Rayman Origins from Ubisoft is jubilant and joyful, ebullient and effervescent, vivid and vivacious. If asked to describe it in more visual terms, I’d have to say it’s like those shampoo commercials where they throw brightly colored limes, strawberries and various types of melons through a refreshing blast of water (which always makes this bald guy want to buy shampoo or get a fruity and possibly alcoholic beverage). The game is a colorful platformer filled with personality and joy.
The characters are endlessly optimistic and covered in smiles, and the backgrounds are creative and motley. There are tundras with fragile looking ice towers and architecture made of frozen fruits and canned food. There is an undersea level with exotic and gelatinous tentacle life and colorful and dopey fish; there is a desert with boiling teapots and strings of chili peppers. The game is all hand-drawn animation and is in constant and organic motion one would describe as frolicsome. It is hard to get upset with this game, even when things get rough, because of its cheerful, bouncy brashness. Add to the vibrant visuals a musical score that uses everything from didgeridoos to banjos in happy melodies.
Anyone can play this game, even this frag, who is easily frustrated with platformers. It allows for a range of ability levels. For the practiced and the experts, there are added challenges, timers, hidden areas and collectibles. The neophytes or the clumsy can run through the level just to see it and make it to the end. When you fail, you are immediately brought back to the beginning of the segment you had trouble with, and you’re never asked to repeat long stretches because you missed one jump.
Co-operative play is fun, as well. Two or more players of various skill levels can help each other out and revive teammates who have made a mistake, or experts can race each other or search every cranny. The controls are responsive and comfortable; I never felt cheated or wondered what I did wrong. Each section of the world plays with the physics in a way that makes the game feel fresh each time, so the challenge lies in mastering that instead of being bombarded by more enemies or a series of perfectly timed jumps.
It is rare to find a game chockfull of fun and oozing joy out of every pixel. It is a wonder to watch and a blast to play, and the price has already dropped by half. If you are looking for a game you don’t need to analyze or wrestle with, a game you can play with friends, a game that feels like Saturday morning cartoons, then you must pick up Rayman Origins. It is sure to make you smile.
Frag Dean is a podcaster on Silly Frags, available on iTunes, Sticher and sillyfrags.com.