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Writer: Steven Hansen
PS3 (reviewed), Vita, 360, PC, Wii
Released: Nov 15, 20l1 (PS3/360/Wii), Feb 15, 2012 (Vita)
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
I never got too into the Rayman series over the years, but when Rayman Origins caught my attention, looking that pretty, I had to take a peek. I also had to check and make sure that I still loved 2D platformers and that it isn’t just nostalgia that gives the genre its glister. Turns out, I do in fact still love 2D platformers. And I love Rayman Origins.
In Rayman Origins, some things definitely happen. Rayman, his goofy pal Globox, and friends are all chillin’ out in the Snoring Tree when their chill beats disturb an old, scary lady from down below, causing her to unleash a pox upon the world that Rayman (and company) must stop by saving sexy nymphs and doing other things. It may in fact be an origin story (as the name might imply), set in the beginning of the Rayman universe. Or it may not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it warms my soul.
When I first took control of my unfamiliar, limbless protagonist, I felt an innate satisfaction in simply maneuvering him around the environment. It was just like all of the great platformers in how empowering it was simply to jump, but Rayman has some modern contrivances that help elevate it, as it builds on the fundamentals of its predecessors.
Writer: Steven Hansen
Released: November 4, 2008
Ignoring whatever confused abomination (or occasional 2D gem) Sonic Team cobbles together, SEGA has done some interesting things both as developers and publishers; particularly, fostering new IPs. With one game alone, SEGA has built up a couple of banks worth of credit with me. That game is Valkyria Chronicles.
This artful strategy-RPG focuses on one Welkin Gunther, the well-educated and intellectual son of a legendary war hero, who lives in Europa, a surrogate, alternate, and warring 1930’s Europe. The narrative of Valkyria Chronicles is presented through a fictional book, “On the Gallian Front,” which acts as the central hub and menu for all of the events in the game world; there is no overworld to explore. With two large factions warring over a powerful, dwindling resource, Welkin and his small, sovereign nation of Gallia are swept into battle as Welkin, in his father’s old tank, assumes leadership over a militia squad.
While the storybook presentation is novel, it’s also a treasure trove of information, with tabs that allow access to all the details and back stories that help to solidify and give weight to the world of Valkyria Chronicles, acting as an encyclopedia for people, events, weapons, and other things in the world as you progress. The game is presented in chapters, each containing a few cutscenes, some dialogue exchanges, and missions to be completed. While thumbing through the chapters via the book hub, all other options are opened up, including the Headquarters menu.
Released: Feb 15, 2012
Developer: Fun Bits Interactive
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Escape Plan is one of the first games I played on the Vita, months before its release, and it instantly became my most anticipated game for the system. The arresting art direction that utilized gorgeous saturation and stark, black and white contrast, coupled with a Looney Tunes-esque classical soundtrack and some hilarious moments – comedy always seems to be lacking in games – had me sold. While the game ultimately delivers on these points, the final product doesn’t come together entirely contiguously.
Escape Plan tasks the player with abetting the escape of Lil and Laarg, compatriots fleeing their captor, the menacing Bakuki. Lil, the smaller of the two, is incredibly frail and so much as tripping over a brick on the floor can result in a splattered death, while Laarg is the burly muscle, capable of breaking weakened doors and floors. The two work in concert on a large percentage of the levels, but frequently forge different paths more suited to their abilities, separating them.