Rayman Legends is a charming and dare I say whimsical game that delivers a classic, nostalgic feeling in spades, all the while bringing something fresh to the table. The game underwent a bunch of tweaks during its long development and shift from Wii U exclusive to multiplatform release, a move that actually caused a ton of controversy; but as a result, a bunch of levels were added including a majority of levels from Rayman Origins, and a challenge app was made as a download exclusively for the Wii U that was actually integrated into the main game itself. While the timing for the game’s release a week before Grand Theft Auto 5 certainly left much to be desired, the game itself brings a ton to the table and is such a solid platformer that one can’t help but fall in love with its charm.
The story is silly, long story short Rayman and his crew have been asleep for 100 years, and as a result the Bubble Dreamer has begun having terrible nightmares that grew in strength and in numbers. The villain of Rayman Origins also survived too. Rayman’s friend Murfy awakens them and tells the bad news that the 10 princesses of the land were kidnapped, and so were the Teensies, a species native to this game. Rayman and his crew immediately spring into action and the battle to free the land of the nightmares and rescue these princesses and the Teensies begins.
When talking Rayman, one must note that the graphics are not polygon; in fact there is nary a polygon in sight. All the artwork and everything is hand drawn, and dare I say it looks amazing. From the backgrounds that look like anything from whimsical landscapes to nightmarish grotesqueries, to the characters that look both ridiculous and amazing at the same time. There is so much going on in the game itself in terms of graphical trickery that one can’t help but marvel at some of the techniques used. I love the fact that the game doesn’t let up with the visual mastery either, each level you go through keeps getting better and better.
Gameplay wise, it is a classic platformer through and through, you hop on enemies or you punch them to get them out of the way. You also have to dodge obstacles and navigate tricky courses to get to the end, and you collect this game’s version of coins known as “Lums”, the difference is that Lums are actually living creatures and they are funny too. Along the way, you rescue the Teensies either in the main level itself or by accessing the hidden passages that unlock a bonus level of sorts that changes things around. Exclusive to the Wii U and possibly Vita version of the game as well, are touch screen controlled levels where once you get to a certain point in that level, you tap on the gamepad’s screen to activate Murfy. The objective is to blaze a trail to make sure Rayman’s friend Globox gets to safety either through use of the Wii U Gamepad’s stylus, or the built in Gyroscope to tilt a maze, making sure Globox doesn’t get hit or make a costly blunder can be a tricky task.
However, it does not detriment the gameplay much, if at all. If anything, it shows the Wii U’s strengths and what the system is really capable of, with a clearer picture than the PS3/360 versions of the game from what I’ve seen of it. To make things better, the game is packed to the gills with content. Over 100 levels including 40 from Rayman Origins are included; add in local multiplayer for up to 4 people and an on-line aspect to this game; and you have a game that will last you a good long time even after the story mode ends.
You know that Multiplayer Challenge App I was talking about? Let’s cover this a bit more. Firstly, there are several modes of play deriving from the main game. One takes its cue directly from the Murfy levels; you guide Globox as far as you can go. Then there’s a coin battle of sorts, to see how many Lums you can collect before time runs out, and when you get your “Awesomeness” level up to a certain point, more on-line games become available. On the Wii U it all runs smooth as silk, have not experienced any lag here when playing on-line at all. UbiSoft really did do a great job of making sure it was all up to par before the game launched, and I am impressed with how well Nintendo Network runs. Gameplay wise, this game doesn’t disappoint aside from a couple minor, niggling issues. They’re minor, but can present some problems in more challenging levels.
Said issues I have are with the physics and button responses. The physics can feel a bit floaty at times, which can be a detriment in a level littered with spiked surfaces or where orifices spewing out toxic liquid can end up having your character pop like a balloon and sending you back to the nearest checkpoint. This popping might illicit some chuckles for a while, but can end up getting annoying when it happens time and time again. Also, sometimes I would press the Jump button twice, and my character would not begin their method of keeping afloat like they’re supposed to do. I definitely feel in the next Rayman installment, that they should work on those issues. While the physics are frustrating at times, everything else goes far above and beyond to balance this package out; especially the music.
The soundtrack also embraces the whimsical nature of the game. Anything goes, and I mean anything. It has epic, classical rock and jazz scores, Mexican Mariachi-esque themes, and even silly vocal songs. Much of the soundtrack of Rayman Origins is also present too, which is not a bad thing considering how Origins had such an eclectic, cheesy and campy soundtrack it only makes sense to amplify it.
This game even has music play into the game itself with what are known as “Music Levels”, where you hear different arrangements of songs, like “Black Betty” being redone a bit with gibberish for vocals, and a Mariachi rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” with a kazoo doing the vocalist’s part as examples of these theme levels. It is hilarious, and falls under the “It’s so bad, it’s good” trope much like the sound effect of the eyeball doors you hit to get to the next part of the level. Of course the music levels add to the awesomeness that this game’s soundtrack has. If there is one thing I can safely say is an absolute highlight aside from the gorgeous graphics, I’d have to say that this game’s soundtrack is absolutely ace.
All in all, Rayman Legends is a solid, charming, whimsical, fun and dare I say gorgeous looking game that needs to be experienced by anyone whom waxes nostalgic over platforming days of yore, but also want some fresh blood injected into the genre. I highly recommend the Wii U version in particular due to how the Murfy and bonus levels are handled, and it is just flat out gorgeous to look at. While the floaty physics can lead to some difficulties in later levels, they’re nothing compared to the amazing things that this game presents.