Two years ago, Rayman Origins hit every platform imaginable and dazzled with a combination of slick gameplay, inventive level design, and stunning visuals that made it the definitive 2D platformer of the generation. However, its sales weren’t exactly all that hot and it led fans to wonder if a follow-up was coming. Thanks to some massive price drops, the game sold well and after quite a bit of drama due to it being planned as a Wii U exclusive, then announced for release on a variety of platforms before getting a massive delay, the game is finally out.
The core game is the same as Origins – you go through a bunch of levels running, jumping, and punching through as many levels as you can. Unlike Origins, Legends lacks a cluttered world map and instead goes for a “hop in the painting” mechanic ala Mario 64. This setup works far better and keeps things more organized. It’s also a bit easier to unlock stages here since there are more ways to get the creatures needed to unlock them now than there were in Origins. Running, jumping, and attack controls are as spot-on as ever and the level design is better than it was in Origins. The Wii U version features second-screen gameplay, which is simulated on other systems by using shoulder buttons to spin things around, or the Circle/B button to control Murfy and have him move things for you. A common occurrence will involve a quick platforming section and you’ll use Murfy to shift around some possible platforms or poke the eyes of enemies so you can bounce off of them. The funniest bit with him involves tickling a giant foe so you can defeat them – although sending him off to show through a bunch of cake is up there as well.
The second-screen experience is the biggest new addition to the game compared to Origins, and is replicated shockingly well using a regular controller. Most of the time, I found it to be much easier to use the buttons than the screen I’d grown accustomed to using for the Wii U’s demo over the past few months. Faster-paced sections benefit from the buttons since you don’t have to worry about your fingers ever blocking your view, although some sections that involve running, jumping, and Murfy would certainly be easier to execute with a touchscreen since you have to hold a trigger button to run and it’s a bit tough to run, jump, and control Murfy at the same time.
Rayman Origins veterans will know what to expect from Legends – it’s a fast-paced platformer that rewards you for getting into a solid rhythm with the stage by giving you more lums, increasing your overall score at the end of the stage, allowing you to unlock more playable characters and scratch-off tickets that are good for many things. Beyond lums, you’ll also want to rescue as many captured Teensies as possible. You’ll know how many there are in each stage based on a pre-stage graphic, and capturing them will let you unlock more stages for the main game. Since Wii U owners weren’t able to play Origins, the developers threw in a lot of its best levels as a bonus – giving newcomers a chance to enjoy them and veterans a chance to relive them with some enhanced graphics.
Origins levels can be unlocked with the tickets, which also let you get more lums. Unlike a lot of platformers, Legends actually tracks your XP and while it seems odd to level up in a platformer, it does feel rewarding to do so. You’ll get a big lum bonus for doing so, and then gain access to more characters. There’s a constant stream of things to do and rewards for doing them and it makes the collect-a-thon nature of the gameplay far more enjoyable here than it is in many N64 3D platformers where it gets old fairly quickly.
Beyond regular gameplay, you’ve also got a soccer mini-game that doesn’t just allow you to find hidden teensies, but also participate in a multi-player game. As users of the challenge app will be familiar with, there are also daily and weekly challenges that test your platforming skills each day in quick levels against the ghosts of other players. Beyond the ghosts kind of acting as distractions at times, these things are quite awesome and give you incentives to play every day. There are also invasion stages that remix existing stages after you’ve beaten them with a tight 60 second limit that grants you a bigger lums bonus after beating it in either 40 or 50 seconds – these are addictive and it’s easy to find yourself repeating a stage over and over if you’re just a second or so off.
Visually, Legends is a feast for the eyes. The Ubi Art engine that debuted in Origins has been brought back and expanded upon. Colors still pop off of HD displays, but now have a lot more depth to them. This is especially evident with every background and with many foreground elements. It results in a more realistic-looking silly world, which adds a strange sense of realism to a game with a limbless protagonist. Ubisoft found a way to improve on the graphics in Origins, and the mere notion of that seems impossible, but is true, and is quite evident when replaying some of that game’s stages with the revamped graphics.
Also like Origins, Legends has a very enjoyable soundtrack. The music varies from happy to a bit more serious and is always fun to listen to during gameplay. The most hummable fare afterwards tends to be limited to the relatively few music stages, which aren’t just the highlight of the soundtrack, but of the game itself. There’s nothing quite like action-platforming to the beat of “Eye of the Tiger” and crafting some of the notes yourself by picking up lums to the beat of the song. The sound effects are basic cartoony sound bytes for each character, and are perfectly fine for what they are.
Rayman Legends is the best entry in the series to date and the new king of 2D platforming. With Super Luigi U getting its physical release so close to it, it’s possible to see Wii U owners wondering which game to get and Rayman Legends is the easy recommendation. Nothing in any modern 2D Mario game is as inventive as this, and in a lot of ways, Rayman Legends is the kind of game many older players want from the 2D Mario and Sonic games because it doesn’t just stick with old tropes – it reinvents platforming and tries new things. The second I played the Castle Rock stage on the Wii U demo many months ago, I knew this game would at least try some very different things, and that trend continues with silly stages like a food-themed one where you slide down button to progress and explore fruits and vegetables for teensies and lums.
It’s easy to recommend the game at $60 given that you get nearly two full games worth of content and it’s all top-shelf stuff. However, realistically speaking, Origins’ super-low price does bring about the very real possibility that the price will drop. If you loved Origins, you’ll definitely get $60 worth out of this even with some Origins content being present here, while those who’ve never played Origins should give the demo a shot and see if they like it. If you’re won over by it, then snatch it up ASAP. Sadly, there is no cross-buy support for the PS3 and Vita versions, so owners with just those platforms may want to hold out for a price drop on each or a possible bundle before buying.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a retail copy of Rayman Legends for the PlayStation 3 provided by Ubisoft.