Rayman Legends for Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita and PC
I don’t think anyone could have seen this happening. We currently live in a world where the king of the 2D platformer isn’t Mario, or even Sonic the Hedgehog, but Rayman. Rayman. I cannot recall a single moment in the (competent but bland) New Super Mario Bros. U that rivalled the sheer joy of Rayman Legends. Rayman Legends builds on the already excellent Rayman Origins, confidently signalling that the new and improved Rayman as a franchise with legs and oh God I have to think of limbless Rayman joke now.
There’s actually little new gameplay in Rayman Legends, with the running and jumping intact, with the most interesting gameplay addition being surprisingly excellent stealth levels. Stealth stages in games not explicitly about stealth are traditionally dire, but Rayman Legends bucks that trend by implementing stealth perfectly. The basic physics of Rayman and Co. are excellent, broadly different from those of other games due to the large number of levels focused on constant movement and quick reflexes. A great addition is a refinement of the ‘treasure chest’ levels of Rayman Origins into music stages, which follow the same basic reflex based gameplay, but set to music. I found myself getting into Rock Band-esque groove whilst playing these, and although there aren’t many of them, I always looked forward to the next one.
Rayman Legends contains one of my favourite co-op modes that I’ve ever played. Alongside the chaotic four person platforming that has become the (in my opinion tiresome) norm, the Wii U version has a wonderful mode which absolutely makes the game. One player has the Wii U gamepad, and interacts with the levels through the touch screen. This can vary from simple tasks such as tickling enemies to stun them, but eventually there are some incredibly clever and unique uses for this mechanic. Sadly, there aren’t a huge amount of levels built around these features, but the ones that are are ridiculous amounts of fun. Apparently this feature does exist in the other console versions of Rayman Legends, but I can’t imagine it working well. Rayman Legends may not be a Wii U exclusive any more, but it is quite clearly a game designed around the Wii U and then later on smushed into another console, rather than the reverse which has become the depressing norm.
Rayman Legends has even less plot than its predecessor, with the traditional world map replaced with a series of rooms filled with paintings. Although there are only five worlds, and not a massive number of new levels in them, Rayman Legends is way more packed with content than it first looks. Each level has a parallel ‘Invasion Stage’, which must be completed in a minute and always involves the constant running and dodging that is my favourite element of these games. If enough ‘lums’(the coins of the Rayman universe) are collected in a level, the player unlocks a scratch card which contains rewards. Some are fairly dull, but the best are entire levels of Rayman Origins remade in Rayman Legend’s graphical style. Rayman Legends contains a significant portion of Rayman Origins simply as an added bonus, which reinforces the great value that this game has. There is a social competitive element known as ‘Challenge Rooms’, with new levels updated daily, but I often felt that these levels were rather repetitive, and not nearly as well designed as the main game. This does ensure a massive amount of replay value, but it didn’t particularly appeal to me.
Rayman Legends is absolutely gorgeous, taking the playable cartoon aesthetic of Rayman Origins and adding a wonderful painted effect that makes every level and detail seem lovingly constructed. The character animations are incredible; Globox makes me laugh just by watching him move. There are all kinds of wonderful little details; my favourite is that when you run and slide as the barbarian princess Barbara, she jumps onto her axe and it makes a little grinding noise as it goes. This is a tiny, tiny thing, but it made me smile every time I heard it. They didn’t need this detail, the game wouldn’t have been any worse without it, but they put it in anyway, and that philosophy underpins the entire game. The soundtrack isn’t quite as excellent as that in Rayman Origins, but it’s still catchy and charming enough.
Rayman Legends feels like Ubisoft throwing down the gauntlet to Nintendo and Sega. This is the kind of game which should make rival developers want to do better, and I hope that Nintendo and Sega look closely at Rayman Legends and realise how much there can still be done with the basic concept of running left to right across a screen and jumping.