Ubisoft's most recognizable franchise representative isn't some hooded assassin or a high-level Spec-Op's agent. It's the limbless dude with the purple midsection and the zany hair cut, Rayman!
Ever since the release of his last adventure (2011′s Rayman Origins), Rayman and his eccentric partners have enjoyed a platforming resurgence on current-gen hardware. Rayman Legends, the former Wii U exclusive, returns players to the wonderfully animated worlds from The Glade for some more hopping ‘n bopping. Right off the bat, it’s quite evident that the amazing 2D visuals from the last game thankfully return for this sequel. The lush forests, darkness filled caves, lava filled caverns and rock concert-esque stages all exhibit a high quality of big budget cartoon visuals. Rayman, Globox and the Teensies utilize the same moves, but they all come sporting their own animations for each of them. The graphics shine in so many different areas, such as the enemy design and the hub world you return to after completing a level. The audio is just as strong too, thanks to the delightful ping noise that emits when you retrieve a group of Lums. Plus, the hilarious cries for help from those hidden Teensies will probably crack a smile across your face (how cruel, huh?).
Rayman Legends is a tight platformer through and through. Rayman and his rag tag crew run, jump, glide, smash and punch/slap their way through a healthy amount of levels. Making precise jumps through hazardous locations while trying to discover hidden passages is just a small percentage of what you’ll be doing here. There are huge boss battles, auto-scrolling musical interludes and even stealth-based sections to contend with. The amount of variety that this platformer throws at players is massive. When you start to tire of the usual running ‘n jumping sections, you’ll find yourself swimming through some treacherous waters for a fresh change up. And when you do start to long for some plain ol’ fashioned platforming, you’ll find yourself back in familiar territory.
The controls and physics for Rayman and the rest of the cast are surprisingly deep. Each character has a different feel and weight to them that becomes apparent as you delve into co-op. You and three other players will begin to notice who can glide just a little bit better as everyone makes their way across the screen. The jumping mechanics are floaty and the running tends to feel a bit slippery, but it all becomes second nature as you start to learn each character and their attributes. It pays to figure out who you’re comfortable with because the later levels will test your patience and character mastery.
The Wii U version lets players utilize the assistance of Murphy, who can move obstacles out of the way and perform other actions. For the PS3/Xbox 360 versions, his aid is mapped to a button. Getting through those tough sections with Murphy’s help just feels a bit more natural with a human controlling him with the Wii U touch pad. One of the best aspects of Rayman Legends is the large variety of unlockables and playable experiences offered to players. Not only do you have access to the main campaign, you can also play a pretty nifty soccer mini-game, daily challenges and so much more. Then there’s pets to squeeze Lums from, new characters to free, scratch off cards to get lucky with etc. There’s so much to see and play, but there’s also so much to collect and cherish as the game floats along.
Even though there’s plenty of praise to throw at this tightly tuned platformer, there are some issues that keep this game from being perfect. The later stages tend to be extremely difficult, as they require precise platforming feats that some young gamers might not be capable of. The 4-player co-op tends to become a bit archaic at times, plus the lack of an online co-op mode stings a bit. And the over reliance on collecting everything a stage has to offer in order to unlock more stages can be problematic. Heading back into a level just so you can find that missing Teensie can be annoying when you’re just trying to get to the next stage instead. Even with those aforementioned problems, Rayman Legends still stands as one of the freshest and most cheerful experiences to release in 2013. For gamers who are tired of the brown/gray color templates of dark first-person shooters and action/adventure games, this super bright and exuberant platformer is the game they’ve been waiting for. The large offering of in-game content and couch co-op will guarantee you’ll be playing this baby for a long, long time.