Blast From The Past
Blast From The Past: Rayman

Lately it seems that many games are getting themselves a revival, remake or having some homage paid to them by other developers. The last few months have seen us experience 20 years of Sonic in the space of six or so hours; it’s seen us enjoy the delights of a classic console game in the palm of our hands, and the future months will grace us with even more HD remakes, and a reboot of a certain buxom adventurer. Indeed it seems that as we move forward many designers are beginning to look back, something that Blast From The Past just loves to do, and so this week in pseudo celebration of Rayman: Origins release we’ll be taking a look back at the limbless hero’s spectacular 2D outing.

Ubisoft’s original mascot (before Ezio Auditore and The Prince), Rayman, bust out onto the gaming scene back in 1995 on the Sony Playstation; although it had initially been planned as an Atari Jaguar game its release for that format had slipped to a week after Sony’s console gained the title. Rayman‘s unusual aesthetic design and its lush environments turned heads and soon Ubisoft’s title had begun to spread itself across a number of formats and revisions over the coming years, the last of which arrived in 2009 as a DSi Ware title.

Rayman himself came from the magical mind of Michel Ancel (Beyond Good & Evil, King Kong), who reportedly drew upon Celtic, Chinese and Russian fairy tails to generate the look and feel of Rayman‘s world. Rayman’s unique limbless look arrived purely from technical limitations, however it forged an identity for him and allowed for great humour and visual spectacles; his spinning charging fists that could punch across the screen, his swaying body and charming characteristics, all spouted from his visual design.

A game that was certainly not remembered for its plot, Rayman’s story is as barebones as he is! Set in a world held in harmony by The Great Protoon, that is until the dastardly Mr. Dark steals it and sets the world completely out of balance spreading chaos across the world. In such a selfish act Mr. Dark also flung the Electoons across the world where they were imprisoned by the evil that Mr. Dark unleashed. The worlds saviour Betilla The Fairy defeated at the hands of the fiendish Mr. Dark it is up to Rayman to stride in (without any legs) and save the day! It seems somewhat strange that the plot revolves around a terrible play on words with science, but its simple premise was enough to create brilliant and vibrant worlds for Rayman to traverse.

These worlds were lush and varied, starting off in a typical jungle environment, and then carrying you through a world of musical instruments and treble clefts, rocky mountains, candy caned skylines and ancient temples, Rayman really knew how to craft a journey. The gameplay mixed things up superbly and threw in unexpected character bosses that were loveable as much as they were irritating to fight. Rayman’s progress in his pursuit for Mr. Dark was aided by powers from Betilla the fairy which came sporadically and would see Rayman going from pulling faces at enemies to punching them square in the jaw, or from hanging off ledges to using his hair as a helicopter blade to glide across gaps, it was true gaming ingenuity. The role of the trapped Electoons was also excellently implemented and remained far from just being a collectable; by freeing enough in each level you could move forward to the next level, and securing six in each would unlock extra stages and finally a means to defeat Mr. Dark.

Rayman was a game with unlikely roots, Ubisoft really took a risk by investing almost all they owned into it, but it was a risk that really payed off. Despite its differences on Jaguar and Playstation (different level design etc) and its heavy revisions across the years, Rayman was the definitive 2D platformer for the newly emerging 3D generation. Later entries would see the series venture into 3D and loose its charm, it would even see the launch of an entirely separate series of Raving Rabbids games. Ultimately Ubisoft realised that Rayman‘s charms remained solid in the realms of 2D, and so Rayman: Origins has revisited what the original gave the world. Whilst you wait to get your hands on the new title, it’ll be worth picking up the original and really seeing how it all started.

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