The current crop of consoles may be getting a little long in the tooth, but Rayman Legends proves that there’s really no need to upgrade to next-generation hardware if the 2D platformer is your genre of choice. Running at full 1080p and at 60 frames per second, Rayman Legends boasts beautiful hand-drawn visuals and precise controls which complement the incredible variety of gameplay on offer. While it may be lacking in the story department, there’s no denying that Ubisoft Montpellier’s latest masterpiece will be remembered (and recommended) for a long time to come.
Rayman Legends kicks off with some light story exposition during which Rayman, Globox and the teensies are awakened from a century-long slumber by their friend Murfy who explains that the ten princesses of the land and hundreds of teensies have been captured by the Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares and five dark teensies. Besides this opening sequence and one other introductory cut-scene, there’s really no attempt at plot or explaining how the five main worlds in the game fit into the grand scheme of things.
Unlike Rayman Origins where you accumulated your powers over the course of the game, Rayman Legends unlocks all your powers from the start which include the ability to jump, punch, glide, and run up walls. Certain levels grant your character a projectile attack at specific points, while others find you summoning Murfy to perform tasks such as cutting ropes, rotating platforms or burrowing through soft materials with the simple click of a button. Underwater levels make a return in this sequel, although many of these feature brand new stealth elements such as keeping out of sight of a rotating searchlight as you simultaneously dodge prickly hazards. The sheer variety of gameplay in Rayman Legends is one of the qualities which make it the best 2D platformer in years, from puzzle chambers which need to be rotated in order to get your character from one side to the other, to timer-based dojo challenges where you have to defeat all the enemies or collect all the Lums on screen before advancing to the next stage of the challenge.
The last couple of levels in each world are comprised of a boss stage and musical level respectively. The bosses in Rayman Legends are a lot more dynamic and visually impressive than they were in Rayman Origins since they’re now rendered in 3D, and these battles often play out over multiple areas with bosses having different tiers of attacks. Meanwhile, the game’s handful of musical levels really get your adrenaline going as some hazard behind you forces you to race through the stage at breakneck speed, with actions such as jumping, kicking and ground-pounding typically occurring in harmony to the music’s rhythm and beat.
Rayman Legends also boasts forty slightly remixed levels from Rayman Origins which look better than ever thanks to the improvements made to the UbiArt Framework engine over the last two years. These include more detailed characters, enemies and backgrounds as well as real-time lighting and better effects for liquids such as water and lava. The Rayman Origins levels are fairly difficult to unlock as you’ll need to collect enough Lums in other stages to earn a scratch card which only gives you about a one in four chance of winning a new ‘Back to Origins’ level.
As if all these different types of levels weren’t enough, Ubisoft Montpellier has also crafted 28 Invasion stages which combine elements from different worlds and levels to create an incredibly fun and addictive timer-based mode. The basic premise of this mode is that there are three teensies strapped to firework rockets at the end of each level waiting for you to free them. One rocket blasts off after 40 seconds, another after 50 seconds and the last one after 60 seconds. You have to make it to the end of the level without dying (no hearts are available in this mode) and the time you take to get there determines how many teensies you save. Teensies are useful items for unlocking new levels and challenges in Rayman Legends, and you’ll need at least 400 of them to gain access to a post-game area called Living Dead Party.
Rayman Legends supports local co-op for up to four players but if you want to play with friends online you’re out of luck. However, Challenges mode serves up daily and weekly trials in the form of levels which have been tailored specifically for competition, and which allow you to compete with friends and other players from around the world on leaderboards. One challenge might task you with gliding for as long as possible, while another might test how fast you can get through a hazard-strewn section of a level from the main game. This is the perfect mode for expert Rayman Legends players to earn bragging rights, and will no doubt add dozens of hours onto the game’s already lengthy playtime for those who dive headfirst into its regularly updated trials.
Playing Rayman Legends not only brought a smile to my face 90% of the time, but it also made me think of the deep impression it could potentially leave on the younger generation of gamers who may be discovering the 2D platformer genre for the first time. Just as I used to love playing Super Mario Bros. and more action-orientated co-op games like Contra at a friend’s house after school, I believe that Rayman Legends will leave a lasting impression on youngsters who have the privilege of enjoying the game alongside siblings or schoolmates. Nintendo may have a hard time now getting gamers to buy one of their consoles to play the latest 2D Mario or Donkey Kong title because Rayman Legends is the new king of 2D platformers and the icing on the cake is that it can be enjoyed on a wide variety of hardware.
Rayman Legends was reviewed on the Xbox 360