Back in 2011 we saw the return of platforming classic Rayman with Rayman Origins. The game was greatly enjoyed by almost all who played it, yet in a world where platformers are no longer king, it never quite achieved the popularity to match its quality. Now we have yet another entry in the franchise, with Ubisoft Montpellier doubling down on all of things that made Rayman Origins so much fun while also adding new elements to create a game that is even better.
Rayman Legends is an improvement to Origins in almost every way, which says a lot. It retains the same gorgeous art style but now imbues it with wonderful 3D effects. It maintains the challenge and precision that made Origins such a blast to play and only ramps up with even greater trials. This time around Rayman and friends are charged with defeating five evil teensies and rescuing various princesses who have been captured. The game world is depicted Super Mario 64 style with various paintings to jump into that lead to each level.
Like in Origins, levels will vary greatly from simple platforming and flying levels to more complex things like mazes and puzzle levels. Each world also has a very distinct art style, with inspirations drawn from ancient Greece and mythology, an underwater Rapture-like city and even a whole world set in the style of the Mexican Day of the Dead. Each level tasks you with reaching the end but along the way there are up to ten Teensies to rescue and hundreds of Lums to collect. Your cumulative Teensies saved will help you unlock new levels while Lums work towards unlocking new characters.
Each world has a fairly linear progression of stages with the penultimate stage being either an epic boss fight or an elaborate chase. Conquering this stage – which is almost always the most difficult in the world – leads to the best new addition to the game: musical levels. These final stages in each world are essentially rewards and they each are a total blast to play. They basically boil down Rayman Legends down to what it does best, mixing speed and precision to create the best platforming action around, all accompanied by perfectly timed music that responds to your every action.
Again, the gameplay in Rayman Legends is simply divine. Jumping, gliding, punching, wall-running and more are all impeccably handled. More importantly, though, is how well-crafted the levels are. In almost every situation there is a clear path that can be followed to get through levels as fast as possible, if you have the proper skill to pull off the moves that is. The level design gives the entire game a feeling of fluidity is fairly rare in most games. Sure you can stop and search for secrets or try to line up the perfect jump but it’s also just as much fun to just fly through a level almost effortlessly.
One big new change to the gameplay is the addition of Murfy, a flying frog-like creature. This character follows you around in several levels and affects the environment to help you out, which usually involves moving platforms or distracting enemies. This addition adds another layer of complexity to the gameplay by adding yet another button to do yet another action. The addition of Murfy no doubt stems from the game’s origins on the Wii U but on the Xbox 360 he is commanded simply with the B button and on occasion with LB and RB to rotate objects. Without an extra player and a touchscreen to control Murfy, sometimes you do end up with situations where hitting B results in Murfy doing something you didn’t intend but for the most part it works surprisingly well.
Just like Rayman Origins, Legends also brings back four player co-op to further increase the fun. Sadly, just like Origins, this feature is limited to only couch co-op. Players can choose between the classic group of Rayman, Globox and various Teensies to play as in addition to the new barbarian princesses that you rescue throughout the game. No matter what your choice there is no discernable difference to how each character plays. Another regrettable hold over from Origins is the decision that only the main profile receives any type of world progression or achievements, which just feels wrong.
While playing Rayman Legends solo will mostly feel like an exercise in fluidity and precision, adding more players to the mix will bring a healthy dose of chaos to the mix. Players can hit each other (either accidentally or on purpose) or push other players off the edge of the screen, resulting in death. When playing in co-op, however, death is simply a minor inconvenience as you can bring another player back to life relatively easily and Rayman disposes of ancient mechanics such as lives and continues. The only real problem that arises in co-op is that all players have the ability to direct Murfy, which will no doubt result in an argument or two over who should be hitting B in those intense moments.
In addition to just normal level by level gameplay, Rayman Legends also introduces a set of new ideas to keep you entertained for a long time. Daily and weekly challenges will allow you to compete with your friends (and the rest of the world) in various levels with various goals. This is a fully featured idea, with leaderboards, rewards and even ghost data to compete against. Legends also includes 30 levels from Rayman Origins, albeit with a Legends twist thrown in. The game also includes a ridiculously fun multiplayer soccer game that is a must play if you have friends over.
Just like its predecessor, Rayman Legends is a shining example of how much fun the platforming genre can be. It outshines even Mario himself with perfect controls, fresh ideas and almost perfectly balanced difficulty. Platforming may no longer be king of the video game industry but that shouldn’t stop you from checking out this amazing title, especially if you have some friends to bring along for the ride.
SCORE: 9.0 out of 10
A copy of Rayman Legends was provided to Pixel Related for review.