Rayman Origins, that delightfully charming limbless hero’s return to the forefront after taking a backseat to those blasted Rabbids, was incredible; beautiful, fun, and wildly inventive. Any sequel or follow-up would have some pretty big disembodied boots to fill. Rayman Legends somehow manages to be even better.
Following all of their hard work ridding the Glade of Dreams of nightmares in Rayman Origins, Rayman, Globox, and the Teensies have been sleeping…for a century. During that time, the Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares have grown in both strength and number – and aided by a group of dark Teensies, have once again plunged the world in to chaos. It’s naturally up to Rayman and friends jump in, on and over things; collect other things, free even more things from cages and make the world a safe and wholesome place once again. As is the case with most platformers, the story is a paper-thin excuse to do a lot of jumping.
If you’ve played the previous game or just about any platformer, you’ll feel right at home; you’ll jump about, making your way through various levels in different worlds, collecting the shiny, singing, yellow Lums, killing enemies and freeing cage-captured Teensies. The general mechanics really haven’t changed; it’s still an incredibly tight, fun and frantic platformer.
Ubisoft hasn’t rested on its laurels or just delivered the same game twice though; there are some appreciable additions and new features. Graphically, the game is even more beautiful than the already awe-inspiring Origins ever was; with new 3D effects and crisp hand-drawn HD visuals that quite literally pop out of the screen – but the biggest gameplay change is the addition of Murfy the green fairy-like fly as a playable character, instead of being relegated as he has in the past to being a lowly scorekeeper.
In a number of levels, Murfy is able to interact with the world by pulling levers, cutting ropes, moving platforms, tickling enemies, jabbing tentacled beasts in the eyes and a host of other silly little things to help you progress. On the Wii U, Murfy would be controlled using that system’s touchpad, but on other systems his actions are haphazardly and inelegantly assigned to just a single button. Simply tap a button and Murfy will contextually slice through the nearest rope, move the nearest platform or tickle the nearest brute, rendering him vulnerable. It works – but it’s glaringly obvious that the entire game was designed with the Wii U in mind. On the Wii U, you’re be able to play these level’s co-operatively, with the gamepad player controlling just Murfy. Other platforms aren’t afforded this luxury. It’s not all bad though; sometimes levels using Murfy are so frantic and frenetic that you’ll be glad you need to press just a single button. Still, with the dexterity required to control both your hero and Murfy with a single controller, the levels that involve Murfy could well end up being your least favourite.
That’s very nearly the only bad thing I have to say about the game though, because it’s such an incredibly well designed unwavering rollercoaster ride of pure, inventive fun. There are five main worlds for you to explore to rescue the imprisoned Teensies; each with its own unique aesthetics and style. “Teensies in Trouble” has an overall medieval theme about it; “Toads Story” features predominantly swampy areas, “Fiestas De Los Muertos” is filled with undead skeletons complete with all the aesthetic trappings of Mexico’s Day of the Dead, “20000 Lums Under the Sea” takes it all underwater; adding both swimming and stealth through some clever gameplay that has you avoiding light’; “Olympus Maximus” takes it’s aesthetic queues from Greek Mythology. Each is bookended with a wonderful, fast-paced musically-themed level, taking a Rayman-esque riff on a popular tune. The more Teensies you free, the more levels you unlock.
The last world, “Living Dead Party” stands as the only disappointment. Where the last, entirely optional levels in Origins would kick your ass through incredible level design, “Living Dead Party” remixes the previous musical levels in 8-bit chip-tune and adds layers of artificial difficulty by making it terribly hard to see what’s going on on-screen.These rehashed levels are a small, and unusual misstep for a game that’s otherwise incredibly generous with content.
On top of the main game, there’s a section called “Return to Origins” filled with remixed levels inspired the original game, that you’ll unlock by scratching away at lucky ticket you’ll earn by collecting enough Lums on each level. Those scratch-cards will also potentially reward you with more Lums, more Teensies or bizarre collectible pets (pigs, ghosts, robots, pieces of toast) that earn you daily Lums as well.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a challenges section with daily and weekly challenges where you can test your platforming skills against the rest of the world’s by completing brutally difficult levels in worldwide leaderboards. There’s even more content in that some completed levels can be invaded by those darker Teensies, and you’ll have to do a brutally difficult backwards, speed-run version of the level to save Teensies within a time limit. You can also play it with up to three other people for some of the craziest co-op you’re likely to find – but it’s so fast and cluttered with so many people, that you’ll find it’s generally easier- though decidedly less fun – to go it alone.
Though it’s definitely still best on the Wii U, and it’s evident that the entire game was designed around that platform, Rayman Legends is a delight regardless of where you play it. Wild and wonderful, Rayman Legends is as close to platforming perfection as you’ll get.
I do, however, really miss those mosquito levels from Origins.