Rayman Legends Review (Xbox 360)
Before this year, I was never really a fan of the Rayman games. I couldn’t really tell you why, but there was just something about them that didn’t feel right to me. But then Rayman Origins came out and I was completely turned around. The game had a fantastic art style, amazing atmosphere, and really tight gameplay. So when I heard that a sequel was being made in the same style as Origins, I was fucking excited, and the game did not disappoint, carrying over most of the things that made the first game great but still changing it up enough that it wasn’t just Origins again.
Continuing on from the “story” of Origins, the game starts with a fully voiced (in proper English, no less) narration, explaining how a group of evil Teensies are kidnapping the rest of the Teensies. Rayman and his friends, who are still hip-hop sleeping in that tree, are summoned to stop them. Much like Origins the story is barely there and serves as an excuse for you to be doing all the things you do in the game. It’s like the platformers from the gaming days of yore where a single cutscene or a block of text is all the story you get then you just have to jump on things until the game says stop.
The basic gameplay of Legends is largely unchanged from Origins. Your movement speed, the way you punch, the way you jump, it all works like it did in Origins, which is a very good thing. The gameplay was great and didn’t need any major changes to it. Running, jumping, and punching dudes and things still feel incredible and pulling off some of the more complicated sections of the game is extremely satisfying. The game does start off a little on the easy side, though. In the first few worlds I was breezing through levels, collecting everything there was to find and getting the highest rating possible. But as the game progressed, the challenge really ramped up to the point where I was pulling my hair out and screaming in frustration, and I was loving every second of it. On these levels the relief after beating it was even more satisfying, especially with the really upbeat music that plays on the scoring screen. There was confetti and people cheering and it all felt fantastic.
The one thing that wasn’t so great about the gameplay, and this was also in Origins, is the punching. Not the regular punch, though. I’m talking about the running punch and the air punch. With the running punch, no matter how fast you’re moving you always punch at the same speed which is a bit faster than your full speed sprint. Because of this (and my own boundless stupidity), I would keep launching myself off the edge of a platform or straight into a wall, completely fucking up any kind of flow I had going for me. The air punch is the exact opposite, sucking away all of your momentum. You could be going at top speed when you jump into the air but one punch cuts that speed in half. Neither of these things are particularly awful, they can just be very annoying.
While the movement and everything stayed the same, three of the main elements of the game were changed, the first being the enemies and the combat (shut up, I count them as one). In Origins, every basic enemy took two hits. The first hit made them expand into a bubble and the second one finished them off. They would eventually die with just the one hit, but you wanted both hits to get all the Lums (the Mario coin equivalent). In Legends, the enemies get taken out in one hit and they give you a bunch of Lums. I much prefer this method of dealing with enemies. Before, if you were running at a good clip through a level but wanted to collect all of the Lums to get the highest rating at the end you would have to stop and jump on every twice and it could really kill your momentum. Now you can keep going at the pace you want (assuming you have the skill) and deal with enemies without losing your momentum.
The second element is the collectibles and the rating system around them. Each level has six trophies you can collect; three for collecting Lums and three for collecting Teensies. But with the Teensies it is really weird. In most levels there are 10 Teensies to collect. Eight of them are your run of the mill Teensies, but two of them are King and Queen Teensies. If you grab the King or Queen, you get the bronze. If you get the King and Queen, you get the silver. If you get the King, Queen, and all eight other Teensies, you get the gold. But if you get all eight Teensies and the King or Queen, you get bronze. I don’t know what happens if you only collect the eight regular Teensies, but I’m guessing you would either get bronze or nothing. I know Kings and Queens are important, but why rate it like this? Why not make collecting the eight worth a trophy, the King worth a trophy, and the Queen worth a trophy? This isn’t a complaint, I just find it a bit weird.
As for the Lums’ trophies, they work the same as they did in Origins. Just collect the right number and win the trophies. But now there’s a trophy type thing in between silver and gold, and that’s the Lucky Ticket. If you pass the halfway mark between the silver medal amount of Lums and the gold medal amount of Lums, you get a scratch card. This gets you more Lums to unlock character skins (which is what Lums are used for now), creatures for your gallery (which are an entirely different set of collectibles), Teensies, or “Back to Origins” levels (levels based on Origins levels with the new art style and gameplay).
Speaking of art style, the final element changed was the atmosphere of the game in regards to the art style and music. The music still has the same catchy and light-hearted sound to it, but some of the pieces go for a bit more grandiose feel to them, especially in boss fights. It keeps enough the same for it to recognizable in style and changes enough with the new pieces to not feel like it’s the just the same music again.
The art style this time around went for a more painted look to it as opposed to Origins‘ more hand-drawn style. All the characters look like they have more detail to them and almost look polygonal. It’s a nice progression of the art style that I really like. The only things I didn’t like very much were the characters and enemies that actually were polygonal. These models were mostly bosses and with what they had the bosses doing I can definitely see why they chose to make these guys polygonal, but I didn’t think they looked as good as the rest of the game. They looked too disconnected from the rest of the world and the look of the world didn’t translate particularly well to 3D. Fortunately for me they didn’t show up that often, but when they did they weren’t as gorgeous as the rest of the game.
On top of all of the stuff that was changed, new things were added. And by things I mean level types. The first one introduced are the levels with Murfy, a character from an older Rayman game. He was brought back when the game was a Wii U exclusive and was supposed to controlled with the touchscreen on the gamepad. On 360 you just push a button and he moves a platform or cuts a rope or something. Murphy doesn’t really add much to the levels he’s in. He’s just something else you have to think about while platforming.
The second new level type takes out all the enemies and just has you run. There’s no hunting for hidden doorways or collectibles, everything is in your path. You just have to avoid obstacles and time your jumps and punches right and you can get everything in the level. But if you die, you’ll have to go right back to the beginning of the level. This type of level is where the challenge really starts to ramp up. Playing these levels were the second most infuriating and enjoyable moments in the entire game for me.
After that we have Invasion levels. These levels replace the time trial medal from Origins. At a certain point in the game, stages you’ve beaten will randomly invaded, creating a sub-level. You have 60 seconds to run through the level and save three Teensies, who are set to explode on fireworks if you don’t beat the level in a certain amount of time. 60 seconds is your lowest bronze medal score. Any lower than that is DNQ.
Finally there are the end levels in each world. Here, the rhythmic platforming that this series is built on just goes fucking nuts and you are platforming to a song. These are my absolute favorite levels in the entire game. The music helps make the platforming feel incredibly fluid and rhythmic, and when you’re pulling these jumps and such off it almost feels like you’re playing Guitar Hero and that your actions are making the song. They are so fun and so awesome, these levels would’ve sold me on the game alone.
I was originally going to mark this game down for the polygonal models and weird punches, but having spent some time thinking about it those two blemishes barely even register for me anymore. Rayman Legends is an outstanding game. The platforming feels amazing, the music has the same great sound but still amps things up, the art still looks fantastic, and the new levels are fun and add something kind of new to the formula. Legends is a great follow-up to Origins, and one of the best platformers in this generation. Get this goddamn game.
With great feeling platforming and an amazing atmosphere, Rayman Legends is one of the best platformers to come out in recent memory and is worthy successor to what Ubisoft started with Origins.