(image via gamefans.com)
The scene: July 14, 2010, and I'm sitting at my Macintosh, watching the E3 press briefing being held by Ubisoft and Tumblring at the same time. Some of the content of the conference had interested me slightly (Shaun White Skateboarding, primarily. I still haven't tried that out but whatever), but I was mostly bored because it catered to the wrong side of my Great Divide. Too much dudebro and grit, not enough whimsy or fun. (Sorry, Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon and/or Splinter Cell fans. None of those were really my thing.)
But then, near the end of the conference, they pulled out a trailer for their brand new UbiArt engine, which was made just for 2D games that wanted style previously seen only in concept art, but without the haggle of rendering it all. The concept was cool, yes, but what really interested me was Ubi's first project with the engine: an episodic platformer, to be released on PSN later that year, that was set to realize the beginnings of the company's longtime mascot of sorts.
I was mesmerized. Sure, I was familiar with Rayman thanks to the Rabbids, but this was a whole new animal. It was irreverent, ridiculous and fantastic, and a far removal from any perception I'd had of ol' Ray before, even though nowadays I know it's more of a flashback than it is a reimagining.
I'd forgotten about that experience in 2011, after the game had been delayed to become a full-scale disc release (and after it had lost its prequel status). Most of my gaming focus was set on Portal and its sequel, which had me stumped to the brim. I'm not the most avid of gamers, either, so I didn't really pick up much otherwise. Thus the holiday season came and went, and with it, the game's November 15 release date. My Christmas gift was a netbook that was more subpar than I wanted to believe.
The netbook's screen cracked in October of last year, right after my birthday. Being bummed about that, I had my heart set on a phone for Xmas to more or less replace both it and my nigh-unusable Android from 2010. As a result of both of those, I started using my iPod touch a bit more, and one of the "What's Hot" games on its App Store was the very same platformer I'd been floored by two years before, just in a compressed form.
And so with the wad of iTunes cash I'd gained for my IRL Cake Day, I bought Rayman: Jungle Run. It was glorious. Nearly every level was just challenging enough to be fun without being a frustrating exercise in futility, and those that were just pushed me further. I'd gotten the whole of the game's normal levels finished in 3 nights. I needed more.
Christmas brought me the phone I wanted and some throwaway entry in the Need for Speed series, but I didn't bother touching that. I needed to repent for the opportunity I'd lost-- to finally open that portal into the Glade of Dreams.
The next month brought generous extended family members, so I got my chance that Groundhog Day. I was shaky to buy it new at first, but I decided to because I figured it was worth the full $20. I couldn't have been more right, because Rayman: Origins is, to put it simply, my new favorite game, possibly ever. It's not perfect, it's not particularly popular, and it's not always the best at managing frustration levels. But there's enough to like about it that I'm willing to ignore all of that. Play it with a friend sometime, and be sure they've got a good sense of humor (they'll be needing it).
You'll be glad you did.