Rayman Origins review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Medium: Vita Card/Digital Download
Players: 1
Online: No

This port of Rayman Origins on the Playstation Vita is the first time I?ve ever laid hands on the game, which I felt I pretty much needed to play after all the positive word of mouth the game has received for the past few months. So what better way to try out the game than through a port on new hardware? O.K., maybe that line of thinking doesn?t make much sense, but having now played through this version of the game, I still feel like I came out on top with that decision.

From what I can tell, this port is downright perfect. The only thing missing is the co-op play, which isn?t an absence that?s particularly striking for me. Obviously you?d lose some of that four people on a couch feel if you ported over the co-op to Sony?s handheld, and I can?t imagine it being much fun to engage in online.

But everything else looks and plays fantastically. Seriously, if you were like me and had missed out on the game when it launched, this is a perfect way to check it out. It fits the handheld space extremely well, with a level structure that might not have been tailor made for handhelds, but are short enough that the game can easily be played in quick bursts during a morning commute or mid-day lunch break.

And man-oh-man does that OLED screen do this game a world of good. Rayman Origins is full of bright, colorful worlds to enjoy, with some of the best 2D character animation we?ve seen in years. Remember when you were a kid playing SNES games and wondering at what point video games would literally look like cartoons? Rayman Origins is pretty much that day come to life. Seriously, it looks THAT good.

Of course the gameplay is no slouch either. It?s been quite some time since anything Rayman related has been a platformer; the brand has been bogged down in mini-game hell for quite a while now. But this is a great return to form for the series, and easily the best of the series for that matter. While I have some fondness for Rayman 2, the first 3D outing for Rayman, it doesn?t even compare to how great Rayman Origins is. And the original Rayman, which was in 2D, is as different as night and day to the gameplay found in Origins.

What really strikes me as unique, and something few platformers manage to pull off, is how fluid every stage feels. There?s almost a tangible rhythm to the way you?ll interact with the level design, where you get this feeling that if you time your jumps and runs just right that you?ll never lose your forward momentum and still be able to collect every little thing the game tosses your way. It?s a great feeling when everything clicks and you pick up on that flow, and while there?s a great bit of challenge in making those moments work, Rayman Origins doesn?t lose an ounce of accessibility either.

In conjunction with the stellar level design, the game features an up-tempo and completely appropriate soundtrack that?ll have you humming along after a few short minutes. And thankfully, while the game does feature a bit of text, it never gets bogged down with cutesy dialogue and wonky voiceovers, opting to keep its plot points simple, and often advancing the story through small character interactions and animations instead of explaining what you just watched through long winded dialogue boxes. Even the tutorials are handled in an old-school participate if you want to manner, that feels reminiscent of the tip boxes in games like Super Mario World.

So if you?re getting the vibe that I?m really big on Rayman Origins, then you understand where this review is going. It?s one of the best platformers I?ve ever laid hands on, and it?s a shame that I waited this long to play it. How this game didn?t top more lists than it did as possible GOTY material in 2011 is beyond me, because it certainly deserves all the accolades it?s received thus far (and more!). I don?t toss out the A+ often (in fact, this is a first), but Origins totally fits the bill of what an A+ experience is all about.

Grade: A+