Reviewed by John Hussey
Rayman! Most gamers should know this wonderful character and the legacy he’s left behind. Though not as prominent as other gaming mascots, such as Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Crash Bandicoot, Rayman has certainly made a name for himself, with his original game, Rayman, being a best seller on the original PlayStation system. Though his franchise went into obscurity with the introduction of party games Raving Rabbids, Rayman managed to make a comeback with Rayman Origins which made a surprise return to his roots, delivering a colourful, bouncy, and challenging side-scrolling platformer.
Due to the success of Rayman Origins it wasn’t hard to imagine that Ubisoft would come back with another sequel. In 2013 Rayman Legends was released for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, and Wii U, later being released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2014. I first played Rayman Legends on my partner’s Wii U, before buying it for the Xbox 360, and then finally owning it for the PlayStation 4. And I have to say it’s an awesome game, and stands as one of my favourite platforming games of all times.
Though it does seem odd to think that this game is now over three years old. It felt like it came out yesterday. I’m very funny when it comes to re-watching and re-playing things as they have to really stand-out to become a product that I will happily go back to at any given time. Most of my products just sort of sit there within my collection (often gathering dust) until I’m in the mood to even look at them. But with Rayman Legends I can happily replay it over and over again because it’s both light and endearing, balanced out with its brightness and its challenging nature.
I’ve never seen balance used so precisely. Ubisoft Montpellier and Ubisoft Casablanca really nailed this game on the head and knew want they wanted to deliver. It has all the charm of the original Rayman but wraps it up nicely with the better controls and fairness of its sequels. I love the colours of Rayman Legends, and playing it in HD is amazing. The colours scream out to you (almost mesmerising you) as you blindly get caught up in Rayman’s world. Rayman Origins had a great array of environments and Rayman Legends decided to follow with that design but vamp it up.
I really liked that the theme of this game was “legends” in which each area has some kind of connection to mythical journeys. The most prominent theme comes with the medieval vibe that the game sets up from the menu, with the title card and music representing that setting perfectly and gets you pumped up to play the game. I suppose the only downside is the narrative, and like with Rayman and Rayman Origins, there isn’t much of one. I guess that’s why I really liked Rayman 2: The Great Escape because it felt like you was properly going on a journey because there was a constant presence of a purpose via the actual events of the narrative.
Here we once again have a simple set-up and you’re sent on your way. But despite this Rayman Legends does well with giving you a purpose in that you have to travel across these different areas and save the Teensies, along with Barbara and the other princesses, and restore the balance to Rayman’s world which is now overrun with nightmarish creatures. And that’s it really. The levels become a game of collecting things, whether it be find all the Teensies (which are well hidden) and collect lums in order to earn trophies and progress your gameplay.
But it still remains exciting. It’s all incorporated into the intense, and fun, platforming which is some of the best I’ve ever played. Not only is it challenging in the best possible way, it also plays incredibly well. There’s barely any moments within the game that I can physically state had me close to throwing my controller out the window because the controls match the gameplay. Unlike with the original Rayman where the controls clearly did not suite the style of platforming present onscreen, Rayman Legends delivers you a comfortable experience that you can quickly sink your teeth into and just have fun. What more could you ask for from a Rayman game?
The world set-up is slightly different from Rayman Origins in which you’re no longer travelling across a mini-map of the Glade but instead reside in a (sort of) hub-world filled with paintings, which cleverly incorporates the theme of the game. You can enter these pictures to enter different rooms in which have further paintings to take you to the individual levels. It’s really clever how this hub-world is designed and makes for travelling between worlds and levels easily accessible.
Upon starting the game you are awoken by Murphy who informs Rayman and his friends that whilst they were sleeping their world has been invaded by nightmares. I know it’s kind of the same (if not lazier) as Rayman Origins‘ set-up but it works for getting you into the sense of adventure, and on you go on your quest to save the day (once again). Only this time there isn’t a mystery behind who the bad-guy is. The Magician returns (after somehow surviving his apparent death) and has now split himself into five “Dark Teensies”. Each of which resides in the five areas of the game and attempts to stop you from completing your quest.
