Rebooting classic franchises has created expectation in the past, but few leave a legacy as great as Rayman Origins. When the sequel to Ubisoft’s reimagining of the PlayStation classic was first announced, only Wii U owners would be able to experience this second chapter; but subsequent backtracks and delays have meant that the other consoles will be able to go along for the ride. There is no doubt that certainly in our eyes, Rayman Legends has a lot to live up to, given the stellar quality of all versions of his origin story. But is this long-awaited sequel the stuff of legends, or should it become lost in the annals of history?
While there is a faint premise, Rayman Legends‘ actual narrative takes a back seat. As our heroes slumber, nightmarish creatures are taking over the land. Murfy is sent to awaken Rayman and his cohorts, before teaming up to help save the hundreds of captive Teensies. Along the way, various princesses will need liberating from their sealed off chambers, but the key difference this time around is that once saved they can take up arms and become one of the crew. Truth be told, the story doesn’t matter in the slightest when compared to everything else, though it does at the very least not rely on the same tropes that a certain plumber does.
For those who have played Rayman Origins, it should come as no surprise that, despite having no changes to the controls, Rayman Legends maintains its high quality of level design and its challenging goals. The beauty of it is that even though there are generous checkpoints and infinite lives, this doesn’t feel like an easy game – complete with brand new gameplay elements that feel unique. One stage you could be gently gallivanting through the Everglades, beating on randomly placed enemies; while the next stage you could be running for your life as structures collapse all over the place. Variety is certainly the spice of life, something that the development team at Ubisoft clearly understand here. Discovery of the game’s many appealing traits is something that is best left to playing the game for yourself.
Progression is primarily made by saving Teensies hidden in each level, but this isn’t all Rayman Legends gets you to do. Collecting Lums will unlock hidden costumes, while higher ranks in levels give you the chance to win more unlockables through Lucky Lottery tickets. You won’t ever lose, but its finding out what you’ve unlocked that makes this more appealing than being fed it on a silver platter – whether it be another creature for your creature vault or one of the many faithfully remastered Rayman Origins levels. When you’ve defeated multiple worlds, you can even unlock time travel “Invasion” levels, where enemies from one world hold Teensies from another world ransom, which require some skill to save all three from an explosive demise. On top of that, you have boss levels that range from scrolling encounters to round-based brawls; and musical levels that serve as the high points of the game. Everything feels deliberate, but oh-so-satisfying to play!
It goes without saying that the visual fidelity of Rayman Legends is second-to-none, looking a million times better than any 2D Platformer out there, but there is a lot more to this carefully crafted work-of-art than meets the eye. Nods to popular culture in its soundtrack and even enemy design did not go unnoticed and as a result the game was a hilarious romp through subtle design. While Origins did have damsels in distress, Legends makes those damsels into badass heroines who certainly seem to take centre stage. Who doesn’t want to run around swinging a battleaxe that you can skate on when given the chance?
Rayman Legends is a thrill to play on your own, but the drop-in/drop-out four player cooperative mode alone makes this delicacy come together in sweet harmony. Normal levels, despite the intention to be cooperative throughout, can quite easily become a chaotic marathon of sabotage. While this type of multiplayer in platformers is far from new, this prevails over the likes of New Super Mario Bros. U by simply having varied level design, tight controls, and a way to unwind/settle grievances via Kung Foot – a highly addictive football mini-game that encourages friendly rivalries. Online challenges that change regularly round off the game’s more social interactions by tasking players to get as far as they can in the shortest time through an especially difficult course.
Perhaps the one area that feels slightly awkward is the fact that the game feels like it was made with companion tablet devices in mind. Murfy’s interaction with the Wii U version tested before release was simple and intuitive, making sure that the Wii U only fifth player is always actively engaged. Relegating Murfy to the B button in the console versions just feels like a cop-out, albeit a highly functional cop-out! Used in certain levels to open new pathways, tickle larger enemies, and much more; Murfy feels like an integral part of what makes the level design as diverse as it is. But it would have been nice to see implementation of the Wii U Gamepad controls on the PlayStation Vita or Xbox Smartglass for the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 versions. In this one inconsistency, it’s clear that not every version is created equal, despite having the potential to be.
Ubisoft have achieved the impossible: creating something almost perfect. Even though the Wii U version is the original incarnation of Rayman Legends, the current generation consoles still have a game that oozes charisma, plays well, and encourages players to interact with others. By simply expanding on what makes platforming fun, it surpasses not only its highly acclaimed prequel, but also nigh-on every 2D platformer on the market, which is certainly no mean feat! We may have had a long wait, but for a nigh-on perfect platforming experience – we’re glad we were patient!