E3 2011: Rayman Origins hands-on preview - hand-drawn gorgeousness Disney himself would appreciate

Rayman helped put Ubisoft on the map many years back and frankly, it's time for the publisher to return the favor after shelving the armless wonder for years in favor of Rabbids and rehashes. Luckily, Rayman Origins is everything you'd hope for from a revival of the classic platform hero: it's bursting with color and creativity from every bit we've seen and played. And most importantly, it's a lot of fun.

Originally planned as a downloadable release, Rayman Origins is now a fully-fledged retail title with more than 60 stages set across across a dozen distinct worlds. The closest modern touch point is surprisingly New Super Mario Bros. Wii, though – not just because it is similarly a retro throwback release, but also because Rayman Origins supports local four-player co-op action that injects a healthy portion of friendly competition amidst the teamwork.

Playing as the titular Rayman, his best pal Globox, or one of the two Teensies (little apprentice sorcerers), you'll work together to get through the platform challenges and revive each other when one falls; as in NSMB Wii, downed foes float around until touched and brought back into the action. But you'll also try to be the first to nab all the collectibles in sight, and can punch allies just as you can knock enemies into submission. Without local pals, though, you'll simply play the stages solo, which is said to enhance the challenge in certain scenarios.

As screens and especially videos plainly show, Rayman Origins is gobsmackingly stunning, with a fluidly detailed hand-drawn aesthetic that absolutely fills us with a sense of wonder. It's our favorite part of the experience to date, but luckily the missions themselves are also pretty entertaining. Our hands-on experience at E3 allowed us to check out a common jungle stage with hazards to avoid, along with a desert stage where the sound waves of banging gongs kept horrifying swarms of insects at bay. Additionally, a Cave stage offered the opportunity to check out a boss challenge wherein we had to continually make our way up a vertical level, higher and higher, to avoid destruction by a monstrous boss climbing up after us.

Our only real concern with Rayman Origins is its size: It might be too big. We’re fearful that people who would gladly have paid $10 for a game a fraction of this size might be less eager to take the same chance on a $50-60 full-sized release even if it is much larger. So we’re here to do our part – if you’re reading this, know that we're still in for this charming, gorgeous adventure. We just hope gamers used to eye-poppingly realistic game experiences won't shrug off this stellar return to form due to its cute and colorful approach.

Jun 10, 2011