The first area of the game, “Teensies in Trouble”, revolves around a medieval setting, incorporating beautiful greenery, castle settings, and dungeons. The second area of the game, “Toad Story”, revolves around a fairy tale setting, incorporating swamp areas, rich jungles, and levels revolving around flying castles. The third area of the game, “Fiesta de los Muertos”, revolves around a Mexican setting, whilst striking a similar resemblance to “Gourmand Land” due to its incorporation of food. The fourth area of the game, “20,000 Lums Under the Sea”, revolves around an underwater setting, whilst striking a similar resemblance to “Sea of Serendipity” (for obvious reasons). The fifth area of the game, “Olympus Maximus”, revolves around a Greek setting, incorporating Greek mythology through levels pulled out of Disney’s Hercules, dangerous temples, and a journey into Hades.
You’ll quickly gather that there’s a set system to each world. They each have six levels, a boss fight, and two short challenge levels that you need to complete in order to save the princesses. On top of that there’s the “Invasion Paintings” which add to each area as you collect items. These mini-levels can be extremely challenging, testing your abilities as a platformer gamer to the max. Each level varies in how many Teensies you need to collect, and there’s seven hundred to be found and it’s not the easiest of challenges. Then there’s the lums to consider and again it can be hard with some levels to collect the amount required to earn your bronze, silver, and gold trophies for each painting.
Another element that becomes repetitive (though not entirely in a bad way) is the reoccurring presence of the Dark Teensies. There’s always an introduction level dedicated to them trying to steal a female Teensie and you have to chase them down through a series of obstacles and tight platforming segments before the female Teensie inevitably frees herself, leading to the Dark Teensies cursing at you in frustration. There’s usually another Dark Teensie level in which he whistles in the help of a creature native to that particular area, spanning from a dragon to a large sea creature, to chase you down, leading to more tight and challenging platforming segments before eventually escaping the said creature.
There are different kinds of levels, spanning from a usual straightforward platforming level, to a running level in which you must keep ahead of the danger at hand whilst carefully platforming through the endless obstacles. Then there are the levels in which you solely glide through the air using Rayman’s gliding ability (making sure to avoid obstacles and balancing out your velocity). As well as this there are certain levels set under water which can be challenging, particularly in the chase levels as you have to be sharp with your reactions and it’s extremely easy to miss collectible items.
The one type of level that comes to mind that I find particularly infuriating are the Murphy levels. And unfortunately they are mandatory in each area. Now for the most part they can prove to be fun, but on other occasions the controls aren’t great and end with you dying over and over again as you try to figure out how to coordinate both Murphy and Rayman to complete the puzzle at hand. Now I can’t bitch and moan too much because I have the PlayStation 4 version of the game (so I have one of the easier and better controlled versions). Playing the Murphy levels on the Wii U, on the other hand, is a complete nightmare and tries too hard to shove the control-pads capabilities into your face.
Fundamentally, the challenge of controlling Murphy in order to help you progress through the level should be rather fun but Murphy’s reaction times can prove to be too slow or too precise at certain occasions, which ultimately leaves little room for errors. If you don’t react fast enough you die essentially. And some of the later levels can become really tricky and if you haven’t mastered Murphy by that point, you’re going to struggle. I’d say the more frustrating levels with Murphy reside in “Fiesta de los Muertos”.
A lot of his puzzles revolve around cutting gaps through the scenery in order to progress but the way he hovers over the selected area you want to make a path proves difficult, often leading to cutting the path wrong, losing collectible items, or pouring a river of lava on your head. And when you’ve been transformed into a Ray-Duck by the Dark Teensies, it makes things even more challenging.
