Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rayman Origins - Platforming preconceptions

Rayman Origins is a beautiful, beautiful game. Perhaps one of the most gorgeous games I have ever had the pleasure of playing. So much so, in fact, that I am having a great deal of difficulty finding a screenshot from the game that does it any justice. Much of the game's beauty comes from the flowing, layered movement of the multiple 2D planes that make up each of the its levels. I guess you just need to play the game to appreciate it (please do!). However to put it simply - aesthetically, I love this game.

Though interestingly the visuals also had an unintended effect on the way I played the game. Or, more specifically, with which character I played the game. Basically when the player begins Rayman Origins they have four different characters available for them to play as. There is the titular hero Rayman, his frog-like buddy Globox and two variations of Teensie. Technically all these characters are identical, they posses exactly the same moves, speed and jumping ability. However, they don't feel the same.

The most notable example of this was when I attempted to play a level or two using the Globox character. As mentioned above, in terms of abilities he is an exact clone of the Rayman character, however he looks very different. He is presented as an overweight, dopey-looking frog creature. And this visual representation brought with it a whole load of preconceptions. Suddenly, even though I knew Globox was moving through the level with the same agility and precision as Rayman, it felt like he was slower. He felt cumbersome and unwieldy and ultimately less fun.

I figured this is due to two factors, firstly Globox's character design and animation simply and directly suggest that he should be slower. He is big and fat, logically he should not be able to move as fast as the slim (and limbless) Rayman. As soon as I look at him I automatically think "that guy looks slow". And secondly, years of video game experience has taught me that often when presented with a selection of characters they will have differing attributes. Conventionally the larger characters will be slower but will often be able to take more damage or perhaps deliver a more powerful attack in order to compensate for their lack of physical finesse.

Perhaps this happens all the time? Perhaps I am always misinterpreting the way a character behaves and moves though the game world based on appearance and it simply took that chiseled precision of a old school 2D platformer to bring it to my attention? Who knows. But one thing is for sure - despite all this food for thought, I still played through the rest of the levels as Rayman.

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