Thursday, November 8, 2012

The charm of Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins is a fantastic game. The art and animations are smooth and fluid, and the music is fun with its integration of the often seldom-used digierdoo. But what makes Rayman Origins enjoyable to play the most is its sense of charm by rewarding for using the path of least resistance.

The path of least resistance in platformers tends to be the bottom lane, to borrow a term from MOBAs. This path is easier, faster, and usually more fun, but gives less rewards in the form of coins, rings, or whatever thing you’re trying to collect. The more rewarding path tends to be the upper lane, where you have to jump from floating platform to platform. You’ll find more power-ups on this path, but also run into more enemies and movement won’t be as fluid.

Looking at what I consider the two biggest platformers in history, the Super Mario Bros. series and the Sonic the Hedgehog series, these paths fit near perfectly.

cashshopIn Super Mario Bros., the bottom path moves quickly and, while filled with goombas and turtles, your ability to jump makes the obstacles trivial. As long as you can get a running start, most jumps are easy to maneuver. The upper path often takes the form of clouds or small platforms that don’t allow for distance jumping, and flying turtles can easily block your way requiring the timing of jumps to be more precise.

Sonic the Hedgehog had the same approach. With its loops and fast-paced gameplay, racing to the end of a stage using the lower path was usually a lot more fun than taking the higher ground and bouncing off enemies to make the long-gap jumps.

shoppinglistRayman Origins takes both of those lanes and puts them on the same path. The same route that moves you quickly through the level or stage is the same one that puts the least amount of obstacles in your with the fewer amount of enemies. The video above shows how the lums are placed specifically where you will be running. At 20 seconds, in any other platformer the lums would line up in a straight line up the wall. Rayman Origins recognizes how the player will move up the wall and arranges the Lums in a vector in line with the player’s movements, making sure each one is collected.

These subtle placements of collectables, power-ups, and extra lives makes Rayman Origins not only a fun game because of its presentation, but a charming game because it caters to the player, doing everything it can to help the player along the way.

My hope is that its sequel Rayman Legends, which is due March 5 for the Nintendo Wii U, doesn’t lose this charm in its implementation of the all-controlling gamepad player.

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