There was an age when the Platformer represented gaming innovation. When new gameplay ideas were constantly implemented in order to bring the genre to the next level. Since that time, some of the genre’s greatest titans — Mario, Sonic — have either settled into a constant flow of predictability, or simply provided a fun, but not revolutionary experience. Over time the platforming genre has become a novelty, and the measure of a good game in its category is now by how well it controls, how challenging it may be and sometimes, how unique it can be. However, it has been quite some time since the genre has seen a release that justifies its ongoing presence — Since we’ve seen a title that pushes the sidescroller to the next level. Rayman Legends is that title. It improves upon its successor in nearly every way, implementing incredibly unique and intuitive ideas that will wow players from start to finish.
The sequel to Rayman Origins throws players into a less traditional world compared to its predecessor. Appropriately opting for a more fantasy-like style, Legends puts Rayman at the scene of many supernatural and magical locations. The player begins in the main gallery, where they are given the option of jumping into any painting of their choice. Some paintings bring players to the extra features, such as their creature collection, hero selection and older stages from Rayman Origins. The remaining six represent the world of Rayman Legends. The flow at which players traverse these levels is different this time around. The game immediately improves upon Origins by giving the player a wider variety of options. Each level is once again only traversable once enough teensies are collected, however, the player is now free to explore the five main worlds in any order they choose. Unlike my experience with Origins, I never felt as if I was being forced to collect enough teensies in Legends in order to continue the game. The sequel is far more lenient in its asking price for each level, ensuring that as long as the player shows a little care, they will never be forced to repeat an older level for more teensies to continue. This gives the game a perfect flow. Because of it, I beat the entire main adventure in one sitting.
This game is absolutely gorgeous.
Legends is not the longest platformer, and it may be shorter compared to the game that preceded it, but it’s filled with such unique ideas and so many extras that the player will hardly care. The core of every platformer is its level design. Legends features some of the most brilliantly designed — and surprisingly longest — levels I have seen for the genre. Each location is absolutely stunning, utilizing the whimsical Ubi Art engine to its fullest. The first world, for example, is themed around a medieval setting of castles and dragons. As players traverse this world, they’ll witness not only a wonderful level of detail in the foreground, but a lot going on in the backgrounds — dragons flying, knights fighting — as well. There is so much detail in each stage that players will have to stop at least once to marvel at it.
But despite Rayman’s visceral beauty, the star of the show is the level design itself. To say more would spoil what I considered to be an experience to be cherished. Legends constantly throws Rayman and co. into whacky, ingenious situations that justify the platforming genre as a platform for innovation. Ubisoft constantly raises the bar with each new idea implemented into each level, and I found myself squealing in delight more than once every time I experienced a brilliant new mechanic. When a player first jumps into the core of a fruit, or rocks their way through the game’s various musical themed levels they’ll be reminded that gaming is often about creativity, and not necessarily adhering to realism. Even the bosses wow in their ambitious design. The first boss in particular blew me away from a cinematic standpoint, which is unheard of for a platformer. There are so many elements at play within each new world that immersed me in a way that only legendary platformers like Donkey Kong Country could do before. The atmosphere of each stage is accelerated further by the ambient musical tracks that accompany them, and once again, the game exceeds its predecessor with this unparalleled level of detail in each new world.
Players can also play the game in four person local co-op.
I found myself constantly surprised with Legends\’ ability to stay fresh. At no point did I ever feel as if a stage was included as filler material. Each new level of the game does something completely new. There are dozens of moments throughout that push the bar for platforming in general. No, Legends isn’t necessarily going to be a staple in the gaming industry, but thanks to its ingenious level design it will surely go down as one of the most exceptional products of its genre. The level of care and detail is evident throughout each stage. Nothing ever feels phoned in, including the features built from the ground up for Nintendo’s new console.
It seems that the Wii U may have finally been graced with a game that utilizes the capabilities of its controller in a way that does not feel gimmicky, but rather intuitive. Legends features a wide variety of stage types like the standard platforming levels, musical themed stages, rushing levels and last but not least, the Murphy stages. When players encounter a Murphy stage they must use the touch sensitive and gyroscope features of the gamepad in order to help the little flying bug pave a pathway for Globox to travel. For once, I found myself enjoying the functionality of the Wii U gamepad. Thanks to a very responsive system and a lot of variety, I never dreaded a Murphy stage. It was merely another platform for Ubisoft to express their creative ideas. It worked wonderfully.
There is, however one problem with it, and it may be the only notable problem of Legends in general: There were too many of these stages. Not surprisingly, the best moments of Legends are the standard platforming stages. With only five main worlds (one secret final world), however, I found myself a bit saddened when yet another could be excellent standard stage turned out to be another Murphy controlled level. There was still an adequate amount contained within the main story, each more beautiful than the last (Wait till you see the fourth world), but it was a concern, especially considering the main story will take players no more than 8 hours to complete. Fortunately, Legends is chock full of so many extras, including forty stages from the original game, extra trials included on each main stage and a new online challenge every day that the sixty dollar price tag is more than justifiable.
Unparalleled presentation for a platformer.
The extra features will more than double the final play time. Ubisoft could have gotten away with the product they had, but it seems the delay for the game has graced us with a meatier and more well polished product. The daily challenges included in the game will ensure that hardcore platforming vets will keep playing at least an hour a day. What\’s really impressive though is the inclusion of forty stages from the original Rayman Origins. Each stage has been revamped to fit the new Legends art style and include mechanics from the new game as well. It\’s hard to argue that the sequel is not in every way better than the game that came before it. I feel as though Origins levels were more based around speed and trial and error. Legends is a more patient platformer. Regardless, the player is gifted with the best of both worlds.
Even if Legends had not included any of these extra features, I would still recommend it regardless of its price tag. It is one of the prettiest games I have ever laid eyes on. It’s also one of the cutest, most charming titles I’ve played in recent years with a focused and lighthearted attitude that will leave a smile on any player’s face. Disregarding even that, Legends is a brilliant platformer filled with genius ideas that will keep on wowing the player. It has to be played by any who enjoy the platforming genre.
Rayman Legends proves that the platforming genre can still be a catalyst for innovation. Some of the ideas implemented in the game are so unique and charming that they will amaze players on the same level that any other genre today could. This is not a title that revolutionizes gaming by wowing with cinematic prowess or technical marvels. It reminds the player that gaming is about creativity and imagination. I won’t spoil any of the fun. Just be prepared to dive into one of the most innovative and creative games of this generation. In that sense, Rayman Legends is one of the most impressive titles of the year, and easily one of the greatest side scrolling platformers I have ever played.