Title: Rayman Legends
Developed By: Ubisoft Montpelier
Published By: Ubisoft
Based on: Sequel to Rayman Origins
Console: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360
Classification: G for General Audiences
Review Conditions: Playstation 3, Australian Edition, Physical Copy
Special Mention: Ubisoft Australia for providing me with a review copy of this game
I grew up playing the 3D action platformer installments in the Rayman video game series including Rayman 2: The Great Escape and Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. Both of these titles saw good use having been completed in full many times and to me are still considered two of my favorite games from past generations. Back in November 2011 when Ubisoft released Rayman Origins I was skeptical. Having grown up playing 3D games would the witty and creative design sense of the games translate over to the 2D platformer style even if that is how the game series originally started off? The answer was a resounding YES, with the game not only walking away with one of my coveted S-Grades in its review but was also first runner up in my Game of the Year 2011 awards (Coming second only to Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten).
After many release date hiccups and going from being a Wii U exclusive to being available on pretty much every current-generation console on the market asides from the Nintendo 3DS, Ubisoft have brought the games sequel Rayman Legends to market – promising even more creative brilliance with the Ubiart engine. But sequels of great games are not always as good as the original titles, so the question remains if Rayman Legends captures the same charm and meets the initially high expectations set for it.
As was the case with Rayman Origins, this release felt to be reminiscent of many old-school platformers and focused on delivering more in terms of gameplay than an actual plotline. While a few events are strewn across the game, for the most part it is just there to facilitate some purpose for continuing on through each of the areas in the game. In fact I think there is a possibility that you could go through the game without knowing too much into the storyline.
Essentially the game takes place 100 years after the events of Rayman Origins. Rayman, Globox and their two Teensie companions have been sleeping for a century only to find themselves woken up by Murfy due to another looming threat. The Magician managed to survive the events at the end of the first game, and has captured the princesses of the land and trapped the other 700ish teensies in cages once again. Now set against five evil Teensies (Conveniently one in each world), the team set off to put an end to this malice…. potentially to earn themselves another century of slumber.
Unless you actually take the time to read up on the game, it doesn’t stand out and really attempt to capture your attention. They didn’t even attempt to do much in terms of introducing the new character “Barbara” other than making her and her other variations unlockable through bonus levels.
Once again the aspect of Rayman Legends that really stood out to me as a gamer was the visuals, bolstered by the team at Ubisoft Montpellier building upon what they already had produced and their previous expertise with the UbiArt Framework which resulted in one of the best looking side-scrolling platformers I have seen on the market. Pretty much many of the comments from my original review carry over into this one. The one evident difference were the character designs that while retaining the bright and comical charms were less cartoonish in their designs in comparison to Origins, something that I think stood in the favor of its predecessor. The environment designs still retained the many high notes from Origins. If I were to compare the two games however, I think Origins was stronger in terms of best bringing across the vibrant visual potential of the environment concepts, with several of the new environments being darker and not having the full opportunity to shine even if offering variety.
Ubisoft have liked incorporating musical quirks in their Rayman games from the disco-themed tunnels in Rayman 3, the dancing mini-games in Rayman Raving Rabbids and pretty much the entire soundtrack of Rayman Origins. While Rayman Legends features an equally strong soundtrack this time around, they decided to incorporate a handful of stages that must be progressed based around a song – including some popular tracks such as Eye of the Tiger. This new type of stage came across as being a highlight of the game but I felt was underused and additional music stages should have been included as “U-Play” bonus stages at the very least rather than pitiful amounts of Gold Lums for all tiers 10 points – 40 points. In terms of voice talent, most of the characters voices were replaced by babbling, similar to that of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, which does get annoying considering how few little speech there is – but it is only a minor qualm as there isn’t all that much of it in the first place.
The visuals and music harmonize well in this game, and make for an aesthetically pleasing experience that is almost as fun to watch as it is to play… and lends itself particularly well to a casual gaming session.
Rayman Legends is split up into six different worlds which are further broken up into a series of standard stages, “Barbara”-esque hero unlockable areas, a boss stage and a musical area. Your goal is not to collect lum’s which serve as a currency to unlock heroes and obtain stage trophies / scratch cards but instead find each of the 3-10 Teensies trapped in cages around the stage (Usually eight found around the stage and two found in hidden mini-stages). These Teensies build upon your total of 700 and allow you to progress through the worlds.
As unlocking stages are based on your Teensie count, the game is very non-linear and you can choose to mix and match the stages from each world or progress through a linear route as you would have in Rayman Origins. Each stage and world increases in difficulty as you go through it, and while encouraging you to go through the levels slowly to uncover all its secrets often provide the opportunity to go through them at a fast pace that not even Sega I feel seem to have managed with their recent side-scrolling Sonic the Hedgehog games (or maybe I just take the slower routes with them…).
As the saying goes “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, and this holds true to Rayman Legends. You and potentially up to three other friends make your way through a side-scrolling level, defeating enemies that stand in your path and avoiding the often deviously set tricks and traps in your way. If possible, multiplayer is the best way to go and still provides you the opportunity to slap each other (To fulfill your own satisfaction or punish mistakes) and work towards collecting as many lums as possible (co-operatively or competitively).
Controls remain relatively the same as before without the need to progressively unlock abilities – your characters can punch, jump, fly depending on the wind current and so forth, with some levels giving you access to a ranged punching attack, the ability to remove traps using Murfy (I believe in the Wii U version he can be controlled by a fifth player) or even have some abilities sealed through having your characters turned into ducks. While I have discussed musical and duck stages already, there are also a number of other stage types on offer such as race stages against a character you have to flee from or a timer to save teensies and boss stages. The very first game I owned was Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins which incorporated boss stages at the end of each area. It was good to see that Ubisoft included some rather challenging and creative boss stages into each of their worlds which utilized the games mechanics well and weren’t just “Jump on their head X number of times“.
One particular aspect I found myself drawn to outside the main game was the Challenge Mode, where daily and weekly challenges are posted for both beginner and experienced players with the opportunity to compare your skills against other players and receive lums in return. While they have shown only a small number of stage types so far (Eg. Murfy’s Dungeon, The Dojo etc), here’s hoping Ubisoft remain committed to this program in the coming months and offer a greater variety of level types. Another nifty unlockable is that through the games scratch card system (1 Card Obtained upon collecting usually 450 lums in one stage), you can unlock a sizable number of the stages present in Rayman Origins to rescue further Teensies and further expand the levels open to you.
While you still may require an affinity for side-scrolling platformers to fully enjoy the game, Rayman Legends like its predecessor offers much gameplay and challenge for its buck. It was a sequel that lived up to if not exceeded the initially high expectations put upon it with a wide variety of stage types and challenges to offer a different experience each time you jump into one.
That being said, too much of a good thing isn’t always best and I wouldn’t object to seeing a 3D release of Rayman 4 before they work on a sequel for Rayman Legends if they do. Alternatively they can just throw in some additional DLC content or a whole new game with the music stages… they were a real stand out for this installment. Still, this is a personal opinion and doesn’t draw anything away from what Ubisoft Montpelier has put on the table.