Rayman Legends – Sorta Review
I’m tempted to just say “it’s like Rayman Origins, but better” and have the rest of the review be a load of screenshots, but I guess I have to be a little more detailed than that. Alright, here goes.
Before Origins came along, I had never played a Rayman game that didn’t involve Rabbids. They never got onto my radar, and I kinda figured the franchise was pretty much dead anyway since the Rabbids took on a life of their own. Then Rayman Origins came along in 2011 and everyone said it was good, and it looked cute and colourful, so I figured I’d check it out. And it was really good. Great even. Beautiful visuals, an awesome soundtrack, tight controls and impressive level design. There were a few niggles and nitpicks to find, but overall a very solid showing for a resurrected franchise.
And now we have Rayman Legends, which is apparently a direct sequel, but considering how little story there is in either game, it honestly doesn’t matter. It’s out for pretty much everything. PC, XBox 360, PS3, PS Vita and Wii U. I have only played the Wii U version, so I can really only speculate on any differences between the versions.
Okay, first off: the controls. Arguably the most important part of any platformer. And they’re great. Super tight. Like hot pants. I never once thought “ugh, the controls screwed me over”, but rather “ugh, I fucked up”. There’s really only three buttons. Run, jump and attack. Momentum plays an important part in some levels, so occasionally it can be to your advantage to walk instead of run. And of course you can attack upwards, or do a smash attack with down + attack. It’s pretty much identical to Rayman Origins. It even feels good and responsive during underwater sections and levels.
Equally as important in my opinion is the level design, and Legends does not disappoint. There’s a large variety in levels and how they play out, and you’ll often find that there’s a certain flow to how they’re set up, which is especially important for the speedrun parts. Unlike Origins they don’t expect you to speedrun the entire levels for the bonuses, but they cut out a small part you have to complete in max 60 seconds. And considering some of the speedruns in Origins reduced me to tears, I honestly appreciate this change. They will still be occasionally very difficult to ace, but there’s a much lower barrier to try again when it’s that short.
There are even a lot of levels ported over from Origins that you can unlock via lucky scratch tickets you win in regular levels or by completing whole worlds. This might seem a little cheap when it comes to padding out the game, but personally I don’t mind. I actually appreciate getting another crack at them, since they’re still fun to play. I just hope they don’t include all the mosquito levels, because I remember there was one that made me rage-quit twice.
I will give a shout-out to the soundtrack as well, and even just the general sound design. It really feels like they’ve gone all out with great tracks, fitting sound effects, and entire levels based around re-mixed versions of classic hits. It’s almost a shame to spoil this, but there is a level based around a mariachi version of Eye Of The Tiger played with kazoo.
Let’s see… some small changes from Origins. Enemies no longer turn into bubbles that you have to pop if you want an extra Lum. There are now things hidden in the ground that you can uproot with a smash attack, or by using down + jump to pull out. And the power-ups have changed. It’s now really only the flying fists, and they’re granted to you by this fellow:
As for big changes… well, there are the daily and weekly challenges where you indirectly compete with everyone else who plays them. The scratch tickets and everything they can provide, which includes your little creature farm. Kung Foot, which is a silly 2D version of football (soccer for you Americans out there). Of course the musical levels I mentioned earlier. But the biggest for me was the addition of 10 playable female heroes. The downside is that they all have the same body-model, so they’re basically just palette swaps, but then again, all the male characters (and one female) are palette swaps of Rayman, Globox or the Teensies. You unlock the first one, Barbara, fairly early, and I’ve never used anyone but the princesses since.
Now for the Wii U specific part. The game originally meant to be a Wii U exclusive for the ‘launch window’, but as I’m sure we all know, the Wii U did not have a great launch. So Ubisoft decided it was more prudent to release their little masterpiece on every platform they could. While it sucked to wait an extra 6 months for the game, I am happy that more people will be able to play it.
And honestly, Gamepad integration is excellent. It’s a shame I can’t really show it off through video or images. It’s easy to tell they put a lot of work into making sure it worked as smoothly as possible, and I’m really glad to have it. It’s used mainly in the menus between missions. You can hop quickly between certain areas, and also access and scratch the Lucky Tickets with the stylus. There’s even notices about new unlocks that pop up for easy access. However there are also levels where you have to guide Sir Globrax through using Murfy on the touch-screen. At first I kinda resented these levels, but I grew to appreciate them as fun puzzle levels. The AI for the NPC you’re escorting is surprisingly good. Or perhaps it’s just the levels that are well scripted. So is the Wii U version the best version? I can’t really answer that without trying at least one of the others.
I am unsure if the escort missions even exist on other platforms. And if they do, I’m not sure how they’d work. I have seen people playing the co-op on PC getting Murfy’s help on such missions, but I’ve yet to see anyone play one of them solo. I would assume it’s still just context based stuff from Murfy, though. Feel free to correct me on that if you know better.
Sadly I haven’t had anyone to play co-op with myself, so I can’t comment on how good that might be.
Now before I start wrapping up, let me just mention that the boss fights are still a bit of a weak point. Most of them are just not as fun or interesting as the regular levels. But I forgive all that because among the bosses you will also find this guy:
It honestly feels like Rayman Origins was a test for them. The answer to the question “Can we make a good platformer?” It wasn’t exactly lacking in imagination, but it seemed more like a proof of concept, I’d say. They proved to themselves that they could do it. So the question for Rayman Legends became “Now what can we do with it?” The amount of variety and imagination on display here is nothing short of astounding. And combined with the beautiful visuals, excellent audio, hot pants controls and superb level design, it makes for one of the very best platformers I have ever played.
On a side-note, because I couldn’t fit it in anywhere: Big props to both Origins and Legends for not including a lives system, and instead letting you learn through failing and generous checkpoints as much as you want.
So in conclusion: If you like platformers, I think this one should definitely be on your list. You don’t even need to have played Origins if you don’t want to spare the time. Let me just leave you with some of the things you’ll do in this game. (Minor spoilers, so if you want to stop here, I don’t blame you.)