There are few games that I anticipated playing this year as much as Rayman Legends. As a rabid fan of Rayman Origins, I was eager to see what new madness Ubisoft could dream up for a sequel. The wait for the title, as it was decided Legends needed to be ported to every system possible, was a difficult one. This was a game I was originally going to buy a Wii U to play, back when it was originally scheduled to come out exclusively for that system. So, the real question is – did Legends live up to my expectations? My impressions might surprise you.
First a bit of background. Though I was a huge fan of Origins, I was not a fan of the Rayman games that preceded it. Maybe it was the timing of their releases, or the fact that they were for a system I didn’t own, but something about Rayman didn’t appeal to me. Sure, it was pretty and creative, but if I wanted platforming I usually went with Mario. That all changed with Origins. Now, exclusively for Nintendo fans, was a Rayman game at a time when platformers were boring or repetitive. It breathed new life into the series for me, and was crazy challenging on top of it. I greatly respected the amount of love that went into Origins, from the music to the level design to the hidden goodies I spent so many hours unlocking. So it goes without saying that I had some pretty high expectations for Legends.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first. Plot wise, Rayman Legends is about the same as Origins. Nightmares are waking up, doing bad stuff and it’s your job to stop them. Legends does everything that Origins did, but with a higher degree of precision and attention to detail. You can tell right out of the gate that they wanted Legends to not only succeed, but to appeal to a greater audience. This is especially evident in the multiplayer focus, allowing up to 5 players to play locally on the Wii U version. Another feature that makes this evident is the focus on shorter levels. Legends easily has more levels than Origins, but I found Origin‘s levels to be longer. Furthermore, the levels in Legends tend to be more well balanced and less prone to cheap tricks, which should make most players very happy.
Gameplay in the game is crisp, easy to learn and fun. Most levels are basic platforming affairs, getting from the beginning of the level to the end while collecting as many Lums and Teensies as you can. Things are complicated by various enemies and traps, such as thorny tentacles, flaming eyeballs and the occasional dragon. The platforming itself is also frequently interspersed with hovering sections, wall running and chase levels. There is also the occasional boss battle, which is suitably larger than life and frantic. Despite these challenges, I found myself quickly mastering the gamepad to play through all of these sections. I also found it rather intuitive, after some play testing, to play through the touch screen sections. Here you control Murphy, and by tapping or swiping, clear the path for Sir Globox to proceed. Overall I found these noticeably less stressful than the classic platforming, with the exception of areas that forced me to twist the gamepad to affect the screen in various ways. Regardless, they offered up some appreciated gameplay variety as well as making the Wii U version stand out. I played some of these sections for the XBox version, and found them much more frustrating. For example, in the What the Duck? level, for the Xbox version Murphy flies around in set patterns and you press a button to make him eat the cake and then traverse the cake tunnels as a duck. In the Wii U version, the duck auto walks in whatever path you create by utilizing the touch screen to draw a path for Murphy to munch. It was just much more intuitive and less frustrating in the Wii U version overall.
Graphically, the game is just as beautiful as Origins, but with perhaps better resolution thanks to the HD. Though I did enjoy the variety of level design, from forests to floating castles to Mardi Gras hell, some of the enemy designs grated on me. See, in Origins, every enemy was hand drawn and animated fluidly. In Legends, some of the enemies, notably the larger enemies and bosses, are hand drawn art thrown over 3D skeletons. The resulting creatures looked a bit rough to me, and detracted slightly from the overall style. Were this for a 3D game, I might accept it more, but on a 2D platformer I found it off putting.
Musically, the game is outstanding as well. Much like Origins before it, Legends makes use of various musical styles to ably fit each level, ranging from soothing to fist pumping to frantic. There were no tracks that I found disappointing, whether it be for normal levels or boss levels. This was especially important in the new Musical Stages. Here, you run, jump, and punch to the beat of the song, and being uncoordinated results in instant death. I can’t express how satisfying these were, and for me they were a true highlight of the game.
Another satisfying new feature in the game were the Invaded levels. These were essentially remixed time trials stages, throwing creatures and obstacles from one world of the game into another world. For example, you might play a level from World 1, Teensies in Trouble, but instead of facing the usual enemies, you’ll face Toads from Toad Story and lightning and missiles. These challenge stages are brutally hard and force you to be on your A game to succeed. To save all the Teensies, you’ll have to beat each stage in less than 40 seconds. Mind you, they are all littered with enemies, death defying drops and tons of obstacles to surmount. I took great joy in them, and have yet to beat some with the requisite time.
There are two aspects of the game I could not experience firsthand, and those were the online Weekly Challenges and the local multiplayer aspects of the game. As I don’t have access at home to anything besides dial up, I could not connect to the internet to try out these features. From what I understand, none of these are necessary to finish the game 100%, but regardless they offer some much needed replay value to the game. They also apparently allow bragging rights if you do especially well on an Invaded level, allowing players to post their best times online.
Now as much as I enjoyed Rayman Legends, there were a few areas that I feel it came up short. First, let’s discuss the heroes. While it is true that there are a large variety of heroes for you to unlock with your hard earned Lums, they are mostly color and design swaps of the same 4-5 characters. For example, there is Barbara, a red haired viking, and Twila, who is essentially a Goth color swap of Barbara with a bat winged helm. While I am fine with this, I have to admit it felt a bit lazy. I would have much preferred unlocking various costumes than a bunch of cloned hero characters with essentially the same gameplay mechanics.
Another feature that bothered me with Legends was length. Don’t misunderstand me, there is a lot of replay value in the game. But as far as the main story mode goes, you can beat it in about 6 hours. After this, you are prompted to unlock the final World by acquiring 400 Teensies, and there is a final boss to unlock for a whopping 700, but I feel that the main story was too short. Origins easily took a couple of hours longer to beat its Story mode, and still had a ton of stuff to unlock. Which brings me to my next complaint – the rehash levels. There is a world called Back to Origins, which is essentially 95% of the levels from the previous game. You unlock new worlds in Back to Origins by collecting Lucky Tickets, which are acquired by getting certain high quantities in each level. The Teensies you gather contribute to your overall score, and you can fight all the old bosses again. My problem is, I already did all this when I first played through Origins. While this would no doubt be a welcome feature for those who never played the Wii classic, for those who did it just feels like a lazy add on. I would have preferred a slew of new levels instead. It also irritated me that the Back To Origins levels were toned down difficulty wise from the original game. This was made evident to me when I beat one of the Treasure Chest chase sequences in 15 minutes that had taken me a couple of hours in the original game.
Overall, I found Legends to be much easier than Origins. Maybe it’s because I’m an old school platforming nut, and my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. But I was anticipating Legends being more difficult than Origins, not easier and shorter. Which isn’t to say Rayman Legends is a cakewalk, just that it was noticeably easier. However, I don’t want to give everyone the impression that the game was horrible. That’s simply not the case. In fact, I rather enjoyed my time with the game, and have yet to unlock some 200 or so Teensies. It is possible, though unlikely, that my opinion will change after I have had a chance to fight the hidden boss, and beaten all the stages fully. Until then, though, I can only base my review on my experience prior to playing the game. For those who enjoy platforming, Rayman Legends is a great choice. Especially since it is easier than it’s brother, Rayman Origins. But for those who like their platformers to be tough as nails and brutal, perhaps hold off on your legendary expectations until Ubisoft announces another game.
Review copy provided by reviewer for the Wii U version.