Rayman: Origins came to me very highly recommended. I had heard effusive praise, people calling it the best 2D platformer on the Wii. Seeing as how the Wii is also home to New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns, that is particularly high praise. While I won’t say that the praise is completely undeserved, something about the game is not quite right. All the pieces are in place for a great game: controls, design, aesthetic, but thanks to a few flaws it comes together as more good than great.
As far as look and sound goes, Rayman Origins is incredible. The graphics are beautiful 2D that we just don’t get enough of these days. The sound is both excellent and incorporated into the theme of each level. One whole world is made of didgeridoos, and the music is didgeridoo music. It is all just well thought out and beautiful.
The problem comes with something that many people consider a strength of the game: how it handles death. There is virtually no penalty for death. This seems like a good thing. In many ways it is. However, there are plenty of difficult sections and especially hard to reach collectibles. Since there is no penalty for dying, there is no incentive to not try and try again to get those lums. However, trying the same spot over and over again is tedious. In something like Donkey Kong Country Returns, when you see that life counter ticking down you know it is time to move on.
Another big problem is tying collection into the player’s progress. You need electoons to open up new stages. In addition to a few hidden in each stage, the game also gives them out for collecting enough lums. It makes those hard to get lums less just a challenge of skill and a near mandatory impediment to progress. It makes stages that should be brisk romps into tedious slogs. The problem is that for many stages, there is no challenge other than trying to get the lums; so the options are either rushing through with little to no impediment or spending half an hour trying for the hard ones. Once you get to the later levels, it stops being so hard to get the extra lums, instead it is just difficult to complete the stage. While I am sure the difficult final few stages are appealing to some people, but not me. It is not that doing them is hard, it is that there is one true path to get through the stages and any deviation results in immediate death. There is little skill involved, only memorization.
It is frustrating, because between the dully easy early levels and sadistic later levels, there is some genuine fun there. This game has personality. The world made out of didgeridoos is not even that much of a highlight in this game. It makes players want to like it. And the gameplay is nearly good enough. There are just so many things that keep it from being legitimately great. There is just too much that bogs it down, that slows what should be a zippy adventure. Still, it is far from bad.