Despite a lackluster E3 conference this really has been a banner year for Ubisoft. Everything we’ve gotten from them we’ve loved, from the 80s-tastic Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon to the surprisingly creative Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, we’ve given them nothing but perfect scores and that trend continues with Rayman Legends. Now I will say going into this that I was a huge fan of Rayman Origins and if you didn’t like that game then this one won’t be to your tastes either, but realistically if you didn’t like Rayman Origins you’re just a bad person and can stop reading this site.
So the premise here is pretty much pure incoherence but here’s what I was able to discern. Since Rayman Origins, Rayman and his friends have fallen back to sleep and the Glades of Dreams has been invaded by nightmares led by five evil wizards. Those evil wizards have captured all the teensies (those little blue dudes) and in response that bearded bubble sage guy has sent Murphy (the little flying green dude) to wake up Rayman so he can once again save the realm. From there it’s pretty much pure insanity but I expected no less considering the last game. There is also all these thin threads of back story involving warrior princesses for each world you visit but that can all be safely ignored; the real goal of this game is for you to have fun and it’s set up in such a way as to perfectly enable that.
Gameplay wise this is basically the same as the last game; there is the new Murphy touch screen stuff but we’ll get into that later as aside from that it’s all fundamentally the same. What the game does bring though are tons of expertly crafted levels for to you enjoy and while they haven’t expanded too much on the base platforming mechanics they have gone whole hog on new level mechanics. Each world has various little hazards that are purely theirs and learning to adapt and overcome them is a ton of fun. Also worth noting is the musical levels at the end of each world that essentially act as a final exam for all those tricks. These were shown off at E3 as Guitar Hero but with platforming acting as the gameplay and they are just as awesome in practice as they looked on the big conference hall screen. For each one the hazards of that world end up getting thrown in and each jump, hit, and collectible acts as a note in the song, doing it perfectly is a transcendent experience and never stops being fun. The song for the first world is an intelligible version of Black Betty yelled at you by that world’s enemies and even after playing it about 20 times, I still enjoy the hell out of it.
Another key selling point of this game is the sheer ridiculous amount of content available. Not only do you have the five core worlds (with about ten levels apiece) but you also have all the Challenge stuff, an extra end-game world, special Murphy challenges (only available on certain platforms), and for seemingly no good reason whatsoever you get the bulk of Rayman Origins’ levels remastered and remixed for you to play with. Even after spending the considerable amount of time it takes to beat the main game you’ll still have oodles of content to muck about with making for an experience that’s definitely worth it from a value point of view at the very least. The Challenge stuff is especially interesting on that front as it acts as just brand new levels to play every day, they’ve also got a competitive aspect so you’ll have reason to go back and replay those challenges. I binged on Rayman Legends over the last week playing absolutely as much as I could and I still didn’t even get close to finishing everything the game had to offer, I beat the main game for sure but that just feels like scratching the surface.
The one point of contention I have with this game is how the Murphy stuff is implemented on consoles bereft of a touch screen. Now I played the game almost entirely on the VITA both because I knew the touch-screen stuff would be a big deal and because that’s how I played Rayman Origins, I’m really glad I played this way too because the touch-screen easily seems the best way to go. On the touch-screen it’s exactly as was shown at E3; during touch-screen levels you play as Murphy and swipe, tap, and tilt to enable things in the level while an AI character does all the platforming stuff. The AI isn’t perfect mind you, it didn’t always go exactly the where I wanted it to but generally it worked fine and the touch-screen stuff was more than fun enough to make up for any AI quibbles. In non-touch-screen versions of the game (such as the PS3 version, which I played with a little bit) what happens is that you control Rayman instead of Murphy and rather than having all the stuff that you would be doing as Murphy be automated you instead have to trigger it with the O button. This means you have to focus on not just platforming with Rayman but also triggering all that ancillary stuff with the right timing. While I did eventually get into a bit of a rhythm with it there’s just too much to focus on when playing like that and when the game gets hectic, especially in the last couple worlds which are so nuts as to almost be unfair, I can see that control scheme getting to be very frustrating. The game is fantastic ether way though and you really should play it regardless but if at all possible grab it on the VITA or Wii U; the non-touch-screen versions of this game while still great and totally playable weren’t the systems in mind when it was being developed and that totally shows.
Presentation-wise this game is a masterpiece but really I could have told you that without even opening the box; it is the sequel to Rayman Origins after all, it could have been just that game all over again and I’d still be throwing laurels at its feet. Not to say the game is all reused material mind you, in fact even the Rayman Origins levels look like they’ve had their assets redrawn. Overall the game just has a smoother look to it with a much more painterly style, they’ve also added the occasional 3D set-piece which really pops out in contrast with the 2D world. Musically this game is absolutely fantastic, not only do they do their own fun little versions of classic songs, like with the Black Betty level I mentioned earlier, but they’ve also reincorporated some of the best songs from Rayman Origins. Of course there’s also a lot of original composition going on here too with the game’s eclectic musical tastes fitting each level perfectly. They play with a lot of genres but the overall theme seems to just be that music in general is wonderful and as a result it evokes a very timeless quality. The main hub music in particular has a very nice quiet iconic feel to it and I’ve been whistling it all week-long.
In the end this really just feels like more Rayman Origins, but that’s not a bad thing in the least as the quality is just as high as it ever was. This game won’t change your mind about the current direction of Rayman and it certainly doesn’t have that massive switch in gameplay that Rayman 2: The Great Escape had compared to the first Rayman game but what is here is more high quality quirky frantic platforming fun. Basically if you liked Rayman Origins then you will adore this game and if you didn’t well then check out the demo and give it another chance, maybe Rayman’s new style just needs to grow on you. I can happily recommend Rayman Legends to pretty much anybody and as such we’re giving it a 5 out of 5 stars; my only note is that if at all possible you should go for the VITA or Wii U versions as that touch-screen makes a huge difference. Though do take note that the VITA version is apparently missing some levels compared to the console versions, that said the missing levels are all speed run challenges and the VITA version is $20 cheaper so that seems like a fair trade-off.