My review of Rayman Legends is actually going to be a twofer. The bulk of the review was completed using the Wii U version, which has some significant differences that I’ll get to in a bit. I also played through several sections of the game on PlayStation 3 as well and, despite a few differences, the experiences are obviously similar. They feature the same clever level design, the same lush, cartoon-style animation, and, for the most part, the same incredible amount of content. There is a bit more on Wii U, but it is a bonus and you won’t feel its absence on the PS3/Xbox 360 versions.
The Wii U version of the game is the definitive Rayman Legends. This game was designed for the Wii U and its GamePad, and there are several features that are deeply integrated into Nintendo’s system. The graphics are also a little crisper, but the game is remarkable regardless of system. You may lose a few conveniences on the PS3/Xbox 360 version, and I’ll discuss that more in a bit, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from checking out what is among the best platformers of this generation.
The sleepers have awoken
After a century-long nap, Rayman and his friends awaken to discover the Bubble King’s nightmares are out of control. There is a bit more to it than that, but nothing that really makes a difference to how the game plays out. Rayman Legends is a platformer consisting of multiple levels that are only thematically connected. It doesn’t need a story, it would only get in the way.
The Wii U version is the better version, but the PS3/Xbox 360 editions are both excellent in their own way.
In place of a story-driven narrative, Ubisoft Montpellier gives us content – a lot of content. Once you take control of Rayman and run through a brief tutorial level, you are deposited in the main hub, an interactive and traversable menu where you can choose the area or the game mode you want. Legends consists of six primary sections (or worlds, in the Mario vernacular), each with 6-10 playable levels that culminate in a musical finale that you’ll want to play over and over. You run through the level and certain jumps or actions are linked to audio queues that help to fill out the track.
To unlock a new mission, you need rescue teensies, kidnapped denizens of Rayman’s world; the number of which each level varies. Even rescuing just a few in each level, however, is enough to keep plenty of content open to you, even without replaying missions. This is just one part of what Rayman Legends offers.
If you are a completionist, this game may give you an aneurysm as you spend days, weeks, maybe even months trying to finish everything with perfect marks. Seriously, you could die. And that isn’t counting the ever-changing challenges that are updated daily and weekly online, which pit your score, your time, or whatever objective you are competing for, head-to-head against others on a global leaderboard.
As you progress through the levels, you will also earn “Back to Origins” vouchers. These unlock what is essentially a completely separate second game-within-the-game, by offering significantly overhauled levels from Rayman Origins. These feature new enemies, new art, new objectives, and more, that have been changed to the point that they might seem vaguely familiar while still feeling completely new.
This idea of re-offering familiar maps carries over to the primary levels as well. As you progress you’ll frequently unlock “Invasion” levels, so named for the alien invaders introduced with no explanation, which present previously conquered areas in a completely different way. You will have a new objective, but you will also see new enemies, new teensies to rescue, and the left-to-right side scrolling is occasionally even reversed, sending you in the opposite direction.
You can also switch between dozens of heroes to play as, although this is more of new skin than a different way to play, just as it was in Origins. You can also replay any level at any time or spend some time with soccer mini-game that was thrown in just for the hell of it.
In terms of content, Rayman Legends is a monster.
The gameplay starts out simply enough, with the freakishly limbless Rayman jumping, gliding, and punching his way through a 2D side-scrolling world that combines platforming, collecting, and the odd bit of puzzle-solving. Any puzzles are built into the environment, so you might have to remember which platforms were covered in spikes after they retract or swim under the eyeline of an enemy to collect lums (the gold coins of Rayman).
Rayman Legends … is the most stress free platformer on the market.
The amount of content borders on staggering, but any game could throw recycled levels into a game and call it good. What sets Rayman Legends above so many others in the same genre is the variety.
One level will be a standard side-scrolling run-and-jump platforming level, while the next may have you floating between air currents. Another still could have you on a speed run through a level, while the next may ask you to slingshot projectiles at a dragon. It changes with each new mission. You can never be sure what is going to come next, and that uncertainty is what keeps the game feeling fresh.
Of course, that is helped tremendously by the imaginative level design that looks like a twisted fairy tale, with castles, deep forests, and more. The cartoon-y art style is rich with color, and the character designs – from the heroes to the enemies to the worlds themselves – are… well… cute. They’re lighthearted and goofy, and they convey a sense of good-natured joy in the design. Rayman Legends‘ design frequently makes you smile. It is absurd, but in the best way possible.
The levels themselves are also very well designed, bordering on scripted. You could find yourself running down a slope and be forced to jump, and your instincts may tell you to glide through the area, but you’ll often see something like a flower bulb at the edge of the screen, but perfectly in line with your jump. Hit it and you may then bounce to another, and another, and another. Before you know it you will have collected several lums, maybe rescued a teensie, and more. The game does this a lot, and difficult looking sections will frequently help guide you without you realizing that is what they are doing.
