Rayman Legends retreads the ground firmly trodden in Rayman Origins, refining it in a way that makes for a genuinely brilliant platform game. Possibly the best platform game ever — and I fully realise what heresy that might be.
Rayman Legends: On the plus side
Rayman Legends was originally going to be a Wii U exclusive title, right up until Ubisoft got wind of what was happening with Wii U sales generally and got cold feet, deciding instead to delay it a number of months so that it could be launched cross-platform for the Wii U, Xbox 360 and PS3. A slightly dastardly tactic if you were somebody who bought a Wii U, but what’s the eventual game actually like to play?
In a word: Brilliant.
There really aren’t too many 2D platform icons actually left that haven’t either descended into sequel madness, as with certain spiky hedgehogs, or that are exclusive to a single company, as with certain plumbers.
Ubisoft’s armless mascot character was revived after many rather tired Rabbid incursions in 2011 for Rayman Origins, and he returns — in much the same format — for Rayman Legends. It’s still a 2D platformer with exquisitely drawn visuals and a strong — and often quite dark –visual style.
Rayman is the hero, but he’s joined by his round cartoon chums in whatever configuration you prefer; there really isn’t much gameplay difference in who you choose, and colour variants unlocked as you play mean that there’s generally a character available to play as that everyone will be happy with.
The gold standard for these kinds of games continues to be Mario and chums. Indeed, I’ve argued that way myself on occasion, but I’m starting to rethink that judgement, simply because there are things that Rayman Legends does that Mario either won’t or can’t do.
For a start, it does multiplayer in a much better style. Mario Bros multiplayer has always felt a little bit tacked on, simply because most levels were designed in classic Mario style, and that often meant jumping on each other or inadvertently pushing each other into pits. There’s a certain gleeful fun in that kind of spoiler play, but not for long. Rayman Legends does allow you to hit each other, but the level design is more open to having multiple players interacting at once, and there’s plenty of play that works better with additional players, rather than feeling like a chore.
The design team also aren’t afraid to experiment around with what works, and what doesn’t. Rayman Origins used a traditional Mario-style map for moving between levels, but Legends opts for worlds within paintings, supplemented by a fast travel mechanism when you unlock new content. There’s a lot of new content — including 40 levels pulled direct from Origins with a Legends coat of paint — but moving between each of them is never a tiresome matter.
Challenges are frequent and fun, and that sense of glee pervades the entire game. This level, for example, is one of the early boss fights. It’s a bit of a spoiler, but tell me after watching this that it didn’t at least raise a smile, and I’ll tell you that you have no soul.
(yeah, I know, it says “available at Wii U launch”. Not my fault!)
Rayman Legends: On the minus side
Rayman Legends is still more of the same, and if you absolutely had enough of that via Rayman Origins, then I suppose you might find it a little tiresome. I don’t fit into that mindset myself, but I can see how it would be feasible. Origins is quite cheap these days if that was all the fix you were after, but again I’d argue that Legends is refined enough to be worth it.
If I wanted to be picky, I could point out that multiplayer is local only, but realistically I don’t personally care. Rayman Legends is packed with charm, and it’s charm that would be significantly diluted if you weren’t in the same room facing the same legions of very silly foes.
Rayman Legends: Pricing
Pricing for Rayman Legends varies by platform, but typically it’s selling right now for around $49 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $39 for PC or $59 for Wii U.
Rayman Legends: Fat Duck verdict
Did I mention how much I’ve enjoyed Rayman Legends? That came across OK?
Good. Then you can pretty much assume the verdict, because I’m smitten. Move over Mario; I’ve been captured by the no-armed Frenchies at Ubisoft — and what’s more, I surrendered quite willingly.