Rayman Legends: review

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2011’s Rayman Origins was loved by critics (including us), but struggled at retail previous to a whirlwind of widespread, heavy discounting. The announcement of Rayman Legends was therefore something of a surprise. Much less of a surprise is that this is a brilliant game which you really ought to buy.

Let’s get the most obvious plus point out of the way: this game looks absolutely gorgeous, possibly even slightly better than Origins. The lovingly crafted designs of characters and backgrounds alike are brought to life with a carefully considered range of unapologetically bright and varied colours. Gears of Duty this is not. Screenshots are impressive, but the quality truly shows itself in motion; superb animation and a silky-smooth frame rate. It’s supported by a wonderful soundtrack and perfectly matched sound effects.

Gameplay remains much the same. That means something very much in the spirit of nineties platformers; enemies to be killed (by the time-honoured tradition of head-jumping, or a good old-fashioned punch) and environmental hazards to be avoided. It also means legions of hidden nooks (and, indeed, crannies) containing items or even whole rooms. Also, this being a 2D platformer, there’s plenty to collect. The fairy-like ‘Lums’ are here in place of coins, while Teensies are strange little blue creatures you must find & rescue in order to unlock new levels. There are, however, some brand new elements.

This guy you’ll tickle, then murder. Remind us, who’s the bad guy again?

As you surely know, Legends was originally to be a Wii U exclusive, and was delayed for months & announced to be multiplatform mere days before the original release date. This is most immediately apparent in levels featuring Murphy. Murphy is a small flying… thing… that will sometimes be on hand to assist Rayman (or whichever character/s you have chosen) through levels by, for example, cutting ropes or moving platforms. On Wii U, the player controls Murphy on the gamepad via the touchscreen. On other home machines, the player tells Murphy when to act (while still controlling their own character) by tapping a button. This translates to a demand on your skills for timing so you will, for example, need to prompt Murphy to move a platform or press a button while you’re in mid-air and planning your next two jumps. It’s a clever adaptation that just about works; but it also acts as a constant reminder that the definitive version of this game is to be found on the Wii U.

Then there are the excellent music levels, essentially rhythm-action platforming, one of which can be found at the end of each area. Castle Rock from the demo, featuring a Raymanised version of Black Betty, is one of the best; but in terms of music if nothing else, our favourite must surely be the Mariachi version of Eye of the Tiger. No matter which wonderfully adapted tune plays in the background, each and every one of these levels is a beautifully designed masterpiece that simultaneously forces the player to act in time with the music, and helps them anticipate what’s coming next through rhythm and via subtle visual cues.

By and large, Legends is noticeably easier than Origins – though like the last game, the difficulty can spike uncomfortably for boss fights. Speaking of Origins, a total of forty rejiggled levels from that game can be found here. Earn enough Lums during any level, and you’ll earn a ‘scratchcard’. Every one’s a winner, giving away a Creature (who will drop Lums for you in a special room in the hub every day), a Teensie, a bunch of Lums (which incidentally don’t seem to serve any purpose beyond online leaderboard boasting) or a ‘Back to Origins’ level. Those who played through the game originally will surely welcome the familiar areas, enemies and music. So, yes, Legends offers a generous amount of content – but it doesn’t stop there.

You can play the whole game with friends, but it works perfectly as a singleplayer experience too.

The aforementioned easiness soon disappears once you start exploring unlocked extras. Most levels have an ‘Invaded’ version to play, a completely new challenge in the same area that must be completed in 60 seconds or less. The faster you finish, the more Teensies you rescue, up to a maximum of three. Like the music levels you’ll need to keep moving constantly, and there are no hearts to be had for an extra hit point – mess up and you die instantly, having to restart the stage. Many Invaded levels will laugh at your pitiful attempts to clear them.

One mistake Origins made was forcing the player to squeeze every last collectable out of the game in order to see absolutely everything, meaning many wouldn’t find the patience and would therefore miss out on the last of what the game had to offer. Here, 400 Teensies are needed to unlock the final area, Living Dead Party. With 700 total it still requires work and replaying levels, but it’s doable for the vast majority of players. It’s worth it, too – therein you will find one brand new music level. There are also (merciless) versions of all previous music stages, remixed in terms of both tunes and gameplay. We won’t reveal exactly how, but trust us – it’s worth it, and you’ll want to see.

There’s also Kung Foot, a chaotic single-screen multiplayer game that may amuse for a few minutes, but is unlikely to provide much entertainment beyond that. What definitely can and will provide long-term amusement for many is the Challenges section, specially adapted stages where you compete against others around the world to climb the leaderboards. There are both daily and weekly challenges, which generally task you with either meeting a target as quickly as possible or surviving as long as you can. This leaderboard chasing is surprisingly addictive, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it will hook many players, on and off, for several months after release.

Bottom line: Rayman Legends plays just about as good as it looks, and you should buy it. Despite the limbless protagonist, this series has legs. God, we’re sorry. Really, really sorry.

critical score 9Critical Hit

 

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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