First things first: for Nintendo’s sake, it is a damn shame a bigger effort wasn’t made to keep this game a Wii U exclusive. Rayman Legends would have sold Wii U consoles – something Nintendo really needs to do right about now. On the opposite side of the coin, it would have been a complete travesty having this game locked into a platform with a limited audience; it’s a game that deserves to be experienced by as many people as possible.
Rayman Legends is pure, unadulterated gaming. There’s no fluff and padding to artificially elongate the experience. It sticks to its refined mechanics and pulls off the whole package with honesty and style, but without taking itself too seriously. In fact, there isn’t an ounce of seriousness to be found anywhere, which is refreshing considering the vast majority of contemporary gaming themes. The game is unbridled fun and a grin-inducing ride from start to finish. Ubisoft did the right thing delaying the title in order to turn Rayman Legends into a multi-platform release.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Ubisoft’s latest platformer is a brilliant game, but it’s not without some minor annoyances. Do those annoyances detract enough from the experience to be considered a problem, glaring or otherwise? Absolutely not.
Those who played Rayman’s 2011 outing, Rayman Origins, will be at home with the core principles of Legends. Rayman and his band of quirky pals need to traverse a series of levels in order to rescue captured Teensies and thwart the plans of a group of Dark Teensies. In typical Mario platformer style, there’s no plot to write home about, but, as with Mario, that’s not a requirement for a platformer this refined.
The biggest difference between Legends and Origins is the level structure. You’re free to tackle levels and worlds in whichever order you want and you’re not locked to a sequential level progression. Different levels and worlds have a minimum rescued Teensy requirement, which means you start unlocking new areas very early on in the game, as each level contains ten Teensies to find and rescue. That practically gives you carte blanche to pick whichever world or level you want to move on to next. It’s not ground breaking in terms of game design, but it’s a nice deviation from the previous game being able to chop and change between worlds. However, this is also an area where the game trips up because in the beginning, ordered progression can all feel a little out of control. The playable menu structure doesn’t help things either and does take some getting used to.
Fortunately the initial confusion doesn’t last long, because there is a ton of content to navigate in the menu system. You have different areas for unlocked playable characters (of which there are dozens), unlocked creatures, unlocked Rayman Origins levels (yes, Legends includes a whole suite of levels from the previous title), daily challenges, weekly challenges… there’s an overwhelming amount of content at first, but that also means there’s enough content to keep you occupied for a very long time. In terms of bang-for-your-buck, Rayman Legends does not skimp on the quantity – the fact that that quantity is of such superior quality is simply staggering.
The game’s engine, the UbiArt Framework, might be one of the best game engines in the industry today. It essentially animates artists’ 2D concept pieces, meaning there’s no technical limitation to the design team’s imagination. The result is a title that is consistently breathtaking in its presentation. Colours pop, characters animate with cartoonish exaggeration, and the world continually scrolls across your screen with vivid design. One of the best gameplay decisions was to exclude level timers, which means you’re free to stop and stare as much as you like. And that you will, because Rayman Legends is an outright gorgeous game. It also has incredible sound direction, particularly in the musical levels that round off each world. Those musical levels, despite later ones becoming very tricky, are one of the game’s crowning achievements that provide rapturous finales to each of the game’s worlds.
As whimsical and charming as this all sounds, Rayman Legends grows some serious fangs in the later stages, and levels higher than the second world begin throwing nasty difficulty spikes at you. There are moments where you will fail again and again, but it all boils down to skill and not broken mechanics. Still, I can recall more than one occasion when I was screaming expletives at my screen – the boss fight in world three immediately springs to mind as one of the worst sections of the game, which is a shame because the rest of Legends’ boss fights are enjoyable affairs.
Despite the difficulty spikes and a handful of rage-inducing moments, Legends is always able to win back your favour with a new world location or a subtle mixing of the basic mechanics you’ve already grasped. Even though you’re essentially doing the same thing in every level, Ubisoft has masterfully ensured that new features are drip-fed so as to obviate any sort of fatigue. From the James Bond, spy-themed world of “20,000 Lums Under the Sea”, to the Greek mythology world with its introduction of swarm-based enemies, the game is constantly throwing new content and variations at you. In the hours I spent playing through the game’s main level set, I never felt bored and I always, always battled to put down the controller.
It is worth noting that if you have a choice of platforms to play on, then you should pick up the Wii U version. The game was designed with touchsreen controls in mind at certain points in the game. While those specific points have been altered to accommodate ordinary controllers (you simply press the circle button if you’re on a PlayStation for example), having played the Rayman Legends Challenge App on Wii U, there’s no doubt in my mind that those touchscreen sequences are much more engaging on the Wii U GamePad.
The predecessor, Rayman Origins, was a great game that proved 2D, old-school platformers still have a place in contemporary gaming. When Mario had long-since turned 3D and taken his adventures to the stars, and Sonic was stumbling and fumbling his way through whatever sub-par Sonic game was causing heartbreak at the time, Ubisoft rebooted Rayman and showed gamers that traditional platformers were still terrific amounts of fun. Rayman Legends continues to show just how fun platformers can be, but the overall feel of the game is one of greater refinement and a steadfast belief in its ability to entertain.
Rayman Legends is fantastic and is deserving of a place next to the greatest and most iconic platformers in gaming. It can easily hold its own against the likes of classics such as Super Mario Bros. and the newer Super Mario Galaxy series. I urge everyone with opposable thumbs to give it a go.
Because the UbiArt Framework already enabled the game’s gorgeous 2D worlds to be rendered at 60 frames per second on previous-gen platforms, there’s not much Ubisoft could’ve done to improve on the game’s tech for current-gen consoles. Loading times are better though, and you get some cool bonus character skins when you buy the current-gen version of the game.
On PS4, the touchpad is used to let you scratch golden tickets and enables you to take screenshots of the game in action. There’s also Remote Play if you own a Vita. Beyond that, there’s not much reason to buy the PS4 / Xbox One version of Rayman Legends if you already own it on the older consoles. But if you’ve never played the game before, you owe it to yourself (and to the world) to play it.