With a year chock full of huge blockbuster releases, it’s easy to look over a game like “Rayman: Origins.” It’s a 2-D platformer, a genre that hasn’t been in vogue since the Super Nintendo days, with a main character who hasn’t been featured in a notable game in nearly a decade. People looking for a game to buy for the holidays might not give it a second glance – but they would be doing themselves a disservice because “Rayman: Origins” is one of the best games released this year. With terrific controls and a wonderful presentation, “Rayman: Origins” is absolutely lovely, and a reminder of how simple games can still be so much fun.

Rayman: Origins

Ubisoft
Xbox 360, PS3, Wii


With only a jump button, a run button and an attack button for hitting enemies or objects, Rayman’s controls are akin to those in Super Nintendo classics like “Donkey Kong Country.” The controls are tight and responsive, making simply moving Rayman around a pleasant experience — especially since he animates so well. The level design includes plenty of creative and tricky situations to navigate. Levels are designed in such a way that players can move smoothly and quickly through them if they’re skillful enough, but they also contain plenty of secret items and areas.

It appeals to the player who wants to explore every nook and cranny and the player who wants to run through as fast as possible. “Rayman: Origins” is no slouch on the challenge either. Levels can get devious later on, but the game escalates the difficulty at a manageable rate. It can become frustrating, but Rayman’s controls are precise enough that the design never feels unfair or cheap.

What really makes the game tremendous — apart from the excellent controls — is the incredible presentation. The world of “Rayman: Origins” is a sight to behold. Every aspect of the game is colorfully hand-drawn, making it one of the nicest looking 2-D games ever made. The art direction is goofy and lighthearted, with whimsical creature designs that are somehow grotesque and cute at the same time. Because everything is hand-drawn, the animation is beautiful. Not only are the graphics stunning, but also the music is a surprising delight, with one of the most original scores you’re likely to come across in games. “Rayman: Origins” features a widely eclectic mix of instruments, from ukuleles to didgeridoos to jovial vocal harmonies. It’s a weird mix, but it somehow manages to blend cohesively in a way that’s disarmingly charming.

Most platformers released these days are short downloadable games. With a full retail price tag, “Rayman: Origins” runs the risk of offering too little content for the money. Surprisingly, it packs in more than enough levels without ever getting repetitive. It’s nearly impossible to find every secret of a level in a single run, so there’s plenty of replay value to be had as well. The game also offers co-op support for up to four people to play through levels together, and sitting down with a friend to play is a boatload of fun.

“Rayman: Origins” is, in a word, delightful. In a world full of self-serious games full of war and explosions, Rayman is just happy to be there, with a lighthearted, wide-eyed grin. The game is cheerful, colorful and simply a joy to play. It might not have as much hype as other big releases this year, “Rayman: Origins” is an unmistakable gem that shouldn’t be missed.

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