Rayman Legends is a direct sequel to the critically acclaimed 2011 platformer Rayman Origins. Despite its many delays to ensure a simultaneous release on the PS3 and Xbox 360, Rayman Legends has finally been unleashed and is available on pretty much every popular platform going. Once more you find yourself in a wonderful world full of colour and exploration. Employing many of the same game mechanics as Origins, you and a group of comrades you will need to jump, punch, and glide your way through progressively more challenging levels and puzzles to restore balance to the land.
100 years after Rayman’s triumphant victory over The Magician in Rayman Origins he is awoken from his slumber by an old friend. To his horror while he has been sleeping, The Magician has been getting stronger and all of the teensies and princesses in the land have been captured by The Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares. Setting off with his ragtag group of adventurous friends, Rayman must find and defeat the source of this evil once again to save the weird and wonderful world of Rayman Legends.
Unsurprisingly, Rayman Legends stays true to most of Origins’ gameplay because there is no need to fix what isn’t broken right? Once again you and up to 3 other players have to fight your way past formidable enemies, over challenging obstacles and more often than not through each other. In order to get the negatives out of the way first I feel the need to point out something that I personally think is a fatal flaw with recent platformers that is rarely done well. I can see the appeal of wanting to play games with your friends and I play a lot of FPS games, MOBAs, and MMOs with buddies and have a whale of a time, but platformers just feel like committing social suicide to me.
Playing Rayman Legends with a group of friends just reminded me why I never play Risk, Monopoly, or Munchkin with people I actually want to hang around with. “JAMES, STOP KILLING US ALL! WHY ARE YOU RUNNING AHEAD!?! WHO KEEPS PRESSING B AND CRUSHING US ALL! I NEED A RES!” I can’t be sure that it isn’t just me being an evil person in platformers, but in every mode other than Kung Foot the amount of rage building in the room was ridiculous. Why I feel Rayman Legends is fatally flawed in this respect is that at least in Super Mario Bros U there is someone actively trying to kill/help you so the blinding fury of a thousand suns is being directed at a willing scapegoat instead of tearing your family apart. Unfortunately Rayman doesn’t have this feature in the Xbox 360 version and it suffers as a result, but upon playing it single player my perspective of the game was less clouded by blood-tinted lenses.
For me, platform games live or die depending upon a few key factors. The first of these is the fluidity of movement and Rayman Legends has nailed this to a tee. Still keeping your characters feeling limited within the established bounds of the universe, you are able to move in all of the ways that feel familiar in the world of Rayman going back as far as Rayman Advance on the GBA. Having played literally days of Rayman Advance I was glad to see how faithful the mechanics were despite the extra polish and different visual perspective which I will cover later.
The second thing that is essential in a modern platformer is challenging puzzles that actually make you think. Upon completing the first few levels of Rayman Legends I will openly say that I was genuinely bored. If it weren’t for this review I might have put the game down there and gone to play DOTA or something that actually required me to think. To its credit though, a few levels later the difficulty starts to ramp up quite considerably and while it never became “hard” as such, it sat nicely in the region where it wasn’t a picnic, but you’re not tearing out your hair, or your friend’s vital organs… Which was a positive…
Audio & Visuals
Maybe the most important thing about the platforming genre that is held paramount more so than in any other genre, even in the graphically intensive FPS genre is aesthetic. A game can be as fluid and challenging as it wants, but if it isn’t a joy to look at then it will flop and that is one of the most interesting things that the indie revolution has created in this strangely popular genre. Certainly there is one thing that is undeniable about Rayman Legends and that is that it is absolutely gorgeous. Every element from the most insignificant of plants to the most in-your-face boss mob looks like it has been painted by hand and everything just screams Rayman. It brings out everything wonderful about the old and new sides of the franchise while just being quintessentially more beautiful than every other platformer on the market.
Bringing back most of what Origins created, the world still has what I tend to refer to as the “omniscient eye” perspective. Essentially, this just means that the camera has been brought back far enough that you can see much more of what is around you, allowing for more convoluted puzzles that would otherwise be extremely difficult to solve. As a fan of the old Rayman games this felt weird to me at first, but what was refreshing is that the game doesn’t just rely on smashing you into pits of spikes any more and the perspective is partly responsible for that.
In all honesty this game feels like it is the aesthetic peak of what the franchise can achieve without reinventing itself completely again. The magnificent art culminates with the ever-changing background music that is just ridiculously bouncy and happy to make what can only be called the definition of Rayman. Rarely do you ever see a franchise get to the point where you think, “They’ve nailed it. This is exactly what I wanted from this game.” All too often games fall over one or two minor things and it stops them ever reaching their full potential. All credit to Ubisoft, you might have made some very hit and miss games in the past, but you are a magnificent inferno of gaming awesomeness right now; keep it up!
If you’re a fan of platforming then look no further, Rayman Legends is the game for you. I personally would like the game to be a tad more difficult, but that is mainly because I’m a glutton for punishment when it comes to this kind of game. Each level presents a new set of challenges and a seemingly endless amount of exploration that will leave you feeling extremely satisfied with your purchase despite the steep price tag. Hell, if you have a group of friends to play with then Kung Foot is worth about half the price by itself. Easily one of the most fun party games I’ve played on the 360 and a lot more entertaining than anything in the god awful Raving Rabbids series that’s for sure. Rayman Legends is about the best platformer you can buy, pleasing newcomers to the franchise and veterans alike. It is silly, the plot sounds like a drug trip, and you may end up killing your closest friends playing co-op, but through all of that it is a truly monumental gaming experience.
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