Rayman Legends | Principal Platforms: Wii U (version tested), Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PC | Developer: Ubisoft | Publisher: Ubisoft | Genre: 2D Platformer | Year: 2013
Tremendous. Fantastic. Fan-dabby-dozy-tastic.
These are just a few words that I would use to describe Rayman Legends; a game I would now consider to be the quintessential platforming masterpiece of the modern era.
Building upon the solid foundations of its prequel Rayman Origins, this likewise poorly-titled caper sees Rayman & co. battling the forces of evil across many superbly crafted levels of sumptuous platforming action.
Sporting an improved build of the Ubi Art Framework engine, Rayman Legends looks glorious with its quirky hand-painted style, dynamic visuals, and humongous 3D boss characters that make every set piece pop with personality and animated verve.
Using a simple two button layout for jumps and punches, the game handles beautifully so you won’t have any problems adding a newbie player to your cooperative playthrough.
The person holding the Gamepad has the ability to “tag out” their character by tapping on the touch screen. Doing this summons Rayman’s airborne ally Murfy who can help out via the Gamepad’s second screen.
Murfy can distract enemies, fetch hidden collectibles and highlight the best routes for other players to follow all by touching and dragging with the stylus. Several levels are more tightly designed around the use of the touch screen too and it’s here that the implementation becomes less of a gimmick and more of an innovative gameplay experience.
Here the Gamepad player becomes responsible for adjusting the position of platforms, cutting away dangerous obstacles, and rotating entire rooms via the controller’s built-in gyroscope.
If the Murfy levels do highlight one weakness though it’s that Rayman Legends is a much better game when played with friends as a lone player will be forced to use the Gamepad whilst a CPU controlled ally does all the platforming in their stead.
The AI isn’t always precise with its jumps though and the loss of communication between two or more human players here can make such sections feel like a chore.
It’s an unfortunate compromise to be sure and likewise irksome is the trouble that certain stages have in accommodating multiple players.
The multiplayer support is a big plus point on the whole, but certain levels can be ill-suited for so many characters all jumping and punching at once. This is especially true when you’ve got to tackle crumbling platforms or other hazards that require a bit of platforming finesse.
The well-tuned difficulty curve makes up for this quibble though and the software’s loading times are so quick that restarting a section over isn’t much of an annoyance.
Rayman Legends is bursting with content. The controversial decision that publisher Ubisoft made to delay the Wii U release for nearly a whole year was countered by the committed development team who sought to make good by cramming in as much extra content as they could in the meantime.
The impressive 3D boss fights are a stunning example as are the bonus ‘Invasion’ levels, challenge modes and other little extras specially made for Wii U owners.
It’s difficult to overstate just how magnificent the game looks with its gorgeous scenery and delightful characters. You’ll be in awe the first time you witness the level called 20,000 Lums Under the Sea, as the underwater coral and aquatic lifeforms dazzle in all their colourful 2D glory.
And whether it’s with a bit of basic platforming, speed-running, shooting, or even stealth, Rayman Legends is constantly surprising you with fresh and inventive ways to have fun.
The speed-running sections are particularly cool. Reminiscent of Bit.Trip Runner, these musically charged stages are backed by well known cover songs and will instantly put a smile on your face.
Also interesting is the inclusion of several remastered levels from Rayman Origins which act as unlockable extras to keep you occupied once the main game has been completed.
I haven’t played Rayman Origins, but I find it interesting that these levels are nowhere near as good as those from Rayman Legends itself.
It’s a difficult criticism to explain too because the same lush graphics, silly enemies and solid platforming action is still present. But that familiar spark; that little extra burst of creativity and dynamism found in Legends just isn’t there in these Origins levels.
It’s also a shame that the majority of unlockable characters are just repetitive palette swaps of the same female warrior, even if those those exclusive Mario & Luigi outfits are going down a storm with Nintendo fans!
Honestly though, the biggest downer of Rayman Legends is that it has to end!
This is a very generous package as it is; one that will keep completists busy for hours on end, but it’s so good that you’ll still selfishly demand more by the time it’s over.
In terms of the Wii U console specifically, there’s a solid argument to be made here for it being the definitive version of choice. In other versions the Gamepad levels are automated and seem to lack that satisfying edge of control and innovation that the Wii U delivers on (for once).
Whilst I’ve not personally tested the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One alternatives, I can’t imagine the addition of uncompressed textures or a further reduction in loading times (which were perfectly agreeable to begin with) offset the loss of the Gamepad or the odd exclusive level.
Overall, with the exception of that rather unfortunate “Legends” moniker, this is a game that’s authentic, entertaining, and easily one of the best video games I have played for the Wii U or any other console for that matter.
If you’ve ever had reason in the past to doubt the positive impact of this medium then play Rayman Legends now because it isn’t just a brilliant video game, it’s one that restores your faith.