I will admit that the boss battles of Rayman Legends are really well thought-out, each feeling unique in both gameplay and their representation of the current area of the game. You fight a dragon within “Teensies in Trouble”, a giant toad in “Toad Story”, an enormous Luchador in “Fiesta de los Muertos”, and a deadly monstrous robot sea-creature in “20,000 Lums Under the Sea”, before ending your journey with a battle against a creature of pure nightmares in “Olympus Maximus”. Then you get the humorous bonus of sending each Dark Teensie to the Moon (which happens to reside in the backside of a constellation shaped like a pig) where they’ll probably spend the rest of eternity being used as a musical instrument by a group of aliens.
What makes Rayman Legends even more special are the “Music Levels”. Holy crap these levels are so much fun and pretty much (on their own) make this game! Taking inspiration from past iterations of musical rhythm challenges, Rayman Legends times that by a thousand by having a musical rhythm challenge set around platforming, meaning you have to time your jumps and attacks according to the beat. It makes for some of the best platforming seen within video game history. I can easily play these levels over and over again, if not for the thrill of the challenge, but for the brilliant covers of the songs.
“Castle Rock” is a cover of “Black Better” (performed by Ram Jam), “Mariachi Madness” is a cover of “Eye of the Tiger” (performed by Survivor), “Gloo Gloo” is a cover of “Woo Woo” (performed by 5. 6. 7. 8s) and finally “Dragon Slayer” is a cover of “Antisocial” (performed by Trust). The other two music levels, “Orchestral Chaos” and “Grannies World Tour”, are composed by the game’s composers, Christophe Héral and Billy Martin.
When you’ve completed the five worlds you unlock a bonus world in which you can return to the Land of the Livid Dead, along with replaying all the previous music levels in a special 8-bit format. They play-out exactly the same only the gameplay will be affected by the integration of doom screen, colour bleeding, static snow, pixilation, and worsened lower resolution. These are all really fun but be warned the challenge comes in by not having any checkpoints, meaning you have to bypass the many scrambled obstacles, and collect every single collectible without failing. You are truly put to the test when it comes to the 8-bit version of “Grannies World Tour” where all the obstacles above are ingeniously integrated in order to make your gameplay painfully difficult, but once mastered it becomes really fun (and certainly worth showing-off about).
On top of that Rayman Legends throws in forty re-mastered Rayman Origins levels for free, meaning you end up with two games for the price of one. How awesome is that? This includes levels from each of the main worlds, “Jibberish Jungle”, “Desert of Dijiridoos”, “Gourmand Land”, “Sea of Serendipity”, and “Mystical Pique”, as well as all the main boss battles. And of course since they’ve been re-mastered with HD graphics they look better than ever before. Plus each of the levels have been integrated with new collectibles to serve as a continuation of the Rayman Legends formula, making these not only good for nostalgia trips, but also good for replay value due to exploring all the new aspects.
As an added bonus there’s also an online mode called “Daily Challenges” in which every day, week, and month, Ubisoft release new challenge levels (each with a different completing requirement) in which you compete against players around the world in order to achieve the best ranking. My only real issue with the game is the “Trophy System” as some of the trophies force you to play Rayman Legends to death (to the point it stops being fun and feels more like a chore) as you grind up your points and lums.
It’s literally taken me nearly three years to collect one million lums and I’m still trying to reach the final level of “Awesomeness”, forcing me to have to play the “Daily Challenges” every single day. But considering this isn’t technically a “must-do” element I can let it slide for the most part and simply look at Rayman Legends as a whole without its enjoyment being impeded too much. But for all you completionists out there I strongly warn you to be prepared for the challenge ahead, because it will take you a long time to fully complete this game.
What else can I say about this game? Rayman Legends is an awesome experience that any die-hard fan of the Rayman franchise should own. Heck, any die-hard fan of the platforming genre should own this game. Scratch that, all gamers out there should be putting this at the top of their lists of “games they need to own and play”. This is definitely a game that I’m glad I played and owned on different systems in order to immerse myself into the wonderful, challenging, and ridiculous gameplay aspects of Rayman’s latest and greatest outing. The direction’s nice, the gameplay is immersive, and the soundtrack is solid. I just really, really, really hope that Rayman Legends won’t be the last game in the franchise. But if it is I won’t deny it would certainly send it off with the loudest bang possible.