Rayman Origins is perhaps the best example of how developers won’t need to do all that much with the PlayStation Vita’s touchscreen capabilities to deliver a terrific game. Don’t expect to use augmented reality. Don’t expect to use the rear touch surface at all, and expect to use the front touchscreen only once in a while. Does that mean Rayman Origins doesn’t utilize the potential power of the PS Vita? Absolutely not. In fact, of the early games we’ve had the chance to review, Rayman Origins is the most enjoyable, light-hearted, yet intense title available to you at launch.
While it is practically a direct port of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version, there are some minor differences. You can use the touchscreen to zoom—I used it once, so hard to say it’s really necessary—and you can tap enemies in bubble form to “pop” them. You can also tap the screen for collectibles.
There are two big compliments I can throw at Rayman Origins. First, playing the game on PS Vita brings me back to early handheld days, where colorful platformers ruled the landscape, and there was a natural learning curve that kept me aching to play just one more level. Second, no other title (outside of Uncharted: Golden Abyss) on the PS Vita plays like a console game better than Rayman Origins.
The graphics truly pop off the screen in blinding bright colors, crisp edges, and solid animations. On the surface this looks like another silly platform game built for kids, but if your opinion ends there, you are missing an excellent game. The level design is cohesive, with each set of levels carrying over a brilliant theme and giving Rayman a new trick to explore. As you rush over green-ivy covered platforms, plants open as you trip past them, exposing new collectibles stuck in floating bubbles. The music is sublime, with sections of levels perfectly choreographed to the beautiful soundtrack. The presentation reminds us that games can truly please the senses, and there’s more out there than violent post-apocalyptic alien shooters. Every game has its place, and Rayman Origins deserves a place in your new collection of PS Vita games.
Those beautifully crafted levels hold nooks and crannies filled with secret passages to explore. You can spend hours upon hours trying to find each little secret and you’ll likely never get bored in the process. It’s an accomplishment for Ubisoft to create a platform game that didn’t make me want to rush through each level. There’s a place for that in the new Ghost Mode—essentially a time trial available after you beat the level—but I found myself grinning as I bounced Rayman to new sections of a level I didn’t catch on my first play through.
Our little main character has a very limited skill set, which is very appropriate to this style of game. He can run, walk, jump, float, and punch. But that doesn’t keep the gameplay boring. Thanks to some clever level designs, you’ll find yourself swimming under dark waters, following glowing fish as your only source of light. Other levels put you on the back of a flying creature, in a very, very old-school space shooter style. These were some of my favorite levels. At no point did I feel the game was getting repetitive, which for a platformer is saying an awful lot.
Make no mistake: this is not LittleBigPlanet and it’s not a Mario game. Rayman Origins has its own distinct look and feel, and it’s a strong enough title to stand up against those competitors. Unfortunately however, the PS Vita version lacks the multiplayer of its console version counterpart. A game like this screams multiplayer, and its inclusion would have given players reasons to come back for action with friends long after they get through the single-player campaign. It’s not a huge loss, but the omission is quite noticeable.
Beyond the lack of multiplayer, it’s hard to justify picking this up if you already own the console version. Don’t get me wrong, the game is fantastic on PS Vita, but it would have been nice to get a little something more to attract those who already own the console version. Perhaps more integration of the touchscreens, or interesting multiplayer modes could have given that group of people more reasons to make another purchase. If you don’t have this game already on console, this is a must buy for your PS Vita. Rayman Origins reminds me why 2D-platform games used to be so popular, and why they are still among my favorite games of all time. It’s quite refreshing to see a modern take on the genre, and to see how well it translates on Sony’s new handheld device.