There’s no denying Rayman Legends got off to a rough start. After a frustrating delay and loss of exclusivity that left Wii U owners feeling more than burned plus some bad damage control by Ubisoft, many thought the sequel to the highly acclaimed Rayman Origins was going to get buried under the controversy and a handful of big releases. Yeah, it was a difficult year for Rayman fans but that’s all over now. Legends is here and it will make all that drama seem like a fleeting dream.
Since his debut back in 1995, Rayman has been one of the most unique characters in the gaming landscape. The armless, legless, neckless hero inspired several sequels that plopped him down in a 3D world but never quite strayed from their platforming roots. With Origins, creator Michel Ancel and his team crafted a game mostly absent of story and containing some of the best 2D platforming available. Rayman Legends is, more or less, a continuation of what Origins began with a lot more bells and whistles.
As Rayman or one of his several friends, players are tasked with freeing teensies from the dark teensies and the nightmares that have taken over the land. To do this, players must jump, punch and fly their way through over a hundred stages full of stuff. At it’s core, Legends is about as simple as most platformers can be. Timing is essential when navigating through levels. What makes the game excel is in how it handles difficulty. Legends is challenging without ever feeling impossible. A lot of this is due to the fact that players have an infinite amount of lives coupled with a generous checkpoint system. Failure is a temporary setback that transports the character back to the start of a section or outside the door of a secret area.
A no death system could be disastrous in several cases, stripping the game of any challenge the player might desire. However, the real fun factor is in how Legends crafts level flow. It is easy enough to attempt a tricky section, die, try again and rinse and repeat but doing so robs the player of the semi-delicate rhythm the game strives for. Think about an early Mario game. It feels great being able to run straight through a level, stomping on goombas and never pausing. The same can be said for some of the better runs through a Legends level. Not only will expert timing result in a fast time, it will also net the player more lums – a form of currency and scorekeeping which also acts as a visible trail for players to follow and time their jumps.
One of the flaws of this system is that when the pace is broken, a level can temporarily slow to a crawl. Players might become overly distracted with trying to collect an entire trail of lums that they will hover in one place for what feels like forever or simply just restart the section. For collecting buffs, this won’t be a problem but for those striving for instant accuracy and perfection, it might drive them crazy. Part of the solution is that each of Legends’ levels are crafted so smartly, they beg to be replayed. Not only are there hidden sections to discover but several teensies to collect. Those wanting to find everything or simply do better won’t find a problem tackling a level again.
Aside from traditional levels, Legends is overflowing with other content. Boss fights aren’t always entirely successful but allow for some fun moments. Obtaining lucky scratch cards will reward players with teensies, lums, creatures or revamped Rayman Origins levels. Creatures are like small trophies that can generate lums daily, giving players an incentive to come back to their collection (or the game) every day. The Origins levels are a nice touch for anyone who missed out on the game and are full of their own collectibles. Those tired of playing as Rayman can unlock several character skins that merely serve as cosmetic changes.Invasion levels focus on completing a level in the fastest time while the “music” levels are a great treat for beating a boss. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to do.
A smart decision was made by the developers regarind how players can progress through the game. Most levels are initially locked when a new game is started but after a short time collecting teensies, new worlds and challenges are opened up. Daily challenges are a great touch and another way Ubisoft is offering to extend the life of Legends. Unlocking more trophies through collecting lums and teensies will increase the player’s Awesomeness. More Awesomeness will open up harder challenges. Want a real challenge? Go up against other players around the world in a quest for a gold or platinum trophy. With a set amount of time to compete in them, challenges are an extension of the standard game and some of its levels. Whether it’s getting as far as possible in a level or collecting as many lums in a given time, challenges are fun, exciting and a great distraction.
Graphics & Sound
On one side of the coin, Dragon’s Crown set the standard for a hyper-stylized medieval fantasy world. The game was beautiful… and now there is Rayman Legends. In a way, it’s breathtaking that a game is capable of looking like this. Legends is a step up in every sense of the way from Origins. Where Origins was reminiscent of an animated cartoon or comic, everything in Legends ramps up the detail. Shading and coloring are definitely noticeable in character art, making for more life-like and animated movement. Environments are wonderful set pieces that are massive canvases for all the action going on in the foreground. The art style Ancel and his team employed makes for a gorgeous game that will be the victim of much deserved hyperbole. It’s one of the best looking games for the Wii U and across any other platform.
Many players might often become so focused on the platforming and visuals that they don’t take the time to appreciate the incredible score that Legends has. It might not even be apparent until they come across the first music level. In these levels, the player’s jumps and attacks are tied to certain beats in the song playing. Collecting a string of lums becomes the keys of a piano while bashing a blockade is the strike of a drum. Music becomes an integral part of the Legends experience as many pieces weave wonderfully into the environments. The blend of music with the visuals are a great treat for the senses.
The Wii U Advantage
Considering Rayman Legends was once a Wii U launch title and exclusive, there’s little surprise the game takes advantage of the GamePad. At the most basic level, the GamePad’s touchscreen can be used for menu selection or even instantly transporting the player to a part of the gallery where all the levels, challenges and other selections can be made. The second screen also serves as a great way to notify the player when something new has been unlocked and a simple tap will take them right to the newly acquired character or level.
Then, of course, are the Murphy levels. Using the GamePad’s touch capabilities, movement controls and more, players will be able to interact with the environments in unique and often hilarious ways. Murphy can consume entire barriers made of cake, move platforms around, rotate levels, shield characters from lightning, attack enemies and more. Every world is full of Murphy stages and all of them are a fun way to use the GamePad. It is also possible to play Legends entirely on the GamePad, which is an incredible feature for those who don’t always have access to the TV. While the visuals take a hit on the smaller screen, it is an excellent feature nonetheless. And let’s not forget the fact that Rayman gets a Mario costume while Globox gets a Luigi one.
Without a doubt, Rayman Legends was worth the wait. Maybe it was ready almost a year ago, maybe it should have been released earlier this year. But in no way has the extra time done damage to the hero with the helicopter hair. If anything, being available on more consoles will allow more people to enjoy this incredible title. But those looking for the purest Rayman Legends experience will find it on the Wii U. The game was built for the console and the touch controls feel natural, not forced. Polished, challenging and inventive, it’s a strong contender for one of the prettiest games ever and definitely one of the most entertaining of the year.