About ten years ago when I was first introduced to him, I never imagined Rayman would star in one of my all-time favorite platformers. Sure, Rayman 1, 2 and 3 were good fun. But I felt they lacked the precision, and challenge that can be found in other games of its time, and catagory. A few years later, Rayman dropped the genre almost entirely, in favor of becoming the minigame-centric “Rabbids” series’s mascot. It was a financially successful change, but one that I was never a fan of. Then about three years ago, my outlook on the franchise changed dramatically. While watching E3, there was talk of bringing the Rayman series back to its Origins. And the game they announced did that, and a whole lot more. It breathed new life into the platforming genre with its hectic nature, and gorgeous art-direction. It became one of my favorite platformers of all time… and Legends tops it without breaking a sweat.
The game’s setting is about as simple as you’d expect from a platformer, but presented with a colossal helping of charm. After the events of Origins, Rayman and company decided to take a century-long nap. During this time, the Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares once again got out-of-hand and started causing trouble, it’s up to Rayman and his friends to subdue the spreading chaos.
The main step-up from the original is the incredible amount, and variety of content Legends submits. While Origins did offer a pretty impressive amount of levels, Legends is just ridiculous. Each level in the game will keep you guessing, and will more than likely offer something entirely different from the last one you played. In addition to its great wealth of entirely new and original content, Legends offers forty touched-up Origins levels.
One thing veterans who have played Origins may discover is that — at first glance, Legends is a far easier game. But have no fear, there is an abundance of challenge to be found in trying to find everything hidden within the game’s main levels, and playing some of the notoriously difficult levels from Origins that have been remastered. On top of that, most every level has an “Invaded” version that unlocks over time, that adds a timer, and often another element that increases the stage’s difficulty. And for players who are connected to the “Nintendo Network” (or equivalent), there’s a challenge mode with new levels that seem to be popping up on a weekly basis. Not only are these levels incredibly difficult, but you can compete with people around the globe to get the highest score on the game’s leaderboards.
Everything about Legends is charming. Your enemies, bosses, the environments, it’s hard to do anything while playing the game but smile (granted you aren’t playing a particularly difficult level). This game couldn’t be what it is without its marvelously colorful presentation. Its narrative may be as minimal as it gets with dialog pretty much nowhere to be found, but the game’s charming little animations with child-like innocence produced a sincere happiness during my time with it.
My main issue with the game isn’t really a knock against it, but just a subtle problem with the game’s WiiU (and from what I’ve heard, the PSVita) version of the game. Legends was originally conceived as a WiiU exclusive title, but was given a heavy delay and made multiplatform following the system’s lower-than expected sales. That said, the WiiU version still has features that are pretty special if you’re playing through the game with a friend, but can be aggravating while playing alone. The game features a character who goes by the name of Murphy that players can control with the WiiU’s touchpad, and use to make changes in the game’s environment. This mode is perfect for when you have a loved one who you’d like to start playing games with, but know that a playing a full-on platformer would be an overwhelming feat for them. The only problem is, if you’re playing alone, there are a number of levels that you are forced to play as Murphy, while watching the game’s clumsy AI attempt to make its way through the stage, and almost deliberately pass by some collectibles. Oddly enough, in all other versions of the game, Murphy doesn’t have to be controlled at all. That said, playing the other versions wont allow you to control Murphy at all. It’s a shame that the WiiU version doesn’t have the best of both worlds, but this is an incredibly small quibble against one of the most fun games of the year.
It’s not easy to run out of great things to say about Rayman Legends, but its easily the best platformer of the year so far. While I’ve loved BattleBlock Theater and the like, Rayman takes the crown for now. Legends provides fun for players of all skill levels, and best not be missed. Brilliantly hectic and fun throughout, It’s practically perfect in every way.
Version Reviewed: WIIU