Developer: Ubisoft Montpelier
Release Date: 09/03/2013
If you’re a long time reader of me here at Diehard GameFAN, then you know platformers and driving games are my two least favorite genres. Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t games in each genre I enjoy. Take platformers for existence, since that’s what this review is on. I love the first two Sonic games, Super Mario Bros. 3, The Haunted Mansion, Psychonauts, NiGHTS, The Legendary Starfy, A Boy and His Blob, The Kore Gang and several others. However the only platforming franchise I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every game of is the Rayman series. Whether it was playing the original on my Atari Jaguar (I’m old) to getting Rayman Origins as a freebie for my Vita by being a member of Playstation Plus, I’ve always enjoyed the franchise, even if I’ve never purchased a game for full retail price. So when I was sent a review copy of Rayman Legends for the Wii U, I was more than happy to review it. I’m happy to say I had a lot of fun with the game and that it’s one of the best platformers I’ve played in years. So let’s overlook that Ubisoft says the game failed horribly in terms of meeting sales expectations and the big dramarama that occurred when it was announced the game would no longer be a Wii U exclusive. Instead, let’s look at why the game is so good and why you should pick it if you haven’t already.
We should start with the plot. Of course, this being an old school style platformer, there isn’t much of one. I mean, how many times does a Mario game involve stopping King Koopa and/or saving the princess, right? In that same vein, Rayman Legends is very shallow in regards to story. Like many Rayman games, you’re just jumping around through levels collecting lums and saving a race of creatures called the Teensies from various perils. You’ll also save a few princesses here and there. Eventually you fight the big bad and then after the credits roll, you get a lot of postgame content. Don’t be fooled by the flimsiness of the plot though. After all, you don’t play a Rayman game for the story.
No, where Rayman Legends makes up for story is with the sheer bulk of content it throws at you. There are roughly 120 levels to the game, most of which are unlocked as you collect lums and Teensies. There are regular platforming levels, auto side-scrolling levels, character assist levels (where you play as Murfy and you use the GamePad to help the player character get through the stage), levels where you unlock princesses, boss fights and even remixed levels from Rayman Origins. There’s still more content. You can earn lottery tickets to unlock more levels, paintings, collectible creatures and there are even rhythm based levels. Crazy! Besides all of this, there are daily and weekly challenges in which you try to set a high score while competing against other gamers from around the world. Get a high enough score and you get a prize. That’s a great way to ensure the replay value of a game. Of course, the challenges only work if you have a constant online connection going. There’s even a local multiplayer player of soccer called Kung Foot. The end result is arguably the biggest and most expansive platformer I’ve ever encountered. Sure most of the levels reuse the same themes, enemies and motifs, but each “world” is noticeably different from the last and the sheer amount of content means you will easily get your money’s worth out of this game if you’re even remotely a platforming fan.
Visually, Rayman Legends is pretty, but nothing mind blowing or graphics intensive. The colours are bright and crisp, and the backgrounds are highly detailed, but the same enemies and obstacles are reused regularly and the character models are much the same as they have always been – just not in HD. Character model animations are limited as well, but you’re moving constantly and the focus on getting through the level, so you won’t be tied down to nitpicking the graphics. Sure the game isn’t a graphical masterpiece, but what’s on the screen is sure to delight Rayman fans. That’s what matters.
Aurally, the game is similar. There is little to no voice acting, with much of the sound coming from sound effects, audio tracks or noises characters make when they are hit. So for gamers who like games that hire name actors to play characters in their games – sorry, Rayman Legends is not for you. What you will find here though are some entertaining background tracks that won’t get stuck in your head, but do compliment the levels of the game nicely. The sound effects are varied and well done, ensuring that your auditory experience with Rayman Legends will be an entertaining one.
