Opinion: Bringing Back The Old School
If you haven’t heard already, Rayman is back, and the latest adventure of Ubisoft’s platforming mascot will be on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, as well as the Wii, 3DS and PlayStation Vita. However, in a bold move by Ubisoft, Rayman will be going back to its roots (or origins, with the gameplay reminiscent of the original game all the way back in ’96, when Sony’s first ever console, the PlayStation, was still in its infancy.
If you didn’t see Rayman Origins at E3 this year, it revolves around Rayman’s friendship with Globox or, as the creator of Rayman Michel Ancel hilariously calls him (adopts French accent), “the blue thing”. This new title is set around the time of the first game, and Ancel has claimed the game will last “22 hours minimum” – which is three times the length of your average Call of Duty campaign – with over 60 levels (each level consisting of multiple short stages) and many different environments.
The most interesting feature, however, is that the entire game is ‘hand drawn’. Essentially, all backgrounds, characters etc are drawn by hand and put directly into the engine. This means no pixels: just stunning, colourful art. From the trailers and the E3 demo, this makes for an exciting concept that really breaks the mould for 2D games.
For those of you who didn’t play the original Rayman, it was a 2-D side-scrolling platformer renowned for its colourful graphics and mixture of fast-paced arcade style gameplay and tricky platforming.
Currently, there’s nothing quite like this on the PS3 or Xbox 360 systems being sold at retail price. Is it a gap in the market they’ve found? It seems crazy that it could go unnoticed for so long.
Sure, there have been some 2D downloadable titles like Limbo, and (although technically not 2D) we’ve seen the massive success of LittleBigPlanet, which was sold at full retail price. But in terms of a game‘s only purpose being ‘go from A to B whilst avoiding obstacles and countless things trying to stop you’, there hasn’t really been anything like it on this generation of games consoles. So this begs the question – does the consumer still want 2D games?
Speaking for myself, my own response would be a resounding yes. My favourite gaming genre is the platformer, and just thinking about a new 2D platforming game set in the universe of one of my favourite ever franchises is enough to get me incredibly excited. Now, I don’t speak for the entire gaming community (far from it), but I happen to feel that my views coincide with a sizeable percentage of gamers.
Just yesterday, I blew the dust off my PlayStation 1 and played the original Rayman. There are two things that become apparent when you play this game alongside other, more modern video game endeavours (for example, I’m currently playing through Portal 2 and Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty). First is the difficulty, which makes Portal 2’s final chapters seem like a walk in the park, and really demonstrated to me the simplicity of modern games (but that’s a different rant for a different day). The second, however, is that it doesn’t feel old. Well no older than say, New Super Mario Bros, a critically acclaimed remake on the Nintendo Wii.
The graphics are colourful and vibrant, the soundtrack catchy and perfectly appropriate, and the gameplay fast-paced and fun. Is this not something people can enjoy?
It seems that platforming games have always been considered Nintendo’s department, for the more ‘casual’ gamer. When I say I’m a fan of platforming games, people make the automatic assumption that I’ve always had Nintendo consoles (e.g. the NES and Nintendo 64), and played games like Super Mario and Legend of Zelda. So it may surprise you that my love of platforming began on Sony’s PlayStation, through games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro The Dragon and (you guessed it) Rayman.
There has been an apparent drought of platformers in general, with Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter seemingly going the way of the dodo at the end of the previous generation of consoles. But if people can, and do, enjoy short platformers at cheap prices, why wouldn’t they buy larger, longer games for a larger price tag? Nintendo have proven that it’s more than possible with games like their classic Mario remakes.
If people buy Nintendo’s 2D platforming games, why wouldn’t PS3 or Xbox 360 owners buy Rayman Origins? Rayman doesn’t have the legacy of Mario, and was undeniably inspired by Mario, but I honestly believe people have an affection for the character and series and Origins could do well. It might not bring down Call of Duty or Skyrim, two of the massive blockbusters released around the same time, but if gamers can give something other than shooting zombies with massive shotguns or slaying dragons with a 2-metre long axe (you may have noticed I don’t play either Call of Duty or Elder Scrolls with these probably dangerously inaccurate examples!) then Rayman will be the hit it DESERVES to be.
So… do you think Rayman Origins will be a surprise hit or utter failure? Contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comments below.