Rayman Legends’ replay value makes it one of the best platforming games of the year
The Rayman series has always had its dedicated fan base, but it wasn’t until last year’s Rayman Origins, when the franchise reinvented itself, that critics and gamers started taking notice. Origins was exceptional; visually as well as from a gameplay standpoint. It sported terrific co-operative play (of up to four players) and levels that offered a lot — all the while the game employed four basic gameplay actions. This year’s multi-platform outing from Ubisoft Montpellier (the same studio that was behind Origins), Rayman Legends does this all over again, and then some.
Let’s start with Rayman Legends’ aptly absurd plot. Rayman and his pals have been asleep for a hundred years, and during their slumber, their nemesis, the magician from Origins has drawn power from the Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares, which have since spiralled out of control. Murfy the greenbottle (more on him in a bit) wakes up our heroes and sets them off on a mission to rescue princesses and everyone’s favourite eternal captives, the teensies.
Playing as Rayman or several unlockable characters, you get to navigate the depths of Legends’ bizarre universe, rescuing teensies, Barbara the barbarian princess (and her several sisters), gathering Lums and generally indulging in what can only be described as awesome platforming. Rescuing teensies unlocks more levels, spread over different themes which offer both visual and perilous distractions. In addition to the game’s bread-and-butter levels which involve navigating hazards, rescuing teensies and collecting Lum, Rayman Legends features levels with time limits, survival stages, rescue missions and thrilling boss fights. There’s tremendous replay value here, and you’ll find yourself going back for more Lum or the perfect rescued teensies count. Level unlocks are still tier-based (worlds are unlocked based on how many teensies you’ve rescued), but you’ll be able to play the major worlds in any order of your choosing once unlocked. It must be pointed out the game is visually stunning, while each of the worlds and individual levels feature some fantastic mood music (The Castle Rock level, a personal favourite, features a particularly crazy rendition of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty”).
Most significantly, the addition of Murfy as an AI sidekick adds an interesting new dimension to the gameplay experience. Murfy can be called into service with the press of a button, to cut ropes, move platforms, poke enemies in the eye as well as tickle them, and trigger levers or mechanical objects. Timing is crucial during the game’s ‘Murfy’ sections, but it’s not everything — there’s still luck and reaction time, while some sections can only be overcome by trial and error.
The platforming is great, with developers Ubisoft Montpellier getting the mechanics spot-on. Characters in modern platformers can tend to “float” within the game world (games like LittleBigPlanet, The Cave or even Limbo are guilty of this) but both Origins and now Legends get the physics just right — it’s not supposed to be realistic in a traditional sense, obviously, so it’s important for the physics to work within the context of the game’s exaggerated fantasy setting, while ensuring that environmental hazards like traps and baddies don’t “cheat” their way to scoring a player kill. Fortunately, this never happens in Rayman Legends, and even when you endure a frustrating death, the game is extremely forgiving with its checkpoint system (except for challenge based levels, which require entire replays).
It’s great to see game creators give players a real reason for players to revisit games they’ve beaten, and like Splinter Cell Blacklist (another Ubisoft game I had the pleasure of playing long after beating it), before it, Rayman Legends embodies the spirit of the second play-through. There’s always more to discover in levels old and new; more secret areas to access, more teensies to save. Then there’s the added bonus of seeing your honed skills make a mockery of the challenge laid out as you glide through a level with the precision of a brain surgeon. Trust me, once you’ve got to a certain skill level, you’ll look way cooler playing Rayman Legends than Call of Duty. Rayman Legends is available on PS3 and Xbox 360 in the country at the moment, and digitally on PC.