Gameplay wise, Rayman is very simple, sticking to the basics. You have a button to jump with that can also be used to fly if you hold it down. You have an attack button. You have a run button. There you go. That’s it. It’s a side scroller too so no worries about horrible camera angles or weird depth perception issues. So anyone can learn the controls with just a few seconds of the game. However, exploring the many levels of Rayman Legends, finding all the hidden areas, collecting all the Teensies and earning gold cups will require mastering the controls and that will take you some time. I was really happy to see. I could make it through the first few levels earning a gold cup for them, but then as the game went on, I noticed the difficulty just ramped up big time. Towards the end with the highest difficulty levels I stopped trying to get everything on my first run through and just concentrated on getting through the level alive. Now you do have unlimited lives and there are a lot of checkpoints in levels, so you should be able to get through this game fairly easy, but beating Rayman Legends and 100%ing Rayman Legends are two VERY different things. To 100%, you’re going to be to be a truly top tier platform gamer and you will have to replay levels multiple times to make sure you get all the lums and Teensies. The end result is a simple to learn game that will still constantly test your mettle while allowing you to decide if you just want to plow through the game or if you want to see just how close to getting all 700 Teensies you can get.
You also have the Murfy levels, which are played via the GamePad. Here you will try and move obstacles out of the main character’s way. You’ll tap on enemies to stun them, swipe through ropes to cut down obstacles, lift and lower platforms along with various other activities. The Murfy levels are my favorite part of the game as it makes wonderful use of the Wii U’s GamePad and showcases just why you should get this game for the Wii U over other systems.
In terms of replay, I can’t think of a platformer that offers this much. You have 120 levels, daily amnd weekly challenges, 700 teensies to collect, a ton of playable characters to unlock (my favorites are Barbara and plumper Rayman) and you can easily spend hours upon hours with this game without repeating any content. I know that when the Daily Challenge is a Murfy level, I end up spending an hour straight just ensuring I get a silver or gold cup on those. The game is massive time sink not just because of the sheer amount of content, but the quality of it as well.
So we should probably discuss the appeal factor of the game as it’s an odd duck. I mean, I generally hate most platformers but I loved Rayman Legends and had a hard time putting it down. Yet the game didn’t sell very well at all. Part of it is because the game plays best on the Wii U and Ubisoft made the core Nintendo and Rayman fan based more than a little annoyed by trying to cover their bases and make the game a multisystem release. As such, PS3 and 360 owners could get the game, but they knew it wasn’t optimized for their system, so why bother? Meanwhile a noticeably vocal contingent of message board visiting, Wii U owning Rayman fans made it clear they wouldn’t be buying the game for various reasons and the Vita version was released incomplete. So Ubisoft kind of shot itself in the foot and might have driven gamers away in their attempt to raise sales figures. Oops. In the end, a good portion of gamers who would have loved Rayman Legends didn’t pick it up, which is a shame and hopefully something that will be rectified as the price drops and word of mouth grown. Again, this is my least favorite genre in gaming and I loved this thing. However it could be that Rayman Legends is more a game for people who don’t like platformers and thus hardcore fans of the genre might not enjoy it as much. I can’t honestly speak to that; all I can say is that I had a blast with it and it’s probably my favorite Wii U game so far. Of course I’ve only kept five games for my Wii U so far – Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, Batman Arkham City Armored Edition, Fist of the North Star 2, Tekken Tag Tournament II and this.
In the end, Rayman Legends did everything I wanted from a platformer – tight gameplay while keeping the mechanics down to a managed minimum, a ton of content with a lot of replay value and some decent graphics and audio. Is there room for improvement? Sure, there is in any game, but it’s sad to see such a nicely done platformer sell as poorly as it did. Who knows? Maybe this review will create some secondhand buzz and help convince you to pick it up. I nearly missed it myself and had I not received the game as a review copy through the Amazon Prime program, I probably wouldn’t have touched it until it was in the bargain bin – and even that that is a big maybe. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on Rayman Legends, though.
Short Attention Span Summary
Rayman Legends is a highly enjoyable platformer. It might not be the prettiest game in the market, nor does it have name brand voice actors or a score that you’ll want to see performed by your local symphony. What it does have is top notch gameplay, over 120 levels, several dozen playable characters and a dump truck load of replay value. I normally loathe playing platformers, but I had a hard time putting this one down. Come see why.