does offer respite from replaying everything from the beginning, this mercy also allows the individual stage designs to be as evil and deadly as possible. While “Rayman Origins” starts as a fun platformer, it ends as an un-fun test of platforming prowess. While the game is priced cheaply enough that I’d recommend any platformer fans at least check it out, it’s obviously more aimed at an audience eager to test their skills than an audience that just wants to have a good time.

Presentation: 5/5
Story: 1/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5

 

 


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