Rayman Legends Review (Xbox360)

How far Rayman’s come. Despite Ubisoft seemingly having the bizarre notion that Rayman is a household name popular enough for them to launch 2D platformers against some of the biggest games of the year (including their own - Assassin’s Creed in 2011, Splinter Cell now), there’s no denying his last few games have been utter gold. Specifically the amazing Rayman Origins, but now thanks to the Wii U selling like expired now-terribly-stale-and-cold hotcakes we all can enjoy Rayman’s next title Rayman Legends as well. And yes, it’s more gold.

Rayman shows off his stealth skills...
The general setup is as general as they come, but at least the villains make an appearance this time. The “secret” antagonist of Rayman Origins, The Magician, returns alongside four clones of himself to bring nightmares to the Glade of Dreams. Rayman and friends awake from their century-long sleep to stop them and save the Teensy folk who have been captured. That’s pretty much it, and like Origins I’m glad – there’s a time and place for a compelling plot and a fun platformer isn’t it. Remember that, Sonic. Despite being mostly wordless though the characters have bags of personality, with the Magician encounters being the most funny (smack them in the arse and send them to an asteroid!). There are plenty of characters to choose in the game, although most are just reskins of the main four – Rayman, Globox, a Teensy, and new warrior-maiden Barbara (who I played for the majority of game-time, since she was the most amusing).

The main gameplay of Origins is carried on to Legends, as it was originally meant as a Wii U-exclusive alternative to just a port of Origins. The controls are identical (barring the Murfy button we’ll get to), it’s about quick reactions and precise platforming but most levels can be got through by regular players as it’s in the extra missions and collectables where the hardcore challenges lie. Lums are the Coins/Rings of Rayman’s world, and there’s also 10 Teensies to rescue (including a King and Queen hidden in secret challenging rooms) in every level. Teensies shout for help in exactly the same way as the Electoons from Origins, the Lums Count Awards at the end of the level has the same music and sound effects, and there’s still a lovely spoken “oooh!” when you find a secret.

Fortunately all the great things about Origins has been successfully brought over too. The controls are still precise and utterly perfect, so nearly every mistake is your fault or the game throwing a particularly difficult challenge against you instead of it being out of your control. The wondrous charm and delightful attitude is once again present, so no matter how frustrating a section can get it’s very hard to get angry at the game because it’s just so damn charming. The music is catchy and up-beat, and now actually changes after you die so it’s not just repeating itself. Levels are fun and endlessly replayable, and finding Teensies and hidden Lums are almost puzzles to be solved (and some of those challenge rooms definitely are). Four-player co-op’s an absolute riot, although often more difficult than single-player because everyone has to have the same timing. Oh, and the UbiArt engine is still absolutely beautiful and truly feels like you’re playing a hand-drawn cartoon. Suck it, DuckTales.
Watch your step!
The changes in Legends are initially subtle but game-changing. For starters the most obvious addition is that of green fairy-thing Murfy who turns up in about half the levels to help out. While on the Wii U and PS Vita players can control Murfy directly on PC, 360 and PS3 you just tap a button (on the Xbox pad it’s ‘Y’) to do his context-sensitive action. Things start off simply but then Ubisoft start getting devious, throwing in actions that either require perfect timing or just shouldn’t be done altogether. All while still controlling Rayman, of course. Murfy adds something extra to the platforming and is a welcome inclusion, particularly when things get silly. And they will.

My biggest criticism of Origins was that no matter how fun and outrageous levels could get they still regularly fell back to the tired platformer tropes of Fire World, Ice World, Jungle World, Underwater World etc. Legends has no such problem in this regard. There are five main worlds (and one unlockable, fortunately not by collecting stupid Teeth this time) and about 80 levels all-in-all, and despite general world themes such as Greek Mythology or Mexican Day of the Dead levels can be completely different each time. In one level you’re turned into a duck and you have to flap around while Murfy eats cake or smears hard guacamole for you to jump on. Read that sentence again and realise why I love this game. The ’20,000 Lums Under The Sea’ world deliberately threatens being just a retread of Origins’ admittedly excellent ‘Sea of Serendipity’, even using the same music at first, until it quickly becomes an amazing underwater stealth platformer complete with cameras to hide from in inventive ways. And yes, there is a reference to Splinter Cell.

In terms of specific new regular levels there are two for each world: Boss Battles and Musical Levels. Boss Battles are self-explanatory for anyone who’s ever played a platformer, and all are just incredibly inventive as per everything in Legends. My personal favourite is the giant Luchador wrestler who fights you in a giant auditorium surrounded by cheering spectators. Each one is tough but never frustrating, especially as they wisely adhere to the same generous checkpoint system main levels use (which often help get you through the level but stop you from going back and grabbing a Teensy you missed – hardcore gets the challenge, regular players get to progress, everyone is happy). The same goes for the Musical Levels, which are utterly amazing and I’m sad there’s only five of them – although I admit I haven’t unlocked the bonus world yet so there may be one more. You sprint through a level avoiding enemies and obstacles to a famous tune, but every jump and attack of yours forms a beat that’s perfectly in line with the music. It’s basically a rhythm game in platformer form, and I could play a whole game based on these levels alone. The Mariachi version of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ doesn’t go on long enough however, but the underwater ‘Woo Hoo’ is incredible.

What’s left to talk about? How about the sheer amount of game content here? There’s 80 new levels, 40 unlockable levels from Origins (which are the only places you’ll see the Moskito shooting levels sadly), Challenges with online leaderboards and a new downloadable one every week, co-op on every level, a “Kung Foot” football punching minigame, ‘Invasions’ of levels played (where you race through them to save Teensies strapped to fireworks), three Trophies for every level depending on Lums collected, and 700 hidden Teensies to find. While I believe I encountered the end credits quicker than in Origins that could just be down to straight addiction as “just one more level then I’ll stop” was my catchphrase since the game was released. There must be around 15-20 hours of content here at least even if you don’t touch the co-op multiplayer.
This game is poetry in motion. Maybe.
The simple question is: do you like fun platformers? If so get Rayman Legends immediately. If you enjoyed Origins you just should have it already. Legends is packed with charm, content, lovely art and inventive level design the likes of which Nintendo used to do great in the SNES days (now just make the boring New Super Mario Bros games). Each level is distinct and regularly offers a completely unique challenge – and I don’t just mean unique in Legends, I mean unique in the entire platforming genre. Then there are the Musical Levels which are worth the purchase price alone. While in many ways superior to Origins I’m giving it the same score because it’s a little bit too similar in places, nevertheless Rayman Legends is one of the best platformers of all time and you should definitely buy it if you want to have a smile on your face.

Top Game Moment: The Musical Levels, easily. Favourite? The underwater version of “Woo Hoo” by The 5 6 7 8 (made famous by Kill Bill).

Version Reviewed: PC.