(Ubisoft for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano
I’m lovin’ this hi-def 2D platformer renaissance. This year alone, we’ve had Hard Corps: Uprising, Outland, Ms. ‘Splosion Man, BloodRayne: Betrayal and now Rayman Origins, the best of the bunch. First, it’s certainly the best-looking sidescroller ever made (only Muramasa: The Demon’s Blade comes close), but its presentation isn’t just defined by its gorgeous, colorful artwork. It’s got style and personality as you guide the ebullient titular character from the nooks in a dank jungle to hopping around on didgeridoos in the desert to sliding along glaciers filled with fruit slices. It also has incredible music, like the banjo and fiddle that accompany the treasure chest races, or the brassy horns of “Dashing Thru the Snow.” Most importantly, though, it has flow. Racing through the levels with Rayman or any one of his game-changing unlockable friends is a gameplay dream, controlling as he does with the Mega Man X-sharp speed and precision we all want from a platformer. That kind of tight feedback is so often lost in a haze of gimmicky mechanics or unnecessarily realistic physics in other games of this genre. Not here, because Rayman Origins is laser-focused on delivering a fun, polished experience, and its creators seem dialed-in on the joy games can bring. After you learn the ability to dive and swim in the game, you swim around for a bit with a group of colorful, happy fish in a scenario seemingly without purpose, until you realize that the fun you’re having swimming around with your new fish friends is the reason you play this, or any, game in the first place.