Rayman Legends review
Rayman Legends will make you smile. And scream. And clench your teeth and fists in frustration. Not only a happy but often tough as nails platformer, there’s now awesome rhythm action craziness, and a million Lums to collect. Football, scratch cards, time trials; Rayman Legends has got a lot going on, and it isn’t afraid to try something new. Like making you bounce and kick your way through an 8-bit version of Black Betty through a fish-eye lens. It’s bright and lovely, and ramps up the difficulty quickly in a number of ways, which we’d ordinarily be 100 per cent on board with, but – and it’s sad that there has to be a but – it soon becomes apparent that Rayman Legends is trying to be three different games: an explorative platformer, a muscle memory test, and a sort of forced co-op game. Sort of? Yeah…
Because getting in the way of practicing your stomps and spinning jumps, learning to leap through the air with the grace of a whatever Rayman is, there’ll be a lot of shouting at the Wii U hangover that is Murfy, using language as blue as Globox’s grinning little derpface. Murfy might mean well (he doesn’t), but he’s one of the most redundant mechanics we’ve seen. He moves platforms, pokes things into submission, but this is a world where we don’t have any limbs. We’d be fine if these things moved by themselves. Believability is not what makes the Rayman experience enjoyable. Make no mistake; without Murfy, this game is an easy nine out of ten, but he’s everywhere, and he hates you. Sure, he’ll smile and wave and shout “Cooee!” at you until you snap and paint the wall with guacamole or send him through some cake or whatever the little tit wants to do, but he is not your friend. A friend wouldn’t let you drop because they were busy ignoring you to slap a monster in the eye, ignorantly thinking that’s what you wanted, but they were wrong, again, and you died. Again.
So let’s forget about Murfy. God knows we wish Ubisoft had, because the rest of the game is pretty damn strong and it looks absolutely stunning. The colour palette is more refined than Origins, while still being gloriously lavish, and the music is brilliant. Even the non-rhythm action levels have a smooth, organic flow, both visually and aurally, that complement the gameplay beautifully. It’s a joy to play through each of the five worlds, and there’s a pleasant choice to be made between wanting to explore more of the world you’re currently in, and wanting to see what the next one holds. With inspiration taken everywhere from BioShock to Mario, the levels are imaginative, bright and, in some cases, breathtaking. The bamboo air-traversing levels are some of the prettiest we’ve seen, while the later, darker ones are panicky and fun.
The levels themselves aren’t bound to the unlocking of the next world, but to the collection of Lums, found when you do pretty much anything in-game. So while it’ll unlock in a linear fashion, you don’t have to play it in a linear way. That feeling of freedom is infused into the nature of the gameplay itself, with loads of things to collect, other characters to unlock and even a good handful of Origins levels that you can now play with the new Legends mechanics. There are also more Teensies to find – ten in each level for the most part, with two hidden puzzle rooms containing two Teensy royals – which, if you’re completionists like we are, will give you several little glowy yellow reasons to return to the levels. Exploration is encouraged and rewarded, and with level design so intuitive, you’ll start to pick up on the little visual tells that signify secrets. It’s delightfully playful.
But around the fourth world, everything starts to shift. No longer is it enough to explore the level, react to the environment and figure out how best to tackle it; it’s now become a muscle memory game. And if that’s what it wanted to be in the first place, then fine. We’d take that. But it didn’t, and as it’s already trying to be some bastardised form of a co-op game with the inclusion of Murfy, and a rhythm-action game at times, there’s just too much going on and none of it explored in the depth we’d like.
There’s a huge difference between seeing what you have to do and being unable to do it at first because of your skill level (aka Super Meat Boy), and not being able to see what’s coming up at all. There are some later levels that, no matter how awesome you are at doing all them jumps and spins and junk, you will definitely die on, because the level is arbitrarily throwing unpredictable and nearly unavoidable elements in to give the illusion of difficulty. It’s still enjoyable, but it’s annoying to have the style shift so abruptly from platforming exploration to you’d-better-have-this-memorised-perfectly trial and error. Just when you feel you’re getting somewhere with one mechanic, it changes to the next.
Essentially, though, these mechanics still work for the most part. While we found that the inclusion of so many feels like they’re all just scratching the surface, and that there’s so much more potential there, there’s no denying the variation. That sense of elation when you find all the Teensies in a world is just as potent as the frenzied mania of wall-running a crazy-fast level, or the contemplative satisfaction that sets in when you’ve run through a song from start to finish with no mistakes. When you get it all right and your play starts to flow as smoothly as the levels, it feels like those little end-of-level parties, with balloons and streamers and cake and everyone’s invited. Except you, Murfy. You can go “Heyoo!” your ass back home.