Early in Ubisoft's press conference, company cofounder Yves Guillemot introduced designer Michel Ancel, the creator of Rayman, to talk about his latest game, the side-scrolling platformer Rayman Origins. Ancel described the project as very important to him personally, as "a way to revive my first love in gaming," and touted the game's intense arcade gameplay and hand-drawn graphics. He described the game as a way to rekindle old video game feelings with the current generation of consoles.
The demo started by showing Rayman standing on a cliffside covered in vibrant green grass and palm trees. The hand-drawn graphics Ancel had mentioned were immediately striking. It wasn't entirely clear what was taking place, but a number of small statues seemed to be lending their power to a floating portal. The camera zoomed through the portal, and Ancel took control of Rayman while his colleague, key programmer David Punset, played as the blue creature Globox. The characters were in a cavelike environment with pleasant blue hues, and Globox started by doing a quick demonstration of his acrobatic abilities, defying gravity by running up a curving incline to the left before leaping into Rayman's arms. The duo took a few steps forward and glimpsed a treasure chest, but the chest, afraid of being busted open, scurried to the right with the duo in hot pursuit. Rayman and Globox leapt over chasms and off of tumbling pillars, rushing to avoid spikes, collapsing ceilings, and huge rolling balls covered in still more spikes. There was a cartoony charm to the running animations of the characters and the way they kicked up dust in their wake, and whimsical music kept the mood lighthearted and fun.
The duo then found themselves in a very different environment, a factory with striking red and orange hues and a steampunk feel to its machinery. Whacking the pipes produced blocks of ice in configurations that clearly mimicked Tetris blocks, and the characters could safely ride on these blocks as they slid along the hot floor, quickly melting. The blocks then began to pile up on top of each other as the music shifted into the classic Tetris melody. Rayman and Globox used this stack of ice to climb up and advance deeper into the factory. The two ran and leapt to the right, punching and popping the occasional inflated fire-spewing foe, each using his own funny ability to cover long distances. (Rayman spun his long ears like a helicopter blade, and Globox flailed his arms wildly to stay afloat longer.) The two also demonstrated their mastery of that most quintessential of platforming moves: the butt-stomp.
Their pursuit of the sentient treasure chest then took Rayman and Globox onto a pier with a pristine blue sea below them. They leapt into the ocean and swam through underwater caverns, avoiding the dangerous jellyfish as they progressed. Before long, they had a much bigger problem, as a huge sea monster started pursuing them, forcing them to swim for their lives. A moment later, it was revealed that not one but two of these creepy creatures were after our heroes, tearing up the sea floor in their pursuit. The frantic race for safety went on for a little while, until finally Rayman and Globox found a small area at the end of the level that the creatures were too large to fit into.
Rayman and Globox had some fun slapping each other around in a candlelit temple before emerging into a snowy landscape where the treasure chest was making its escape on a flying pirate ship. Rayman hopped on a flying machine, and Globox appeared to be carried by a small creature of some sort, and the action shifted from side-scrolling platforming to side-scrolling shooting. The action was fast-paced, with plenty of hazards to avoid and obstacles to blast. Finally, the pirate ship approached a large orange sphere made of glass, and the sharp prow of the ship cracked the sphere's surface, resulting in a huge explosion that sent Rayman, Globox, and the treasure chest plummeting into a theater.
Ancel mentioned that the game would feature four-player co-op before opening the chest to reveal a sign acknowledging Ubisoft's 25-year history, surrounded by artistic renditions of Rayman, Beyond Good & Evil's Jade, and numerous other characters from the company's games. We were very impressed by the diversity of the action shown in the Rayman Origins demo and the variety of colorful and gorgeous environments on display. For more coverage of the game, be sure to check out GameSpot's live show on the afternoon of Thursday, June 9.