Review: Rayman Legends
I’ve been waiting nine months for this game. Originally slated as a Wii U launch day title, Rayman Legends was pushed back to March this year. A few weeks before launch, Ubisoft announced that the game was to be delayed for another five months and that it was no longer a Wii U exclusive title. Nintendo fans were disappointed that their shining light in the struggling early days was no longer theirs and that they had to wait longer to keep the suits in France happy. However the seemingly endless delays have meant that everyone, regardless of consoles preference, gets to play one of the best games around and Wii U owners get an ever better game in the process.
Following Rayman Origins, Rayman, Globox, and the Teensies have been sleeping for a century. During that time, the Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares have grown in strength and numbers, plunging the world into chaos once again. It’s up to you and your gang to collect objects, release your friends and kill the baddies to make the world safe again. The plot is as wafer thin as any Mario game that’s been released, but we hardly play those games for some quality exposition. It’s just an excuse for some more shenanigans in a world that’s well worth jumping into again and again.
Anyone who’s ever played any platforming game will feel right at home here. You make your way through various levels in different worlds, collecting Lums, killing enemies and freeing captured Teensies. The bulk of the game is actually a pretty standard affair however the key difference in Legends is the inclusion of Murfy. Most of the single player campaign sees you playing as Rayman (or one of the many unlockable characters) with you taking over as Murfy in some levels and the main player now being AI controlled.
In the Wii U version someone can help you out using the GamePad’s touchscreen by cutting ropes, activating mechanisms, dealing with enemies and assisting in gathering Lums. This requires good levels of cooperation otherwise deaths will quickly follow (although the checkpoint mechanic is generous). In the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, you don’t have the same type of co-op but you play as Rayman the whole time and Murfy’s movement is controlled by the computer with his actions prompted by a simple button press.
Considering the game was built from the ground up for the Wii U, it’s a shame that it’s not actually quite as good/fun playing solo anyway on the Nintendo platform. Playing as Murfy is perfectly fine on the touchscreen, cutting ropes and shifting platforms is a doddle but trying to guide your AI partner isn’t the easiest thing to do as he’s on autopilot. There were times when he carried on going forward when I knew a secret door was behind him but no matter what I did he continued to move to the right of the screen. However on the other platforms you never lose control of the main player so this issue doesn’t ever crop up. It’s also not as fun being the sideline player so I wished playing solo on the Wii U was exactly the same as the Xbox 360 version with the GamePad’s touchscreen only being used for co-op. Having said that, you can play the whole game on the GamePad only, but then you didn’t buy your fancy 42” LED TV to play on a small handheld screen.
On a more positive note, although I said earlier that the game is pretty standard in terms of mechanics, when it comes to level design Rayman Legends is top of the class.
Every level has been superbly crafted, with constant new challenges thrown at you but never over doing it or overstaying their welcome. It’s very easy to create a platforming game, but very difficult to create a good one, let alone an excellent one. From playing Legends, it’s clear that Ubisoft Montpellier have studied each level in meticulous detail to make it as good as possible and it shows.
They haven’t rested on their laurels too following the critical success of Origins as boss levels have been improved. They do follow fairly typical game boss design, with three cycles of attacks after you’ve battered them each time, but the combination of huge, well designed bosses and using skilled platforming moves to defeat them creates a good challenge. Far better than most Mario games.
A special mention must go to the end of world music levels. These are straight running levels that test your platforming skills. If you’ve played Origins, it’s like the chest chase levels. But the biggest change is the inclusion of real-life music like Eye of the Tiger playing in the background forming the beat of the level. In some ways the song’s beat does help as it gives you clues as to when you’re going to have to jump, but it’s still not easy to perfect. I can’t think of any example when game and sound design has come together like this and it’s absolutely glorious to play. I just wished there were far more of them.
Legends also gets the difficulty balance perfect which is not easy in a platforming game with each level having a difficulty score to give you a rough idea of the challenge ahead. But even the difficult levels can be completed fairly, with little frustration to be had because of artificial difficulty. Very rarely do you die as a result of poor level design but even if you do die a lot, it’s not a problem with a good checkpoint system that doesn’t have any negative consequences.
However it’s not getting to the end of the level that’s the hard bit. It’s getting all the Lums so you get the gold up and freeing all the Teensies (often in the hard to reach places) that’s the most difficult part. This makes it a great family game as the young child will get great satisfaction in completing a hard level but the completionist parent will have the extra challenge of perfecting the level.
But that’s not it, as clearing a level once unlocks an ‘Invaded’ version, where the level is remixed with additional enemies or new objectives. With every level drawing you back to perfect it, it’s going to take you a while to complete.
Not that you need any more excuses to keep going back to this game, but you’re also going to be kept busy with daily and weekly challenges. They’re going to really test your platforming skills to the max and will be a great mode for battling against everyone on your friends list.
And there’s still more! With 80 levels and another 40 remastered levels from Origins, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Simply put, Rayman Legends is packed full of amazing content.
The best part of multiplayer is tackling the game with a single friend, with one controlling Rayman and the other Murfy. With four normal characters on screen it is really fun but it can get a bit too hectic (just like New Super Mario Bros.), but two of you working together creates the best possible platforming partnership around. Other similar games like Super Mario Galaxy allowed a second player to help the main player but it was rather boring and tedious. But Ubisoft have nailed platforming co-op where Nintendo have failed and should be strongly commending. However this mode is only available on the Wii U and Vita versions due to the touchscreen control inputs.
There’s also a bonus football mode called Kung Foot. As you can see in the screenshot below, it’s a simple mode with two goals on either side of the screen and it’s your job to whack the ball into the back of the net whilst defending your own. It’s a rather vanilla mode with just the once choice of mode and setting, but it’s oh so fun and will have you and up to three mates having a right old laugh like you did when you last played foosball.
Rayman Legends has a beautiful hand-drawn art style that constantly amazes. Full of rich character, little details and some wonderful lighting and sound effects, I think it’s safe to say that this game is the best looking platforming game ever. And best of all it’s timeless, so we’ll all be able to go back to this game in 10 years time to see that it’s just as glorious then as it is now.
The worlds are all distinct with little duplication between individual levels. You’re going to be running, jumping and flying about in Mexican style worlds, then hopping into a Jules Verne themed level and then off to battle Greek mythological-type beasties. You’re going to be continually in awe of what the designers have created in this game.
To sum up
What Ubisoft Montpellier has done with Rayman Legends is outstanding. Improving on the amazing Rayman Origins in pretty much every way, they have created what I consider to be platforming perfection.
Version reviewed: Wii U