I was worried for a while when Rayman’s name was dropped from the Raving Rabbids titles. For all I knew, Ubisoft could have given up on the the little limbless guy. I mean, we hadn’t seen a proper entry in the franchise since Rayman 3 in the early 2000s, and now his name was being added to mini-game collections in which he wasn’t really the main character. Luckily in 2011 Ubisoft released a new platformer entry in the Rayman series with Rayman Origins. Going back to the series’ “origins” if you will, the game was rendered in 2-D with beautiful artwork to boot. Rayman Legends’ core is very similar to that of its predecessor with new twists and turns thrown in that make it more engaging in every way.
As soon as the game is booted up it’s hard not to notice how beautiful it is. Environments are detailed and brimming with movement and life. The layered backgrounds shift as the characters move, adding a beautiful sense of depth to the environments that makes you forget that everything is actually flat. The worlds you visit are diverse, and with them come new sets of enemies with new animations and personalities. Characters also now have shading and depth to them – an abandonment of the hard black outlines of Rayman Origins. The amount of love and care poured into the visuals is obvious and while graphics aren’t everything, this game would not be the same if it was lacking in the department.
Thankfully, the gameplay is just as satisfying as the visuals. The movement of your character is fluid and fun, as is the level design. The levels are designed so that the player can run through them with reckless abandon, allowing him or her to slide down hills and punch through obstacles to keep the pace up. The abilities you use such as punching and gliding are great fun to use as well with clever new ways to use them popping up throughout the game. You can punch while running to gain speed and glide into some wind and be whisked along with current. Suddenly you’re flying and paired with a power-up that grants you a projectile attack. Surprise, you’re now playing a side scrolling shooter. You’re going to need to learn when and how to use the abilities in order to tackle the rest of Legends content of which there is an ample amount.
Outside of the main levels there are other modes and optional levels to tackle. The most notable for me was the new and addicting challenge mode. Every day and week new challenge levels are added. They mostly comprise of collecting the most “lums,” one of the game’s collectibles, in a certain time frame or trying to make it to the end of a level in the shortest time possible. What makes the challenges so fun are the leaderboards and rankings. You get a bronze, silver, gold or platinum trophy depending on what percentile you rank amongst with time or score. Each time you successfully complete a challenge the game shows you who on the leaderboard you have beaten and who you need to beat next. This makes the mode feel more personal and add in the ability to challenge other players and friends to beat your score. It’s a really fun competitive mode. Musical levels are another brilliant addition to the game. They are unlocked at the end of each world and have you jumping and punching to the rhythm of a song, the first of which is a goofy cover of the rock song “Black Betty.” These levels are an absolute joy and you’ll be hard pressed to not crack a smile during one.
Instead of normal platforming levels there are also levels where you take control of a fairy-like creature named Murphy. For these you need to use the touch screen to manipulate the environment to help Rayman and the likes navigate the level. In single player the character is controlled by the AI while you are in charge of creating a navigable level with Murphy. It’s a bummer to lose control of your character and have to play as Murphy in these sections, and it can really slow down the pace of the game. These levels can be fun on occassion but there are far too many of them. It’s just simply more fun and engaging to be the one running and jumping around. Unless you are playing with other people, the Murphy sections are a drag on an otherwise fast and fun game.
Even still, there are new things to see and do in Rayman Legends. There are “invaded” levels that tweak story levels by making them harder and adding in enemies from other worlds. In addition, there are tons of characters and creatures to collect as well as about 40 levels to unlock, including a competitive soccer game called “Kung Foot.” The whole game is also playable with up to five players, with one taking control of Murphy on the game pad. In an age where most 2-D platformers are relegated to digital platforms, Rayman Legends justifies its boxed existence with one of the most fun and full-featured games of the year.