Developers: Ubisoft Montpellier
Plot: When dark forces converge on the Earth, Rayman is once again called upon to rescue the Teensies from their captors.
When it comes to the platformers of old, they haven’t fared too well. Crash Bandicoot is a shadow of its former self, Spyro has turned to the Skylanders franchise for help and Croc is nowhere to be seen. The exception is Rayman, who not only has survived, despite being a simple platformer, but has become one of the leading entries in the genre.
Rayman Legends is all about style. Visually, it’s the same game as we expected from the very first Rayman. We are given a quirky environment for a level, where we travel to the side in a pretty rigid structure. Even the boss fights are kept to this structured formula. While you might think this may have gotten old by now, Ubisoft have worked very hard to keep each beat fresh and exciting. Legends has some fantastic artwork attached to this project, making each level burst alive. It might treat itself like a 2D game, yet the backgrounds are magnificently rendered with wildlife soaring through the sky. There are moments where you cannot help but put your controller down and just admire the view.
The imagination the developers have is phenomenal. Each level comes complete with terrifically designed monsters. We get underwater plants with eyes on their clawed stalks, obese dragons that swoop down from any angle and plenty more magnificent spectacles. You will be playing a level that involves you clambering over endless cake (it makes sense when you are in the moment), and you cannot help but wonder who came up with this. It sounds so silly on paper, but Rayman: Legends just runs with these ideas and makes them fantastic in practice. The 3D visuals are also incredible. Sometimes it is something as simple as a spider crawling across the camera. In later levels, sometimes you can see the next bad guy readying himself for combat in the distance, before jumping into the fight. This game will always find new ways to surprise and dazzle you.
I also appreciate that the game does the little things that keep the game easy. Not easy in the sense that it lets you win without putting the effort in. God no, some of the final levels are insanely difficult. But, unlike a lot of other games, it irons out all of the little things that are needlessly tricky. When you rescue a Teensy, it notifies you if you missed the one before it. When you die, it doesn’t make you start the entire level from scratch. It is a fairly easy game when it comes to replaying levels to get those bonuses you missed last time. It keeps you in the loop at all times. Certain games of the same strand, especially Mario, drop the ball with these touches, which makes Rayman such a pleasurable experience. They have the gamer in mind, when crafting the layout.
Rayman also excels at an element to games few developers actually think of working too hard on: the music. The soundtrack to this game is excellent. Certain levels that are a little more standard and generic than the others are livened up with some terrific music. You actually get disappointed when you complete the stage, because you were really enjoying the music. Every time you complete a section of the game, it awards you with a bonus level. In the level, each jump, punch and swing makes a beat. As you race through the level, you end up crafting a song with the movements. It is something I have never seen before and you have to applaud Rayman: Legends for sheer originality. Any game with a Mariachi cover of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ gets a massive plus in my books.
Not that the game isn’t without its faults. For one, it makes a big deal out of unlocking new characters. They come in all shapes and sizes and some of them look pretty cool. However, the only one worth playing is Rayman himself, meaning that you never really feel like they’re worth anything. The female characters you unlock by completing bonus levels all look the same with a different colour scheme, a major dip in originality that the game was doing so well at avoiding until now. In fact, none of the rewards mean too much, yet they seem to make a big deal out of telling you when you’ve won something. Sometimes, the notifications pile up and begin to feel more annoying than inspiring.
Final Verdict: Creative, yet it never loses touch with that spark that made Rayman what it is today. It is an enjoyable experience from start to finish.