Rayman Legends wants you to have a good time. You can only take one hit before you die – two if you collect an armored heart pickup – death occurs frequently. There is no penalty for dying, however, and the frequent checkpoints make even that inconvenience a nearly frustration-free experience.
That doesn’t mean the game isn’t challenging, and that collecting all the teensies can’t be mind-bogglingly difficult, but you always have the option of coming back later. Platformers are usually filled with aggravating moments by design, and even the best in the genre can occasionally make you want to throw a controller. You’ll never have to start a level over from the start, the level of difficulty often comes down to how many teensies you want to rescue, and the level designs often help you out even if you don’t realize it. Rayman Legends, however, is the most stress-free platformer on the market.
The Wii U advantage
Rayman Legends was originally developed for the Wii U, and that is the best way to play. The graphics are a touch better and the GamePad is fully integrated. This may even be the best Wii U game available – both in the content, and as an example of what the GamePad can do (a game like Nintendo Land may do more with the GamePad, but Legends is a much better overall experience).
The GamePad offers a few specific benefits, but it also just makes things more convenient. Switching between the many menus using just the touchscreen is handy. You can also play the entire game remotely on the Wii U’s GamePad. The second screen also provides global stats when you engage in challenges. The integration becomes so casual that half the time you won’t even realize how convenient it is.
Many of the benefits of the GamePad are minor, but they add up. During a level if you are hurt, the GamePad will show several bubble you can pop with your finger, one of which will have a heart. Another section allows you to “scratch” tickets you earn by scoring well, and these can then be redeemed new levels, characters and more. There is also content that is exclusive to the Wii U, from the challenges to the number of teensies available in each section. It’s nothing that will make you throw down your PS3 or Xbox 360 controller in disgust, but it is a nice bonus.
The biggest difference between the Wii U and PS3/Xbox 360 versions are the Murfy missions. Spread throughout the game are levels that require you to use the character Murfy, a flying helper that can interact with the world to a small degree. These missions are made specifically for the Wii U, and they require the GamePad’s functionality.
A Murfy mission hands over control of the primary character to the AI, while you act as Murfy via the GamePad. As the AI runs through the level, you use the touchscreen abilities of the GamePad to cut ropes, lower platforms, tickle enemies to make them vulnerable, and more. Some sections also use the GamePad’s gyroscope; you might turn the controller like a wheel in order to spin around an obstacle in the game.
It’s a bit of a gimmick, and the Murfy missions are often less engaging than the others because you are only lightly interacting with the world. It can also be tough to collect the teensies without full control, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. It can actually make the act of collection feel a bit like a puzzle, since your capabilities are limited. You need to cut the right rope, or steer the AI through an area in a particular direction. It’s a welcome change of pace.
The PS3/Xbox 360 version of these missions have you control Murfy with a single button press, and Murfy is essentially on-rails. He’ll appear on screen when he can interact with the environment, and with a button press Murfy reacts. It is a completely different way to play from the Wii U version, though not necessarily a worse one. You have to focus on multiple things on screen at once, and controlling the environment via Murfy can lead to some exciting moments. Just not necessarily original ones.
The multiplayer for Rayman Legends is also better on the Wii U for this same reason. A fifth player can act as Murfy to help the other four along, in much the same way that New Super Mario Bros U uses the GamePad. And just like that game, the multiplayer has four people on screen at once. It’s fun in theory, but often a mess in practice with too many people trying to navigate the limited space on screen. Rayman Legends was made so it can accept that many, but it wasn’t necessarily made with that in mind. As a result the co-op is fun because of being able to play with friends, but the single player gameplay is much stronger. The lack of online co-op also hurts.
Rayman Legends is a stress free platformer designed with a good natured attitude that radiates through the forgiving gameplay and the often funny character animations. It’s relaxing to play, which is often the antithesis of a platformer. There is also so much content in the game that you will be playing it for a long, long time, but it is the variety of gameplay modes that will keep you engaged. The multiplayer doesn’t add much and the story is nonexistent, but both complaints are minor.
The Wii U edition is the better version, but the PS3/Xbox 360 editions are both excellent in their own way. The Murfy missions are the big difference, and both have their pros and cons. Regardless of system, Rayman Legends is among the best platformers of this generation.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Xbox 360 using copies provided by Ubisoft.
- So, so much content
- Variety at every turn
- Stress free gameplay
- Great art design
- Multiplayer is just a more confusing way to play the campaign, and no online
- No real attempt at a story
(This game was reviewed on the Wii U and the PS3 thanks to copies provided by the publishers)